Though the Los Angeles Dodgers have taken a bit of a dive and now sit 3.0 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL West lead, no team in MLB is more disappointing (besides the St. Louis Cardinals) than the 37-41 San Diego Padres, who were the supposed World Series favorites.
The Dodgers' quiet offseason was the exact opposite of San Diego's repeated splashes over the past two years, which crescendoed this offseason when Xander Bogaerts was imported on an 11-year, $280 million contract. San Diego also added Matt Carpenter, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo and Nelson Cruz after the Juan Soto blockbuster trade last summer.
The Dodgers? They made minimal additions at the 2022 trade deadline, "downgraded" in the offseason, and have weathered one of the tougher injury storms in all of MLB. Yet, they're still better off than their division rivals in a number of ways.
And who saw this coming?! The Padres are reportedly "already facing challenges related to future financial obligations" after repeatedly punching above their weight class for some time now.
We'll say this: the Padres' aggression has been admirable and more teams should at least operate like this to an extent in the name of parity and competition. BUT ... the Dodgers sitting back and letting AJ Preller incur cost after cost was undoubtedly part of Andrew Friedman's master plan.
Padres' reported "financial issues" are a massive (and expected win) for Dodgers
Think the Dodgers don't know this game? They've firmly been in the spotlight since 2018 when its come to payroll, talent and attendance, and they one have one World Series to show for it after 10 straight trips to the postseason.
Part of the team's plan this offseason was to take some of the pressure off by deescalating expectations to avoid relentless media attention, especially when things inevitably go wrong (since that happens to just about every team at any given point in a season).
Meanwhile, LA was largely indifferent about the Padres' larger-than-life ventures since they probably saw this exact outcome on the horizon, assuming San Diego didn't get off to the start they had desired.
Even with the massive hoopla surrounding the Pads, they're still not even close to topping the Dodgers in attendance. San Diego is fourth in MLB, averaging 39,730 fans per game while LA is first with 48,024. The Padres have undoubtedly made strides, but it's barely 3,000 more fans per game they averaged in 2022. Not to mention, it's more than likely interest is waning with each passing day the Pads fail to gain ground in the standings (they're six games behind the Dodgers for the final Wild Card spot).
And it's only a matter of time before things get real dicey. They can probably kiss a Shohei Ohtani pursuit goodbye. Juan Soto is likely to explore free agency after 2024. Blake Snell, should he maintain his resurgence, will be gone after 2023. Same goes for closer Josh Hader.
The Padres figure to get worse come 2024 with a few departures on the horizon in addition to a couple of murky futures for others. If the financial problems are already reportedly taking hold in a year that was supposed to be their most successful and least problematic, then it's hard to project things getting better from this point forward for the Dodgers' little brother.