Padres strike again in free agency to counter Dodgers-JD Martinez move

Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three
Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three / Elsa/GettyImages

Just when it seemed like the Los Angeles Dodgers got their way in free agency by inking Noah Syndergaard and JD Martinez for a combined $23 million, the San Diego Padres countered with similar moves shortly after.

On Monday, they signed pitcher Seth Lugo to a two-year, $15 million contract. Lugo, a Dodgers target as well, will join the Padres' starting rotation (as it was his desire to start rather than relieve, which could've affected negotiations with LA).

Then, on Tuesday, AJ Preller countered Andrew Friedman's move for Martinez and brought in former Yankee and Cardinal Matt Carpenter on a one-year deal (with an option for 2024). Carpenter has a well-known history against the Dodgers and seemingly revived his career after just 154 plate apperances with the Yankees in 2022.

Unfortunately, a broken foot in August derailed Carpenter's campaign, but his incredible showing over the prior 47 games convinced the Padres he could be a viable everyday DH option alongside fellow sluggers Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Xander Bogaerts.

Some might consider this an "overpay" for Carp -- he'll be guaranteed $12 million and can earn up to $21 million if his player option is exercised -- but the Padres are once again using their pockets to get better, while the Dodgers stand idly by trying to weather the potential Trevor Bauer luxury tax storm as they seek bargain bin free agents.

The Padres countered the Dodgers and signed Matt Carpenter

Compared to the Martinez signing (one year, $10 million), this is an obvious overpay considering Martinez has been an All-Star four out of the last five seasons, has led the league in doubles and RBI, and helped lead the Red Sox to a World Series title in 2018.

Carpenter was literally one of the worst hitters in all of MLB just a year ago and put forth two well below-average campaigns in 2019 and 2020. That doesn't take away from his stellar run from 2013-2018, but Martinez has certainly aged better and is still two years younger.

Then again, those numbers with the Yankees ...

Carpenter's overall numbers against the Dodgers are bad (.224 AVG, .651 OPS with 4 HR and 10 RBI in 61 games), but LA fans are still scarred by his playoff performance against them in 2013 and 2014, which yielded three home runs, 10 RBI, a .308 average and 1.082 OPS in NLCS and NLDS victories for the Cardinals.

So, at the very least, Preller spent $12 million on mental warfare. And it'll pay double if Carp ends up performing anywhere close to his small 2022 sample size as a lefty bopper surrounded by some of the game's top hitters (which is exactly what happened in New York that helped revive him).

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