Padres' premature Yu Darvish extension gives Dodgers yet another edge

Why did the Padres do this, again?

San Diego Padres v Milwaukee Brewers
San Diego Padres v Milwaukee Brewers / John Fisher/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres went all in over the last year with some high-profile acquisitions, via trade, free agency and by way of extension. Manny Machado got the party started back in 2019 with his $300 million deal and the rest followed.

One of the moves that supplemented Machado's arrival was the Yu Darvish trade -- San Diego acquired the right-hander from the Chicago Cubs for four prospects (infielders Reginald Preciado and Yeison Santana, and outfielders Owen Caissie and Ismael Mena) back before the 2021 campaign.

Heading into the 2023 season, Darvish was entering a contract year and was coming off a 2022 campaign during which he received Cy Young votes (he finished eighth in the NL). He was a co-ace 1-2 punch atop the rotation with Joe Musgrove.

But he was also entering his age-36 season at the start of 2023. Most teams would've just let Darvish's situation run its course. He's a good pitcher, but there by no means was a necessity for him to remain a Padre for years to come.

Not in AJ Preller's eyes, though. He signed Darvish to a six-year extension (through his age-42 season!) this past offseason, and now the right-hander is on the injured list with elbow inflammation caused by a bone spur. It could've been worse, but Darvish has been shut down indefinitely.

Padres' premature Yu Darvish extension gives Dodgers yet another edge

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are going year to year with one of the best pitchers in the game in Clayton Kershaw, who prefers the flexibility. Darvish is getting paid an $18 million AAV through 2028.

Darvish did tell reporters that he plans to pitch again this season, but despite his intentions, he was placed on the 15-day IL Monday, which would knock him out until at least mid-September. That makes his return during a lost season the definition of questionable.

The Padres' payroll is exceedingly clogged right now. Darvish at $18 million AAV through 2028. Xander Bogaerts is in San Diego for another 10 years, a contract that's looking worse and worse by the month. Fernando Tatis Jr.'s contract was a giant question mark the year after he signed it. Jake Cronenworth, who is in his age-29 season right now, is signed through 2030. Machado is signed through 2033 and will start making $39 million per season in 2027.

Preller overextended the Padres in a detrimental way all just to show up the Dodgers, who have managed to stay impressively flexible on the financial side of things. It's looking like that NLDS victory might be the peak for San Diego in its rivalry with LA just based on one quick peek into the future.