In a sport where small market teams like the Oakland Athletics and Dick Monfort's Colorado Rockies are going out of their way to reduce payroll and field non-competitive teams, the San Diego Padres have shown that small market teams can be players for all of the big fish free agents.
In addition to trading for superstar Juan Soto, the Padres have signed two of the biggest infield free agents in baseball in the last five years by bringing in Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts. The extension to Yu Darvish shows that Peter Seidler and this ownership group are all-in on the next few years.
One would think that this organizational philosophy would earn nonstop praise throughout baseball. Instead, Manfred has decided to once again stick his foot in his mouth and soil himself on a grand stage. Manfred wondered how long it would take before the Padres have to revert to their old ways, missing a chance to single them out as an example of how to build a team.
"The trick for smaller markets has always been sustainability," Manfred said, per Dennis Lin of The Athletic. "The question becomes, how long can you continue to do that? And what happens when you have to go through a rebuild? But they have done a really, really good job of capitalizing on their talent to drive their revenue."
After years of small market teams playing with chump change, now it's a problem and a concern that one of them is competing with the big boys?
Rob Manfred questioned the San Diego Padres.
The question of sustainability, in a vacuum, isn't totally pointless. After all, San Diego themselves seem to be a bit uncertain about the odds of retaining Soto, Machado, Bogaerts, and Fernando Tatis Jr. all at once beyond 2023. Still, their aggression and effort should be applauded.
Why is it that a team like the Mets, bankrolled by Steve Cohen, can be applauded for spending top dollar on players that can turn them into a contender, yet San Diego is subject to pointed comments from the commissioner? Does he want them to pinch pennies forever?
Teams like Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Miami could easily pay many of their top players if ownership wanted to. San Diego's recent push for a championship illustrates this concept. Are other small market owners, perhaps irritated at Seidler showing them up, perhaps speaking vicariously through Manfred?