As much as it stinks to see the San Diego Padres go from one of the league's most ultra-aggressive buyers to having to cut payroll, it is at least understandable given the circumstances. The Padres pushed really hard over the last few years to try and bring home a World Series title and unfortunately the debacle that was the 2023 season exposed the fact that what they were doing wasn't sustainable. Combine that with owner Peter Seidler's passing and it isn't hard to see why some changes in the team's philosophy had to occur.
That said, there were clearly some opportunities that the Padres have missed out on even if you completely ignore the top of the free agent market. For every Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto level deal given out over the last couple months, there are multiple more reasonable deals that have been handed out that the Padres should have entertained to fill the numerous holes on their roster going into 2024.
Here are 3 affordable free agents that the Padres should have signed this offseason
For this exercise, we are only going to be looking at contracts that have been agreed to this offseason that have been worth $50 million or less. The goal here isn't to put San Diego completely on blast for having to cut down on their spending, but instead to highlight that they have really missed out on some good opportunities to bolster their roster even within their self-imposed spending constraints. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but here are three players that signed very reasonable contracts that they should have pushed harder to sign heading into next season.
The Braves have had themselves a weird offseason and one of their first significant moves was to sign reliever Reynaldo Lopez to a three year, $30 million deal back in November. Lopez was one of the better relievers on the market, but Atlanta seems to be thinking a bit bigger when it comes to Lopez as they are looking to convert him back into being a starter going forward. There are no guarantees that move will work, but it is hard to not see the parallels to what the Padres did with Seth Lugo last season.
Whether or not Reynaldo is successful in his return to the rotation, San Diego should have been players for his services. At $10 million a year for a guy that can give you multiple quality innings out of the bullpen at minimum, he would be a huge help for a Padres pitching staff that is going to be completely overhauled going into next season due to free agent departures. In the best case scenario, he would be a cheap quality rotation arm that San Diego would love to have right now. Worst case, he would at least make the loss of Josh Hader from the bullpen hurt a bit less.