Not spending any money at all
It's true that letting players like Shohei Ohtani, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jung Hoo Lee, who received a larger contract than anyone expected, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, whose contract is now expected to exceed $200 million, pass by in the interest of cutting down payroll, the Padres seem to also be ignoring good options that even smaller market teams are able to afford. They made a seemingly limp attempt at keeping Seth Lugo, but lost him because they weren't willing to spend Kansas City Royals (...?) kind of money. Michael Wacha followed just days later. Arms like Kenta Maeda and Jack Flaherty, perhaps a bit dangerous for various reasons but nevertheless experienced and affordable, have gone to the Tigers.
Teams that well below league average in 2023 are being consistently more aggressive on the free agent market, but importantly teams like the Royals are setting clear expectations about how much they can spend, and they're actually spending. Transparency isn't something that the Padres can't afford either, evidently, and while this hopefully means that something is quietly in the works, it also could just mean that there's little for us to expect this year.