After the 2011 season, the Padres followed the lead of some other small-market teams and spent almost $60 million on three young players who had already succeeded in the big leagues but who were still under team control.
All three of the deals blew up miserably. And all three were good decisions the team should try to replicate.
The Padres payroll right now is $87 million, putting it near baseball’s lower third and last in the National League West. Ownership has made clear there’s a limit on how much it can spend that isn’t much more than that.
Toward that end, the Padres signed left-handed pitcher Corey Luebke, then 27, to an extension that could have been worth as much as $27.7 million over six years. He was coming off a 2011 season, his first as a regular starting pitcher at the big league level, in which he had an ERA of 3.29 and struck out more than a batter per inning. Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which measures a player’s overall contribution, said Luebke would produce two additional wins for a team that had him rather than a readily available replacement.
It hasn’t worked out.
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It's been a while since I was a sabermetrics nerd (hey, all the uncool kids were doing it), but - what was the market rate for a projected WAR in that offseason? That seems like a key number to know if we're determining whether the team overspent or made wise investments. Somebody must have numbers for each year showing how much each team spent for projected wins going into the season. I know Fangraphs tracks $/WAR for the league; I can't find a breakdown per team after a quick search.
Also, where does the team stand in terms of the debt service rule? And how diligent is MLB in its enforcement of that rule?
As I see it, small-market teams like the Padres face 3 problems: (1) the stats revolution has happened, and all teams have access to similar data; (2) there are diminishing returns from additional analysis of the same data set (it's not like we can go back to 1980 and re-discover that getting on base is, like, really important - the big discoveries have been made); (3) because they can't buy their way out of bad choices or bad luck, there's way less margin for error.
It's just no fun to feel like the team goes into every Opening Day effectively a few games behind its wealthier competition simply because of the way MLB is set up.
"The Padres payroll right now is $66 million...". Add $20 million to that, and you would be very close to being correct.
The question is, why are the Padres always running the largest sick bay in MLB? It’s hardly just these three. They always have multiple pitchers on the D L, and position players get nicked up a lot as well. Kyle Blanks is a classic example.
Personally, I think it’s time to cut the cord on Maybin, who has shown in the few periods he’s been healthy in the least 2 years that he’ll never hit for average and his home runs may be long but are so few they don’t matter. If you are hitting .200 and striking out a lot, you aren’t going to steal much.
Maybin isn’t comparable to Carlos Quentin, a proven RBI machine whenever he plays. Quentin has chronic knee problems that limit the games he can play in a row, but If they can get even a hundred games out him, he’s worth at least what he’s making. With Maybin, he not only is out for long periods when hurt, he seems to get hurt in a different part of his body each time, and he really hasn’t hit well for two years. He’s still young, but with his recent history there’s no reason to believe he’ll further develop.
@David Lizerbram Yeah, was considering getting into $/WAR but figured I'd lose people in the weeds. It was about $4 million in that offseason. This offseason it's swelled to something between $6 million and $7 million.
Basically, all three players were conservatively projected to provide surplus value by $/WAR at the time, and even with poor performance and injuries since then, two of them are still projected to provide surplus value now, given the escalating cost of a win on the free agent market.
Also, while I recognize the frustration (as a fan of a team sharing a division with the Yankees and Red Sox especially), the reality in recent years has been a diminishing correlation between payroll and winning. AND, I'm here to tell you the Padres are making the playoffs this year, and I'm a guy on the Internet so surely that should be enough to assuage your concerns.