Legions of new and long-time fans of the San Diego Padres join me in thanking owner Peter Seidler.
Without his support, the irrepressible A.J. Preller (team president and general manager) would not have had the wherewithal to pull off a flurry of last-minute trades, which turned the National League West and all of baseball upside down.
As the trade deadline grew close, Preller nabbed his main target–23-year-old Juan Soto–as well as first baseman Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals. The day before, Preller had added Josh Hader to take over as closer. While Padre fans celebrated, the Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo seemed close to tears when he announced the trade. Who says there’s no crying in baseball?
Overnight the Padres’ ranking moved from seventh to fourth place, right behind the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers (according to bleacherreport.com). The Nationals had offered Soto a $440 million contract over 15 years, which he declined. If he continues on his current trajectory, he will ask for a whole lot more when he reaches free agency. However, that’s a problem for the future. Today the Padres focus on winning, and their chances have improved dramatically not just this year but through 2024.
Lost in the trade deadline drama, the Padres agreed to a five-year, $100 million contract extension with their top pitcher Joe Musgrove. He grew up in El Cajon and pitched the first no-hitter in the history of the Padres franchise. This year he’s 8-4 with an ERA of 2.65. Musgrove pitched for the Houston Astros and won a World Series ring in 2017. His experience would be invaluable when/if the Padres make it to the playoffs.
No doubt Seidler took note of the talent leaving town–pitchers MacKenzie Gore, Robert Gasser, Jarlin Susana; shortstop C.J. Abrams; outfielders Corey Rosier, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, Esteury Ruiz; shortstop Victor Acosta; and infielder Max Ferguson. But you have to give quality to get quality. Having highly ranked prospects does not win a single big league game.
On the other hand, Juan Soto performed from the moment he arrived in Washington. In his first year, at the ripe old age of 19, he was runner-up for the National League Rookie of the Year. From 1918 through this season, he’s batted .291/.427/.538/.966 OPS+ 160. Although he hits for power and average, he also has the gift of patience.
Soto will replace a crew that batted a combined .230/.317/.380 in right field. Even worse, designated hitters have not torn the cover off the ball–.226/.304/.330. When he steps on the field, he will have the highest OPS+ of any San Diego batter and the top SLG (.534).
According to fangraphs.com, the Padres now have a 95.9% chance of reaching the playoffs and a slightly increased chance of winning the World Series (8.8 %). The Padres have almost two months to increase that chance. On Friday, they’ll travel to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers, the team of Peter Seidler’s youth and of his family. Those three games will be an early test of the new lineup.
To say the Dodgers have owned the Padres would be an understatement. Add Soto and presumably Fernando Tatis Jr. sooner than later, and the Padres will not be the pushovers for the team up the freeway they’ve been for most of their history. According to trade rumors, the Dodgers also inquired about Soto but will face him in a San Diego Padres uniform.
Personally, I want to thank Seidler for giving the Padres what beloved broadcaster Jerry Coleman would have called a “golden chance.” I grew up a Dodger fan, and when I moved to San Diego, I was shocked by the borderline minor league San Diego Padres. Over time though, the Padres have lured and teased me.
It’s especially ironic that Peter Seidler, the founder of Seidler Equity Partners, gives me a reason for hope. He’s the grandson of Walter O’Malley and the nephew of Peter O’Malley; The latter owned the Dodgers from 1979 to 1998.
But Seidler looked to the south, and he and Ron Fowler rescued the Padres from limbo when John Moores had to sell the team in 2012. On November 18, 2020, Seidler bought out Fowler and became the principal stakeholder.
So far, the Padres have not rewarded Seidler for his patience or commitment to winning. But he’s opened his checkbook and cemented that commitment. Who would have imagined that the Padres would bump up against baseball’s luxury tax? But the team actually ranks fifth in an active payroll of $148,037,364.
For Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, manager Bob Melvin has chosen a lineup of Jurickson Profar, Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Josh Bell, Jake Cronenworth, Brandon Drury, Jorge Alfaro, Trent Grisham, and Ha-Seong Kim. When Tatis Jr. returns, imagine a lineup of Tatis Jr., Soto, Machado, Bell, Jurickson Profar, Jake Cronenworth, Nomar Mazara or Will Myers, Austin Nola, and Trent Grisham or with Ha-Seong Kim at short and Tatis in the outfield. That’s as close to a murderer’s row for the Padres in years.
In the last two years, attendance at Petco Park and enthusiasm for the team have increased dramatically. So far this year, an average of 36.822 fans have shown up to watch home games. That number puts the Padres in fifth place behind the Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves. A total of 1,914.748 fans have ridden the roller coaster ride of the 2022 season.
No doubt all those fans and many more following the San Diego Padres join me in thanking Peter Seidler.