Padres must get creative to shed salary this winter

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Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

A few creative moves will need to be made as the San Diego Padres attempt to restructure payroll this offseason. 

The San Diego Padres need to shed salary this winter as they revamp the roster for the 2022 season.

At this point, the Padres have approximately $186 million committed in payroll for next year. There are several players who are due for arbitration, so the number will likely increase or decrease slightly in the next few months. One thing we know for sure- the franchise is about maxed out on payroll. At this point, it is hard to see them add any players who have an excessive salary.

However, the current free-agent market is full of valuable players. A.J. Preller and his staff are surely eyeing some men as they attempt to restructure the Padres roster into a winning one. Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer are available on the open market. And that is just a few of the best pitchers that are free to sign with whomever they want this winter.

Then there are names like Michael Conforto, Kris Bryant, and Freddie Freeman, who are all free agents. These men might not fit the current need for the Padres, but we all know Preller is a dreamer and capable of doing unorthodox things to a roster. The bottom line is earning wins. The G.M. is capable of anything when it comes to building the Padres.

However, if Preller and the Padres wish to be creative- they will need financial flexibility.

Roughly 22% of the Padres 2022 payroll is invested into Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer, as they will make a combined $43.5 million next year.

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In the last year of his contract extension with the club, Myers has shown some worth over his span with the Padres, producing an 11.1 WAR in seven seasons. Hosmer has managed a 2.7 WAR in four seasons with the Padres and is a huge disappointment. After the 2022 season, Hosmer is still due $39 million for three years. The first baseman may opt-out after the 2022 season, but that is not likely with his overall production slipping. The Padres are invested in him for four more years, and after the 2022 season, Hosmer also gains 10/5 (10 years in the league, five with the same team) rights and may veto a trade to any team.

Moving Myers is probably not the primary goal right now. Instead, the Padres and their GM are probably focused on trading Eric Hosmer without needing to pay much of anything left on his remaining four years. Not an easy task by any means.

The time to move Hosmer is now. But, how can the Padres shed his salary?

One thing we know for sure. The value of Hosmer is way down. There aren’t any teams that will give the Padres prospects for him- thus saving money for the Friars. If the San Diego Padres want to deal Eric Hosmer and save money on the contract owed, they have two real options.

Option 1- Trade Eric Hosmer and take on an equally bad contract. 

This is not an appealing thought right off the top of your head. Trading Hosmer for another bad contract is a move sideways. It does not free up money, but it can if the Padres are able to take on a “project” player who succeeds at a position they need production from. Currently, the Padres need relief help. Mark Melancon will likely not accept his mutual $5 million option next year and become a free agent. Could the Padres move Hosmer for a reliever and make an addition by subtraction?

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Aroldis Chapman is in the last year of his contract and is due to make $16 million in 2022. Would the Yankees consider moving Chapman and taking on Eric Hosmer’s contract? Not likely, as Hosmer is due over $40 million more in total, and New York hasn’t soured on their closer. How about Craig Kimbrel? The White Sox have Liam Hendrics entrenched at the closer position and also have Kimbrel on the roster. The Sox did not get much production from Kimbrel last season and are likely inclined to pick up his $14 million option for 2022 and trade him this winter. But the Sox have no use for Hosmer and would balk at the remaining salary on his contract.

Dealing Hosmer for a “bad contract” is not easy. It is also not probable. That brings us to the likely way to move Hosmer and gain some financial flexibility.

Option 2- Trade Eric Hosmer and his bad contract with multiple prospects.

Packaging the former All-Star first baseman with multiple prospects is arguably the best scenario for the Padres. It was rumored the Padres and Rangers were close at the trade deadline in 2021. Unfortunately, there aren’t many teams with any interest in Hosmer at all. This would be a tough sell as the teams that likely might have some interest (Pittsburgh, Tampa, Kansas City, Texas) all have financial restrictions. These teams would not want to pay much more than $5-7 million a year for Hosmer for the remaining four years, putting the Padres on the hook for roughly 20-30 million dollars. That will not work. Especially when you factor in the multiple prospects, these teams would demand for taking on Hosmer.

Preller and the Padres would be wise to target teams like the Cubs or Red Sox. Franchises who could take on the total $60 million-plus owed to Hosmer and not ask the Padres to pay anything. The problem is the Padres would need to package some of the best prospects to get this done. Prospects such as CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Luis Campusano, and Robert Hassell III. Players with that type of value. Prospects who have tremendous name value and could undoubtedly be MLB stars someday. Certainly a scary thought, but the Padres will likely need to deal one of these three, plus two more top-30 prospects in order to find someone to take Eric Hosmer and all his “bad contract.”

Trading MacKenzie Gore only to see him blossom in another uniform is a scary thought. But the Padres are built to win now. You cannot fall in love with prospects. If you are able to free up that much annual salary, then you do it. The Padres are at a point now where pivotal decisions will need to be made. The next series of moves will determine the future of the franchise. Especially those that center around moving payroll to gain financial flexibility.

Moving Eric Hosmer without paying much on the remaining deal is the number one goal for the San Diego Padres right now. It could prove to be too much of a task, though. Preller and his staff have their work cut out for them. The San Diego Padres need some financial flexibility, and something has to be done. The result may be tough to handle for Padres fans, but contending teams make tough decisions when the time is right.

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