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Padres stay aggressive and enter bidding war for free-agent first baseman Freddie Freeman

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PEORIA, Ariz. — The San Diego Padres were something of the epitome of criticism of the players’ union. How can they possibly have a bigger payroll than the New York Yankees?

The small-market Padres, who had the second-largest payroll in baseball last year, can double down.

The Padres have launched a bidding war for All-Star free agent first baseman Freddie Freeman, a person with direct knowledge of the talks told USA TODAY Sports.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

Freddie Freeman won the 2020 National League MVP award with the Braves.

It may be a defensive mechanism considering the Los Angeles Dodgers are heavily involved in the talks, offering what is believed to be a four-year deal with a high average salary, but the Padres are pretty serious about their intentions.

They’d still like to trade first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has four years and $59 million left on his contract, but considering the NL is adopting the designated hitter, there’s room for both players.

Also, considering this is a team that already has two $300 million players in its infield, what’s another big deal?

“I love our roster the way it’s built,” owner Peter Seidler said. “We are constantly looking to improve, and that is exactly what is happening now.”

Most teams could be forced to take a step back after spending a franchise-record $216 million and not even finishing .500, with an epic meltdown that saw them lose 24 of their last 36, but not the Padres. .

“If you’re going to fall off a cliff like we did last year,” Seidler said, “you might as well make it dramatic. And we did it.”

The Padres fired manager Jayce Tingler, took Bob Melvin from the Oakland A’s, gave him a three-year, $11.5 million contract and believe the collapse was a once-in-a-century nightmare, producing the worst record in baseball after 9/11. August.

Certainly, Seidler and CEO Erik Greupner said, they’re buoyed by fans not giving up on them and continuing to come to games. They have already sold a franchise record 19,000 season tickets for this year.

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“It’s not, ‘My God, we have to win now,'” Seidler said. “That’s not my personal attitude or the attitude of the organization. It’s a new year. We have a very, very good team. And we hope to be a force in the race for the World Series trophy this year.”

It certainly would have made life easier if All-Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hadn’t broken his wrist in a motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic over the winter, sidelining him for at least three months, but they refuse. to let this torpedo. his chances.

The Padres aren’t just trying to sign Freeman, they’re in heavy negotiations with Japanese free-agent outfielder Seiya Suzuki, who is being pursued by half a dozen teams.

“We want to win, man, and we feel like we have the guys to do it,” says Padres starter Joe Musgrove. “The fact that they’re spending the money to add the few pieces we need, and giving guys the money they need to want to stay here, is important.

“As a player, it feels good knowing you’re on a team that wants to compete and has the talent to win it all.”

The aggressiveness of the Padres, to hell with the luxury tax, certainly caught the attention of the players throughout the game and was used by the union in labor negotiations.

“We see competitive equilibrium as a breakout spending mechanism,” Scherzer said during labor negotiations. “That’s how this thing was originally traded. And we’re not looking at that function as a separate expense. We see it as a salary cap.

“You can’t show it any other way, point blank, plain and simple, that the San Diego Padres have a higher payroll than the New York Yankees.”

Seidler, when asked about Scherzer’s comment, said, “I’ve never met Max, I’ll take it as a snap.”

Said Melvin, who managed Scherzer in Arizona: “Well, I know Max, and that’s a compliment.”

Meanwhile, the Padres had long talks with Tatis, who is prohibited from riding motorcycles in his standard contract. They have insurance on Tatis if he misses the entire season, but they have no plans to reduce pay for Tatis, who is in the second year of a 14-year, $340 million contract.

They think he’ll be fine, perfectly healthy for the second half of the season, but they explicitly let him know that his motorcycle days are over.

“You’re 22 years old, you’re having fun,” Melvin said, “and I don’t think anything was intentional here. But I think you learn from experience.

“And I think this is one to learn from.”

The Padres also learned from their disastrous 2021 experience, believing it will never happen again.

A certain free agent first baseman, who lives in nearby Corona Del Mar, Calif., can guarantee just that.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Padres enter bidding war for free agent 1B Freddie Freeman

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