SAN DIEGO — The Padres agreed to an 11-year, $280 million deal with free-agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts on Wednesday night, aggressively moving to quell the disappointment of missing out on Trea Turner and Aaron Judge while dramatically boosting what had been a top-heavy lineup. Yet the blockbuster commitment, which includes no opt-outs and a full no-trade clause, also was driven by future considerations.
Maybe, a year from now, San Diego will continue to field one of the most potent lineups in baseball. Owner Peter Seidler and president of baseball operations A.J. Preller have consistently pushed the sport’s more conventional financial boundaries. On Wednesday night, they far outbid the competition for Bogaerts, an All-Star slugger who will nonetheless push fellow high-paid shortstops Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ha-Seong Kim off their primary position.
Based on the long-term contracts that have headlined this winter, no one would be surprised if National League MVP runner-up Manny Machado exercises his opt-out after the 2023 season and perhaps pursues a second $300 million contract. Or if Juan Soto, the sport’s most accomplished 24-year-old hitter, dives headlong into free agency after the 2024 season and seeks $500 million or more.
These Padres, of course, have demonstrated their intent to win what would be their first World Series as soon as possible.
In Bogaerts, they are adding the shortstop widely viewed as the best hitter in this free-agent crop, if not the strongest defender. The 30-year-old’s arrival will help address multiple needs; Bogaerts is expected to start his Padres career at shortstop, with Jake Cronenworth moving to first base and Tatis filling an open spot in the outfield. The newcomer also should round out one of the best offensive foursomes in baseball: Soto, Machado, Bogaerts and Tatis, in some order.
Given Seidler’s seemingly endless desire to spend, the Padres should be equipped to add a designated hitter, at least one starting pitcher and more depth to the roster. Looking further down the road, they could make legitimate efforts to keep Machado long-term, to extend Soto and to account for the possibility that Yu Darvish and Blake Snell become free agents in less than 12 months.
It is all a lot to think about. At present, Bogaerts’ salary figures to push the projected 2023 payroll above $230 million. The Padres’ estimated luxury-tax figure, according to FanGraphs, will climb above the second tax threshold of $253 million. Even if they inexpensively fill out the rest of their roster, they might be challenged to strike the necessary balance between the luxury of star power and the necessity of controllable impact.
Few fans want to dwell on such quibbles, of course. The Padres enraptured a city with this year’s run to the National League Championship Series, advancing so far despite Tatis’ season-long absence. Seidler might just keep on spending more than anyone predicts, one seismic deal after another. Tatis could triumphantly return from suspension and multiple surgeries to reclaim his place among the pantheon of active players. Bogaerts, revered for his durability and leadership, could be an ideal fit for the clubhouse and an offense that has too often sputtered.
But in the team’s latest nine-figure strike, there also was a sizable acknowledgment. No one can say for sure that the Padres will be similarly talent-flush a year from now when Bogaerts might move off shortstop and fill a potentially massive void at third base, when San Diego might need to acquire multiple top-tier starters, and when Soto will be a season closer to possible free agency.
The Padres very well may have overpaid for Bogaerts, who had been one of the few remaining elite players available this offseason. He also could prove central in winning big in 2023 and maintaining success in the years to come.
(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)