The concept of a player opt-out has given the San Diego Padres an opportunity to compete with the big spenders in terms of attracting the services of players such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Let’s explore how the Padres still remain serious contenders in signing either free agent this winter.
Notoriously a frugal franchise, the Padres have done a lot to change that image in recent memory. In the last four years, the team has invested a ton of money in different aspects of their organization. Some fans still insist the team is not putting in an effort, but their investments in the last four seasons say differently.
The team signed James Shields in free agency just before the 2015 season. He was given the richest free agent contract to date in the history of the team (four-years/$75 million). The next season, while in rebuild mode, the Padres spent over $90 million in international talent during their 2016-17 spending spree. Next came the extension of Wil Myers, guaranteeing him $83 million for six seasons before the start of the 2017 campaign. Last season, just before the spring, the team signed free agent Eric Hosmer to a seven-year/$144 million deal, which was the biggest contract ever handed out by the Padres. They are spending money. You CANNOT debate that.
To date, the team has only signed Ian Kinsler and Garrett Richards this winter. They spent $23 million on the two, and it is safe to say that the Padres still have money to spend. The open market has been extremely slow this winter so anything can happen. Eric Hosmer was not signed until mid-February last year. The Padres are wisely waiting in the weeds to pounce on potential additions.
In excess of $260-$300 million is what it will cost to land either Machado or Harper. The finish line is near. The two will sign a deal soon. But how can the Padres afford that type of commitment, and how exactly are they still in the running? The simple answer is the player opt-out.
Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are both 26 years old and would love the opportunity to test the free agent market once again in three or four years. If they continue their offensive dominance, the two will easily opt out of ANY deal in a quest to become the new highest paid player in the game come 2022 or 2023. If they sign an eight or nine-year deal, their representatives will have a clause to opt out of the contract around halfway through it. That’s a guarantee.
By having this player opt-out in a proposed contract, an eight or nine-year deal magically turns into a three or four-year deal. That is where we are presently in the situation, and that is why so many teams are starting to join the running for either star’s services. The San Francisco Giants have horrible financial issues moving forward, but they are rumored to be speaking with Bryce Harper. An opportunity to sign a top 10 player in the game, in their peak performing seasons, for three or four years, is quite enticing. In the case of these two men, the player opt-out could be beneficial for teams. It could be worth a gamble.
The Padres could offer $280 million for eight seasons with an opt-out after three or four, taking the true value of the deal somewhere around $105 or $140 million. That sounds way more reasonable and would give the Padres a true all-star caliber talent to mentor the youth that is on the way. $35 million per season (on average) for one single player is a lot, but with so many young players on the roster, the Friars will not have homegrown free agents until the 2023 season at the earliest. Conceivably, the Harper or Machado era would end by then and the Padres could strategically extend players financially who are worth it. This is a complicated strategy, but you can see how it could possibly work.
Let’s face it; for the Padres to be competitive each and every season moving forward, they need to think outside the box. Harper and Machado will opt out of the deal they sign in the coming weeks. Each is almost a lock to remain valuable players in the league. They are too young to tail off in production. The only way for this whole thing to fall apart for the Padres is if the signed player gets injured or production falls off completely. That is the risk. If you get three or four mediocre years from one of these stars, then they could just stick to the signed deal and not want to test the open market. The opt-out theory would be for nothing. Most in the game believe both players will easily justify the money spent on them. If the Padres come to that same conclusion, then they could be highly motivated to sign one of these talented players. With money to spend, now is the time for the Padres to make a splash, and at the same time do something financially responsible. Adding a superstar would only help build the value of the franchise and the player opt-out could be the key to the whole situation.