The Padres were praised by many in baseball for their willingness to spend over the last two seasons. Now, with a deeply flawed roster, it’s time to take a step back.
Since February 2021, the Padres (and A.J. Preller) have handed out contracts and extensions to seven players worth 59 years and $1.3 billion. They extended Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Robert Suarez on top of signing Xander Bogaerts to a massive free-agent deal.
That is a lot of dough for a lot of years. The Padres are tied to Machado, Tatis, and Bogaerts well into the 2030s decade.
At the time, it looked like savvy moves to get quality players for a long time. These All-Stars would be playing in San Diego for likely the rest of their careers, chasing championships.
My, how one season can change the tune so quickly.
The Padres have gotten over 110 games from each of those three, and yet this team is struggling to compete with teams like the Nationals and Marlins. Their playoff hopes are all but extinguished. The odds currently sit at 3% per FanGraphs.
The issue with the San Diego Padres is not talent. They have loads of it. I am 200 words into this and have not mentioned Juan Soto. He is presumably the next big star to perhaps get a giant extension from Preller and company in San Diego.
My advice? Hold your horses.
This is not an indictment on Juan Soto, the player. The talent level is beyond just about anyone the Padres have ever had in their entire franchise history. He currently paces the team with 25 homers, 78 RBI, .883 OPS, and 148 OPS+.
Rather, it is an indictment on the ineptitude of the Padres organization in getting the best out of their players. They need to completely overhaul their player development and analytics philosophy, which may include wholesale staff changes.
The Padres are clearly behind the times when it comes to utilizing analytics and providing their players with the best resources possible to succeed in a Padres uniform.
It’s almost as if they sign these guys and just expect them to out-talent everyone else, with little preparation or effort behind the scenes to aid them. They had previously been very successful at other stops before San Diego partially because their prior team poured superior resources than San Diego’s in helping them get there. That’s where the Padres need to look first.
Time after time, proven veterans arrive in San Diego only to flounder and underachieve. Is it the player being lazy? Or adopting San Diego’s charming “surfer-dude-don’t-worry-be-happy” lifestyle?
The likelier answer lies within the organization.
If president of baseball operations and general manager A.J. Preller is going to continue to have that title next to his name on the door in the front office, he needs to adjust and make some tough decisions.
That does not include relieving veteran manager Bob Melvin of his duties.
The answers lie somewhere between Preller and Melvin. The Padres are so far behind the likes of the Braves, Rays, Dodgers, and Astros in player development and analytics.
Player development does not just happen in the minor leagues. It’s getting these stars to buy into what the team needs them to do to succeed. It’s finding ways to get these players to play as a cohesive unit instead of overpaid individual contractors. They lack a team identity.
Does some of that fall on Melvin? Yes. But starting over with a new manager, with the same baseball operations and general manager in office, is the definition of insanity. If Preller were to fire Melvin and hire yet another manager, that will be full-time manager number five under Preller’s watch. The majority of GMs in the league do not survive that level of turnover. This problem far outlasts Melvin’s time in San Diego.
This culture has festered and grown years before Melvin set foot in the building.
Before the Padres get neck-deep in extension negotiations with Soto or even a player like Ha-Seong Kim, they need to take a hard look in the mirror.
Priority number one this offseason should not be to hand out another handful of mega-contracts or whip out some fancy trades. It should be to evaluate how they do things as a franchise at every level. It should be to self-scout and self-assess the effectiveness of their current programs at every level of the minors and big leagues. And then they need to make changes where needed to how they develop and prepare players, from the backfields in Peoria all the way up to the dugout at Petco Park.
Signing or extending any more players before taking those steps of self-improvement would be doing those players a disservice.
Does a world exist where Preller signs Soto to an extension, and it works out? Of course.
That had better come with a rejuvenated analytics and player development program under his watch. Otherwise, it will be much of the same- underachievement and mediocrity.
If Preller is not willing to do that, Peter Seidler needs to find a new GM who is.
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.