On a team that has spent the off-season signing stars to long-term contracts, Jake Cronenworth is not exactly a household name.
But the San Diego Padres prize his versatility so much that they gave him a seven-year extension Saturday.
A 29-year-old left-handed hitter starting his fourth season with the team, Cronenworth his played first, second, and shortstop during his brief career, spent exclusively with San Diego. He brought a .256 career batting average and 42 home runs into the 2023 campaign.
A pitcher-infielder during his college days at the University of Michigan, the 6-foot, 187-pounder is now the regular first baseman for the revamped Padres.
That is because the team signed erstwhile Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts as a free agent, shifting slugger Fernando Tatís, Jr. to the outfield and bumping Ha-seoing Kim to the bench (Tatís, out all of last season, is due back from PEDs suspension on April 20).
Manny Machado, who can also play shortstop, anchors the infield at third base after finishing second in the voting for National League Most Valuable Player last fall.
With Cronenworth signed through 2030, San Diego has now locked up Machado and Bogaerts for 11 years each, Yu Darvish for six, Joe Musgrove and Robert Suarez for five years each, and Michael Wacha for four.
Next their wish list might be Josh Hader, a potential free agent this fall, and Juan Soto, who becomes eligible after the 2024 season.
According to Spotrac, San Diego ranks third in the majors with a payroll of $176,820,454. Only the two New York teams, the Mets and Yankees respectively, pay their players more.
The Padres hope their spending pays off in a pennant for the first time since 1998. The team has reached the World Series only twice, also getting to the final round in 1984, but has never won a world championship.
A two-time All-Star, Cronenworth came to San Diego in a five-man swap with the Tampa Bay Rays in December 2019. In his first season, he finished tied for second in voting for National League Rookie of the Year. Then he had a career-best 21 homers in 2021.
Cronenworth’s new deal buys out his final two arbitration years plus a potential five years of free agency. He will turn 36 before it runs out.
The versatile infielder is earning $4.225 million this season, with the seven-year extension set to start in 2024. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the deal is worth $80 million.
San Diego finished second in the National League West last summer, 22 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, but made a serious bid for the NL flag after reaching the playoffs as a wild-card. The Padres lost a five-game Championship Series to the Philadelphia Phillies.