Did Padres’ 2024 payroll cuts go way beyond what was necessary?

How much is too much?
San Diego Padres executive A.J. Preller
San Diego Padres executive A.J. Preller / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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The Friar faithful knew their team made some drastic payroll cuts this past offseason, but when you see the numbers, it's rather staggering. According to NBC San Diego, the Padres led the league in spending cuts this past winter, removing an astounding $96 million from their 2024 budget.

The Padres, of course, traded Juan Soto while also parting company with a number of free agents. Cy Young Award-winner Blake Snell, starting pitchers Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, and Michael Wacha, and closer Josh Hader all signed elsewhere this offseason.

Did the Padres' budget cuts go too deep? Should AJ Preller have squeezed out some more money in order to pony up for some free agent deals? Let's open the Padres' books and take a peek.

Padres’ 2024 payroll: Did cuts go way beyond what was needed?

According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Padres are 14th in the league in spending this season, but were third in MLB a year ago. Again, that's what comes with allowing so many free agents leave while also parting ways with a generational talent like Soto.

San Diego's Opening Day payroll in 2023 was $248.9 million. In terms of the Competitive Balance Tax, the Padres' $291 million was behind only the New York Yankees ($296.3 million) and the New York Mets ($374.6 million). None of those three teams made the postseason last year.

This season, the Padres' projected Competitive Balance Tax payroll, which takes into account the average annual value (AAV) of player contracts, is sitting at about $226 million. Four Padres players (Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, Joe Musgrove, and Fernando Tatis Jr.) all have an AAV of $20 million or more. The Padres could've spent an extra $10 million in free agency and still stayed below the dreaded Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $237 million.

But San Diego wasn't going to break the bank this offseason. With so much money committed for the next four seasons, it's no wonder that the Padres decided to back off on the spending this past winter. Those four players mentioned previously are all under contract through at least 2027 and account for approximately 45% of the Padres payroll this season.

Could the Friars have spent more this season? Yes. But unless you're talking about a one-year deal in the neighborhood of about $5 million, the Padres were never going to add much more to the books. Preller's focus should now shift from adding players outside the organization to retaining the likes of Ha-Seong Kim, Michael King, and Dylan Cease over the long haul. That's easier said than done.

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