Padres 2024 free agency buzz proves AJ Preller is a mad man

Sep 17, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA;  Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani (17)
Sep 17, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani (17) / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the blessing of owner Peter Seidler, the San Diego Padres have cemented themselves as one of baseball's premier spenders.

Despite having Juan Soto (2024), Manny Machado (opt out after 2023) and Josh Hader (2023) all on expiring contracts, the Padres went out and inked Xander Bogaerts to a $280 million contract this offseason. They even made a late run at Aaron Judge before he re-signed with the Yankees.

General manager AJ Preller's plan is to keep the big three of Machado, Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. together for the foreseeable future. That would require making Soto the highest-paid player in the sport, and giving Machado a raise worthy of someone who has two top-three MVP finishes in the last three seasons.

That's certainly in the realm of possibility given how much money will come off the books after the 2023 season. In other words, Padres fans should once again expect the team to be one of the league's top spenders.

But what if the Machado-Soto-Tatis dream doesn't come true? No sweat. Per USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Padres plan to be "all in" on Shohei Ohtani next offseason and are the Dodgers' "stiffest competition" for the Angels megastar.

The Padres reportedly will be "all in" on Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani next offseason.

It's foolish to think the Dodgers will be the only (other) team involved in the Ohtani sweepstakes. The Mets are a team to keep an eye on after their pact with Carlos Correa fell apart. The Mariners are another club to watch. If you remember, Seattle made Ohtani's shortlist of destinations when he was an international free agent.

San Diego made that list too, however, and it seems Preller is prepared to revisit the organization's interest in the two-way superstar. Just imagine the intrigue of a Padres vs Dodgers arms race for Ohtani's services next offseason.

The rivalry is already at a boiling point after San Diego eliminated Los Angeles in the NLDS after the Dodgers owned the Friars during the regular season. The two NL West rivals battling it out for Ohtani would add another chapter to the rivalry.

We really don't have to sell you on Ohtani and what signing him would mean to the Padres, but why not?

After winning AL MVP in 2021, Ohtani hit .273/.356/.519 with 34 home runs and 95 RBI in 2022. As a pitcher, Ohtani finished 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA, a 1.012 WHIP, and a 33.2% strikeout percentage to a 6.7% walk percentage. A historic season from Aaron Judge separated Ohtani from winning a second straight MVP award.

If Preller pulls off signing Ohtani, just build him a statue outside Petco Park.

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