It was past 10:30 pm on Friday night when most of San Diego was about to go to bed when The Athletic’s Dennis Lin tweeted out some surprising news: The Padres and Jake Cronenworth had agreed on a 7-year contract extension.
NEWS: Jake Cronenworth and the Padres have agreed on a seven-year contract extension that will take the two-time All Star through his 36th birthday, sources tell @TheAthletic. https://t.co/Z3Uke1zbnP— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) April 1, 2023
The news was surprising for a couple reasons:
1. The Padres season has already started and the team fell to 0-2 a couple hours earlier
Usually extensions get done in Spring Training or just before the season starts so that the player involved can go focus on helping the franchise win games. The fans are all focused on the excitement around the beginning of the season so extensions are the last thing on our minds.
It appears the Padres front office wasn’t focused too much on the team as a whole—they were hammering out the final details of their latest extension. According to Lin, Cronenworth’s physical was already completed before the news got out late Friday night.
2. Cronenworth still had three years remaining on his contract (including 2023)
If you were to ask Padres fans entering the season which player could get the next extension, most would’ve said Juan Soto. I don’t know how likely an extension is for the 24-year-old preseason NL MVP favorite but all of the focus was on him. Why would we be thinking about a Cronenworth extension when he had at least three years left in San Diego?
Padres chairman Peter Seidler and President of Baseball Operations A.J. Preller didn’t have to award Cronenworth with an extension. For most franchises, ownership would’ve been fine with selling their fan base on the superstar core that’s already locked up. Seidler is different, though.
He doesn’t view his franchise as just a business like other owners do. Instead, he and his front office identify who is most important to the franchise’s sustainability—such as Fernando Tatis Jr., Joe Musgrove, Manny Machado and Yu Darvish—and then prioritizes keeping those players in San Diego for a long time. Yes, even if it’ll cost him over $1 billion.
Cronenworth might not get the national attention that Machado, Bogaerts, Tatis and Soto receive but he’s still super valuable to the franchise. The 29-year-old has played a combined 310 games the last two seasons, which is more than Machado (303), Soto (304) and Bogaerts (294).
In those 300+ games, the two-time All-Star has an OPS+ 16% above league average with 38 home runs and 159 RBI. Expect those RBI numbers to increase with the talent hitting in front of him this season.
Another Padre locked up. Another thank you to Mr. Seidler.