3 low-cost free agents Padres can target with limited offseason budget

The days of excessive spending are over in San Diego. But the Padres could still fill out a competitive roster without breaking the bank.

San Diego Padres executive A.J. Preller
San Diego Padres executive A.J. Preller / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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If you think the San Diego Padres have holes in their roster, you're correct. If you think they've got unlimited funds to patch those holes, you haven't been paying attention.

The Padres have raised the white flag on free agent spending this offseason. While the team's coffers are not completely empty, don't expect the Friars to be shelling out multi-year deals with an average annual value north of $15 million per season.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today predicted the Padres would stay quiet this offseason and have $20 million remaining in their budget. While that's of little comfort when San Diego is trying to keep pace with top contenders like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, there are some low-cost free agent signings that could help fill out the Padres roster.

Padres could target free agent outfielder Jesse Winker

Jesse Winker is the quintessential low-risk/high-reward type of signing that AJ Preller would love. Winker, who rose to prominence with the Cincinnati Reds and was an All-Star in 2021, has fallen on hard times of late. But his potential is through the roof.

Now, Winker's fielding leaves a lot to be be desired. He can play left field, but is probably better suited to be a designated hitter. But it's Winker's bat, not his glove, that makes this signing intriguing. Winker posted an .888 OPS during his first four major league seasons, but has been a shell of himself since leaving Cincinnati.

Over the past two seasons, while splitting time between the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers, Winker has hit just .214/.337/.318 and has only 15 home runs. He also battled injuries in 2023, appearing in just 61 games.

Preller could easily work out an incentive-laden contract with Winker's representation, offering the 30-year-old a chance at redemption. If Winker returns to his All-Star form, he represents the type of left-handed hitting power-bat the Friars need heading into next season.