Jeff Passan put out this tweet over the weekend to show how many teams haven’t spent much—or any—money this offseason. Yes, you’re reading that right. The Padres have spent the same amount as the Rockies: $0.00 in free agency.
Free agent spending this winter, by team:— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 17, 2023
White Sox: $16.75M
Does this matter right now? No.
While A.J. Preller has “missed out” on some players, that doesn’t mean he’s going to miss out on others. We have to remember the free agent market has been held up by a few main players this winter.
A lot of big market teams were waiting to see where Shohei Ohtani was going to land (same goes with Juan Soto). Now Yoshinobu Yamamoto is being courted by a ton of big market clubs so those teams are waiting on him to make a decision so they can know if they need to go get more starting pitching or not.
Agents of players that are on the levels below these big guys aren’t in a rush to sign either because they know the teams that miss out on the Yamamoto’s of the world will be desperate to add pitching. And who’s next available? The tier two and three free agents.
Yes, Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha have already signed but the Padres knew going into the offseason there were a lot of holes to fill with not much money to go around so they probably weren’t going to be in a position to give one player $15+ million a year.
Let’s also not forget they have acquired players this winter. It’s just been via trade, the Rule 5 draft and on waivers. Michael King, Randy Vasquez, Jhony Brito, Kyle Higashioka, Enyel De Los Santos (and maybe even Drew Thorpe) will help the big league club next season.
Lucas Giolito, Michael Lorenzen, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Frankie Montas, Alex Wood, Johnny Cueto, Noah Syndergaard, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Brad Keller, Eric Lauer, Julio Teheran, Spencer Turnbull and Dallas Keuchel are some of the names that will probably be looking for jobs in January when the other bigger free agents come off the board.
That’s when Preller should be expected to strike.
“Obviously, you’ve got to be able to spend on players. Hopefully in the next couple weeks, whether it’s trade or free agent, when the market kind of stabilizes, guys get to January and they’re looking for places to play, there might be some good buys out there,” Preller told the Union-Tribune after the Matt Carpenter deal.
Trades are also an option and have been utilized in the past by San Diego to make significant additions to rosters that ended up reaching the postseason. Think back to December of 2020 when Yu Darvish and Blake Snell were acquired in a short period of time. Then some guy named Joe Musgrove was acquired in January.
In February of 2021, Preller signed Mark Melancon to be the closer and he ended up leading the National League in saves (39) and reaching his fourth All-Star Game.
Then of course there’s Manny Machado in 2019 when he signed at Spring Training. I’m not saying another huge contract is coming—it’s not—but the point is later deals happen.
Each offseason is different and sometimes it takes time for teams to construct their rosters. In this particular offseason, San Diego has faced some unique circumstances which delayed some things. Add that to some of the free agents holding up the market and it equals a pretty slow Padres offseason thus far.
Just wait. It’s going to pick up because it has to. The Padres only have 32 players on their 40-man roster after all.