“This team (i.e., the Padres) is broke.”
So said Scott Miller of CBS Sports in a recent spring training report on the San Diego Padres. In his February 25 blog, Miller listed several “Likes” and “Dislikes” about the team. Here was the very first dislike:
“New owners so far have failed to make any significant first impression, and for good reason: This team is broke. Former owner John Moores and temp Jeff Moorad lifted $200 million off the top of the club’s new cable television deal on their way out the door, leaving the Padres, once again, cash poor. Marquis was the club’s sole major-league free agent signing over the winter. Publicly, the Padres spoke of a weak free agent market that was overpriced. But multiple sources say the dire financial situation forced the Padres to sit on the sidelines this winter after re-signing Carlos Quentin and Huston Street last summer. Money that had been the light at the end of the tunnel, that was supposed to be pumped into the club, instead disappeared with Moores and Moorad.”
Is that accurate?
Not so, says Padre ownership. As reported by Bill Center at the Union-Tribune, the team was bought for $800 million, and it was already known that new ownership would never see the $200 million.
Furthermore, new ownership has shown a willingness to spend: they have committed to upgrade Petco Park–most notably moving in the fences–and they tacitly approved contract extensions to Carlos Quentin, Huston Street, and Chris Denorfia.
Had any of these players (especially Quentin or Street) been allowed to exit via free agency, surely this would have given fans upset over lack of offseason moves more reason for angst.
But why such a quiet offseason? Center reports that the Padres’ lack of moves was not for lack of trying:
- They pursued free agent starter Dan Haren, whose 2012 campaign was marred by injuries, and did not consider the $13.2 million contract he eventually received from Washington worth matching.
- They went after free agent Edwin Jackson, but they did not want to give him a guaranteed fourth year.
In both cases, they were wise not to overspend. This is especially true regarding Jackson, who is nothing more than a career journeyman pitcher: in ten years, he has a lifetime 4.40 ERA and 1.44 WHIP.
The fact is, teams throwing boatloads of money at free agent pitchers are akin to Charlie Brown thinking that this time, Lucy is actually going to hold the football for him to kick it.
It’s just not going to happen.
Case in point: remember what happened to Barry Zito? Yes, I know that he redeemed himself (somewhat) in the eyes of Giants fans when he shut down Detroit in game one of last year’s World Series.
But the rest of the time he has worn a Giants uniform, it has been one big giant boondoggle.
Here is his line from 2000-06, when he pitched for the Oakland A’s (including his last 3 years, which were fairly mediocre):
W-L ERA WHIP
102-63 3.55 1.25
Now, here are his 2007-2012 numbers, after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract with San Francisco:
W-L ERA WHIP
58-69 4.47 1.40
Do you want to know why the Padres didn’t want to commit four guaranteed years to Edwin Jackson, whose numbers more closely resemble the Frisco Zito than the A’s version?
Do I even have to ask?
Having said that, I am disappointed that they did not seek to bolster their starting pitching; re-signing Jason Marquis and inviting Freddy Garcia hardly qualifies as “bolstering.” The Padres are stocked in the infield and the bullpen. Certainly teams would be interested in some combination of Logan Forsythe, Jedd Gyorko, Huston Street, and Luke Gregerson in exchange for a decent starting pitcher. And perhaps a deal will still get done before the season starts.
Would I hate to lose any of these guys, especially Forsythe? Of course! But in order to get something good in a trade, you’ve got to give up something good, and right now, the Padres need good starting pitching in a very bad way.
But getting back to the original question, we can answer with reasonable assurance, no, it does not seem that the team is not broke. They are wisely holding onto their money while other teams overpay for mediocrity. I say, let them do it. And to those who decry the fact that GM Josh Byrnes didn’t blow over $50 million on Edwin Jackson, let’s revisit his signing a year from now, and see how well he stacks up to Barry Zito.
Addendum: Turns out some Cubs fans are already having buyer’s remorse on Edwin Jackson. Sometimes the best moves a GM makes are the ones he doesn’t make.