PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres made a statement this winter, as trade after trade produced impact player after impact player. They were contenders last season, but that wasn't enough for them. So they added Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and a handful of others -- players who almost surely will make the Padres better over the next few seasons.
This week, the Padres made a different kind of statement. When Fernando Tatis Jr. put pen to paper on his record 14-year extension, worth $340 million, it was emblematic of a long-term organizational shift.
"We are not a small-market franchise," said Padres chairman Peter Seidler. "... I'll speak for the people of San Diego: We're the eighth-largest city in America. There's nothing we can't do."
Five years ago, general manager A.J. Preller laid out a long-term vision for the franchise, broken into two very distinct phases. First, Preller would overhaul his big league roster to replenish and revamp his farm system. Eventually, that would produce a contender.
That process is now complete. The Padres, few would dispute, are bona fide World Series contenders. But if the first part of Preller's plan was to open the team's contention window, the second part of his plan is to keep it open as long as possible.
From the start, Preller made it clear he didn’t want a couple seasons of playoff baseball, then another foray into rebuilding. He has spoken repeatedly about making October baseball a habit in San Diego.
"It's very clear what the message is," Preller said. "That's to win championships. That's to do something great, do something that's sustainable, year-in, year-out -- have an opportunity to play in October."
In some ways, that's what Monday's announcement signified. The Padres have a generational talent at shortstop, the type of player worth building around for, say, 14 years.
Right now, the Padres' contention window is well and truly open. With the bulk of their core on board through at least 2023, this group, as constructed, will have more than one shot at bringing an elusive title to San Diego.
Still, there's an end in sight for this core. Sure, it's a long way off. But in two or three years, some difficult decisions loom. The Padres' five best in-house starting pitching options are under contract through 2022 or '23. Big names like Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer might hit free agency. A handful of the team's younger players could begin to merit extensions of their own.
The goal, Preller said, is to have stability when that time comes. That was clear with the Manny Machado signing two years ago, and it was reinforced with Tatis’ extension on Monday. The Padres feel they have the foundational pieces in place to build multiple iterations of a contender.
"We make decisions, really, with 10 years in mind," Seidler said. "Not year to year to year, although we're cognizant of the current year. Again, I just could not be happier with where we are in every way, business-wise and baseball-wise."
In recent memory, a handful of teams have emerged as contenders for a few seasons, then fallen back to the pack. Hosmer's Royals come to mind. They broke through in 2013 and then reached the World Series in '14 and '15, winning the latter.
First thing’s first: The Padres need to match that accomplishment. For the time being, it’s their sole focus. But once they've scaled the mountain, Preller has made it clear he wants to stay there.
Perhaps that's overly ambitious. It's difficult to win a title. (The Padres would know.) It's even more difficult to win, then keep winning.
Still, that’s a worthy objective for a once-forlorn franchise. Now, it's a matter of taking the appropriate steps to reach that objective.
You know, like locking up the 22-year-old All-MLB shortstop, who sits squarely at the center of that plan.