The SF Giants might get some help this winter. No, the Los Angeles Dodgers are not the mystery team that is expected to shed payroll. According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Padres are expected to cut payroll this winter.
SF Giants division rival expected to shed payroll for 2024
Acee adds that Padres ownership is not just writing this season off as bad luck. Though, that would be partially a fair assessment as they currently have a 77-79 overall record while having a +91 run differential. The run differential is the fourth-highest mark in the National League.
Incredibly, they have gone 7-22 in one-run games and 0-12 in extra-inning games. That luck will tip back in their favor at some point, but it will not be in 2023. Their plan is to lower payroll to a number closer to $200 million, which might be easier said than done. Acee indicates San Diego's need to lower payroll to be in compliance with baseball's debt service ratio.
According to Cot's, the Padres have committed $296 million against the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) and $248 million in actual payroll this season. They have substantial long-term salary commitments to players like Yu Darvish, Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Joe Musgrove.
Even Eric Hosmer will have about $12.2 million against the cap over the next two seasons despite the fact that he is currently a free agent. If you remember the Giants' payroll situation in 2016, they were in a similar boat as the Padres currently. They had players like Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford all under long-term, expensive contracts. They even added to it in the following season with Mark Melancon.
The point is, it might take a long time before the Padres can truly get their payroll under control if that is the plan. According to Cot's, they already have $209 million committed against the cap next year and that is before factoring in arbitration raises for players like Juan Soto, who will command above $25 million in 2024. The actual payroll stands at a much more palatable amount of $155 million, but similar to the CBT payroll, this is before arbitration salaries are counted.
I should add that there is some noise with either number given player and team options. Though, it is fair to wonder just how aggressive the Padres will be this winter. For a team that will finish at or below .500 for the season, there are plenty of holes to fill on the roster. Perhaps, there will not be enough money to go around to address those holes.
San Diego is holding one ace and that is Soto. If they do not anticipate extending him to a long-term deal, it might be in their best interest to work out a trade this winter. Trading him now will net a return that exceeds what they could receive at next year's deadline or the compensatory pick they would eventually receive when he rejects a qualifying offer. That is one, quick way to slash payroll, but it creates a huge void on the roster that just cannot be replaced.
These are conversations for a different day, but the Giants could be an indirect beneficiary of this approach as it could signal San Diego's limited resources to address a roster that will have several holes to fill.