Padres spending big in San Diego

Credit: Boston Globe

Credit: USA Today Sports

In the team’s long history, the San Diego Padres have not been big spenders.

In fact, the organization has languished in the lower half–often near the bottom–in payroll for most of its existence. However, since a group including Peter Seidler (and several relatives) as well as Ron Fowler bought the team, the Padres have invested at a level never imagined.

According to FanGraphs’ projected payroll breakdown for next year, the Padres rank third behind the New York Yankees ($320 million) and the New York Mets ($250 million) with a 2023 payroll of $235 million. As recently as 2018, the Padres ranked 25th in spending at $50 million. Eric Hosmer’s $20 million a year led the team, with shortstop Freddy Galvis second at $7 million. The following year, the team moved up one rung to 24th with a payroll of $65 million.

In 1994, when John Moores bought the Padres, the organization ranked dead last in expenditures at $14 million. The following year payroll moved up seven places at $26 million. By 1998, Moores invested $45 million, and the Padres advanced to the World Series for only the second time in team history.

Unfortunately, a divorce sent the Padres back into limbo in 2009. Jeff Moorad became the major bidder but struggled to find the resources. During that period of time, the payroll dropped to $43 million, second to last in front of the Florida Marlins’ $37 million in outlays. The team stayed in the bottom four from 2009 until 2014 when it rose to 21st in expenditures at $90 million.

With Fowler and Seidler at the helm, ownership loosened the purse strings. But when Fowler stepped down after nearly a decade, expenditures reached untraveled territory. In 2019 the Padres ranked 24th at $65 million and then started to rise experimentally. In 2020, payroll moved up to 11th $54 million; in 2021, 8th  $126 million; and 5th in 2022, $173 million.

Team president and general manager A.J. Preller first defied the norm when he signed Hosmer to an eight-year contract at a total of $144 million in 2018. Even after trading him to Boston Red Sox at the deadline this year, the Padres will continue to send him a check to cover the $39 million remaining on his contract.

Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

Uber agent Scott Boras got top dollar for Hosmer and recently orchestrated an 11-year, $280 million deal for Xander Bogaerts. Beginning around Thanksgiving, Preller and Boras met and discussed the parameters. The Padres ended up outbidding the Red Sox’s offer of around six years, $160 million. A short stop by trade, Bogaerts expects to play that position which would mean that Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ha-Seong Kim will be displaced.

Regarding the acquisition of Bogaerts, Seidler insisted that “This is a city that’s headed toward its first world championship ever. We’re doing everything we can to push that toward a reality.”

Bogaert joins Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 years/$340 million), Manny Machado (five years/$140 million), and Joe Musgrove (five years/$100 million) at the top of the Padres’ payroll pyramid.

Just as expenditures have increased, so has the value of the franchise. In 2020, Forbes valued the franchise at $1.45 billion.  According to statista.com, by 2022, the value had risen to $1.58 billion.

It’s no mystery that winning attracts fans, as demonstrated by attendance this year. After the acquisitions of Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Josh Hader, Padres’ ticket sales increased exponentially.

When Petco Park opened in 2004, 3,040,046 fans bought tickets, an average of 37,531 a game. This year, the Padres came close to those numbers with a total of 2,987,470 and an average of 36,882—an increase from last year’s total of 2,191.950 and game average of 27,061.

When the team played in the spacious /San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium, it required at least two million fans just to break even. In 1984, after 16 years of existence, the San Diego Padres finally turned a profit with a net of $2.5 on a total of $25 million. Fowler and Seidler purchased the team for $800 million. Since then, the value of the value has increased to approximately $1.58 billion.

Credit: USA Today Sports

“Peter has given us the resources, and I think it’s pretty clear that he wants to win a championship,” Preller said recently. “But to win a championship doesn’t mean you have to have a payroll at ‘X’ level or anything like that. It just means you have to have a complete team that has a lot of different answers for the things are going to come up through the season. Sometimes that calls for players and free agency trades, players of different caliber and different dollar amounts.”

Before the addition of Bogaerts, Seidler remarked, “…what I like is we’ve got the stability. We’ve got the top three guys at the top of the rotation. Our bullpen became good. Assuming we’re rolling out — and I know we will — Tatis, Machado, Soto and let’s not forget Croney, as well as a bunch of others, we have a great core to build from.”

With a lineup of Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Xander Bogaerts, the Padres will have a formidable top four. Barring any additional drama, Tatis will rejoin the Padres in mid-April next year, bringing his average .292/.369/.596/.965 batting line and OPS+ 160.

In his four years in San Diego, Machado has averaged .280/352/504/855 OPS+ 136. In the second half of this season, Juan Soto batted an uncharacteristic (.236/.388/.390/.778 OPS+ 130). He didn’t come close to his average performance with the Washington Nationals (.291/427/538/966 OPS+ 160). Odds are in the Padres’ favor that he will adjust to his new team and town in 2023.


Fortunately, Peter Seidler” kind of likes spending money. You can’t take it with you.”

He has spent his life working in international finance, and Seidler Equity Partners has a net worth of approximately $3 billion. Seidler has the wherewithal and has obviously has done his part. Now Preller’s team needs to take the next step after reaching the National League Championship series for the first time since 1998.

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.
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