The hot stove is finally cooking, and the San Francisco Giants got in on the action last night by signing outfielder and KBO star Jung Hoo Lee to a six year, $113 million contract, smashing original predictions that expected Lee, who has yet to see a pitch in the United States, to make around $50 million over four or five years.
This is a blow to the San Diego Padres for a few reasons. The Padres were also reportedly in on Lee, but he chose to go to a division rival instead; this leaves San Diego's gap in left field still unoccupied; and it begs the question: after getting back the money Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Seth Lugo, Nick Martinez, Michael Wacha, Trent Grisham and Juan Soto represented on the 2023 payroll, what are the Padres doing with it?
What are the Padres doing with all of their extra money?
The Giants have found themselves the brunt of offseason jokes a couple of years in a row now — there was Aaron/Arson Judge and the Carlos Correa ankle debacle last year, and losing Shohei Ohtani to the Dodgers despite allegedly offering him the same exact contract this year. Getting Lee in the wake of such a blatant shunning by Ohtani earns them a few redemption points on top of just being a good addition to their lineup (Lee has hit a career .340/.407/.491 in Korea).
But the Padres' stunning lack of aggression this offseason has to make one wonder if the team letting so many key players go in free agency or trades is simply an attempt at dumping payroll in order to avoid more embarrassing money issues. Snell, Hader, Lugo, Martinez, Wacha, Grisham, and Soto represented $84.63 million on San Diego's books last year, or just about a third of payroll, not to mention their departures gutted the rotation and weakened the bullpen and the lineup.
Aside from snapping some players up off of waivers and trading Soto, the Padres have done absolutely nothing to show for this offseason. But, hey, they have millions more dollars back in their pockets. As they keep getting run over by division rivals, all of whom except the Rockies have made at least one significant signing this offseason, the Friars are slipping further and further down the division standings as we speak.
Maybe, given the Padres' underperformance in 2023, they're trying to go back to basics and develop within the organization instead of spending as exorbitantly as they did this year. While this is a valid course of action, it's still a frustrating thing for fans to have to sit on their hands and wait to see what will come of it, while the Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks pass by with their shiny new players and the Padres quietly take back over $80 million and tuck it away.