The San Diego Padres are out to show that last year’s trip to the NLCS was no fluke. They’re building a dynasty and want to make sure everyone’s paying attention.
This winter, “Slam Diego” dished out over $800 million in both free agency deals and contract extensions. The most recent instance came on Sunday when star infielder Manny Machado was given an 11-year, $350 million extension before he could opt out next offseason. These Padres aren’t planning on running it back, but insisting on it.
And, of course, both the Yankees and Mets play the Padres this year. For the Yankees, it’s just a meaningless three-game series at home on Memorial Day weekend. Both lineups are stacked and the home runs should fly freely.
The Mets’ games against the Padres are equally meaningless. San Diego visits Queens for three games in mid-April. In July, the Mets will spend the last weekend before the All-Star Break at Petco Park. In the long run, winning or losing these games won’t likely affect the final standings.
Except the Mets will (and should) be extra motivated to beat the Padres, the same team who stunned them out of the NL Wild Card round last season. It’ll be tough because this time around, the Padres have reloaded accordingly.
Greatest Addition: Xander Bogaerts. It’s hard to describe the collective shock that permeated throughout baseball when he signed with the Padres for 11 years and $280 million. Bogaerts was a four-time All-Star in Boston and slugged 156 home runs in ten seasons.
San Diego clearly did not sign the man for his glove. Bogaerts has a -55 career defensive runs saved (DRS) at shortstop and a -36 outs above average (OAA). Rather, Padres management sensed the rival Dodgers’ hold on the AL West won’t be particularly strong in 2023. Adding Xander Bogaerts’ bat to a lineup with Machado and Juan Soto means the plan is simple. Out-slug any and all conversation..
Greatest Loss: Jurickson Profar. This isn’t to say the Padres absolutely should have re-signed him, but he was popular enough that it’s sad to see him go. Profar hit a modest .243 last year, but still had 15 home runs with a .723 OPS, enough to post a 3.1 bWAR and 2.5 fWAR. His wRC+ was a shade above average at 110.
What’s all the more shocking is that as of this writing, Profar is still a free agent. He’s a switch hitter who can play multiple positions, not unlike the Yankees’ own Oswaldo Cabrera. In fact, The Athletic reported New York had been in touch with Profar this winter. So have the Red Sox and Astros. It’s hard to imagine him not playing baseball in 2023, be it in MLB or somewhere else.
Greatest Strength: Joe Musgrove. San Diego’s ace pitcher is not only a local, having grown up a Padres fan in nearby La Mesa, but he puts up ace-like numbers when Yu Darvish is technically the staff ace. Don’t tell that to Musgrove, who had a 2.93 ERA in 30 starts. He also flashed the clutch gene and shut down the Mets in the deciding third game of the NL Wild Card.
Better yet, Musgrove puts up ace numbers at an eye-popping discount for the Padres. He inked a five-year, $100 million extension last summer. $20 million a year for a frontline starter, compared to Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer’s combined salary of $79.3 million. Forget the lineup. Give us a pitcher with ice water in his veins (or on his ears) who just wants the ball and doesn’t care about his price tag.
Greatest Weakness: Fernando Tatis Jr., and not because of the 12 years and $324 million remaining on his deal. Between the motorcycle accidents, generally polarizing attitude, and current PED suspension, Tatis is quickly running out of good will in SoCal.
What’s worse is that because of a wrist injury sustained in a motorcycle accident and the subsequent suspension, Tatis didn’t play at all last year. Yet, the Padres won 89 games last year and got as far as the NLCS. Thus, did they really miss him?
More importantly, with Machado and Bogaerts locked up long-term, does San Diego really need Tatis anymore?
Just how good will the Padres be in 2023? Believe it or not, it’s not inconceivable to think San Diego can buck the projections and win the NL West. We haven’t discussed the Dodgers yet, but they’re far from a lock to repeat as division champions, especially now that Gavin Lux is hurt. The Giants, as we’ve discussed, have to get out of their own way before they’re legit contenders.
One thing is certain, and that’s the Padres being fun to watch. The lineup is built to score plenty of runs. Both regular season series with the Yankees and Mets could be potential playoff previews. It’s even hard to not get excited about a returning Tatis, whose 42 home runs led the NL in 2021.
San Diego is serious about winning big, and not just because of the money owner Peter Seidler is happy to spend. They’re definitely one of the teams to watch more closely in 2023.
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