Scott Boras thought he was prepared when A.J. Preller called him around Thanksgiving. In front of him sat a list of available players who might fulfill the San Diego Padres' perceived needs, most of them first basemen and corner outfielders. Then Preller, the Padres' ninth-year general manager, began to talk about high-priced shortstop Xander Bogaerts and how he would fit into a roster that already possessed two premier players at his position. Boras, the sport's most prominent agent, was stunned.
"When I got off the phone, I went to our staff and I said, 'We have to do a better job of understanding how A.J. thinks about how he puts teams together,'" Boras said last Friday during Bogaerts' introductory news conference in San Diego.
The Padres had just signed Bogaerts to an industry-rocking 11-year, $280 million contract, making their roster equal parts talented and perplexing. Preller, widely hailed for his aggressiveness, seems to prefer it that way. The Padres don't have a first baseman or a left fielder, but they employ an everyday shortstop (Bogaerts), a cornerstone shortstop (Fernando Tatis Jr.) and a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop (Ha-Seong Kim). Just as stunning: A franchise residing within a city that ranks 30th in TV market size, according to Nielsen, is trending toward the fourth-highest payroll in baseball, with a roster boasting four of the game's best players.
Bogaerts, Tatis, Manny Machado and Juan Soto represent what is probably the best foursome in baseball. But they're also, predictably, expensive. Three of them possess contracts in the neighborhood of $300 million, and the other -- Soto -- might soon reach $400 million, if not more. The Padres' owner, Peter Seidler, has gone all-in on bringing San Diego its first championship, elevating the payroll to levels once considered unthinkable. He insists he knows what he's doing.
"I'm financially trained," Seidler said. "I have a budget mind up there somewhere, and I think budgets get better when you win world championships. That's our goal."
The current iteration of the Padres' roster is difficult to project. There are still too many unknowns, too many moving parts. And so it's best to look at it as a living, breathing organism -- ever evolving, never stagnant. In a year, Machado can opt out of his contract. In two, Soto can become a free agent. And in that time, the Padres will get a much better read on what to expect from Tatis, their performance-enhancing-drugs-tainted superstar. It'll all inform the question that seemed to be on every baseball person's mind in the wake of the Padres' latest stunner:
How long will Bogaerts, Tatis, Machado and Soto actually stay together? Is it one year? Two? Ten?
We explore four potential scenarios.