Spoiler alert: the Los Angeles Dodgers are preparing to make a run at Shohei Ohtani next offseason.
You may be asking why to worry about the 2024 offseason when the 2023 season has not started yet. But we are talking about capturing the last unicorn in all professional sports. And whatever the price tag is, the San Diego Padres will be in consideration as Ohtani’s potential next employer.
This Offseason is a Prelude to San Diego Padres Chase of Shohei Ohtani
The dollar amount associated with free-agent contracts handed out this offseason is absurd. The big-market franchises have not shown fiscal responsibility. One tops the other in terms of salary and years committed. Padres general manager A.J. Preller is one of the few baseball executives who understand how to build a roster within the constraint of a budget. He has done a terrific job of allocating money in different areas of the organization to achieve on-field success.
The Friars offseason has been something to watch. Preller aggressively chased big-name free agents (Trea Turner and Aaron Judge) before securing an 11-year/$280 million deal with Xander Bogaerts. He loves putting all of his chips in the middle of a high-stakes poker game with big-market teams. And the Friar Faithful feel Preller will prevail in adding another All-Star to the lineup.
His strategy is straightforward. Preller rarely gets involved haggling with an agent over a player’s salary demands. Instead, his contract offers are based on past performance with no guarantees for expected production.
The Attraction of Ohtani
In the case of Ohtani, which team would not want this star wearing their uniform? But much like Judge, Ohtani is looking out for his legacy instead of securing the largest contract handed out in major league baseball’s history. For him, it is all about playing in the postseason. Ohtani wants to compete for a World Series title in the prime of his career.
No question, Ohtani is the biggest attraction (nationally and internationally) in professional sports. Ohtani fills two roster spots as he has the power potential of Judge while dominating on the mound like Justin Verlander. Baseball fans come in droves to watch him hit or pitch.
Ohtani followed his 2021 MVP season with an equally impressive 2022 season. He batted .279 with 34 HRs and 95 RBIs as a full-time DH. On the mound, Ohtani was 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts. He struck out 219 batters in 166 IP. Those impressive numbers afforded him finishing a distant second to Judge in the AL MVP vote.
Will The Padres Break The Bank to Sign Ohtani?
Unfortunately, no team will get the “two for one” discount from Ohtani next offseason. No, the bids will begin at between $45-50 million per year. His deal will easily surpass the $400 million mark, but which team is willing to break the bank to secure Ohtani’s signature?
No doubt, the Padres’ checkbook will be out to secure his services, especially after offering Turner $341 million and Judge $400 million. If there is a path to sign Ohtani, Preller will do everything within reason to finish the deal.
Usually, having a large payroll comes with a price. Those teams are paying a high tax threshold after each season. The competitive balance tax threshold is $233 million for the 2023 campaign. Currently, the San Diego Padres payroll is just under $173 million with 36 players under contract for this season. But in 2024, the Friars’ payroll will be just under $135 million with 26 players under contract. It would give Preller some financial flexibility to attract another top free agent to San Diego.
Prepare yourself for a bidding war for the ages when Ohtani hits the open market next winter. Preller has a plan and the Dodgers better hope it does not work.
Like it or not, the top baseball stars reside in San Diego for the summer.