The righteous internetters among us ritually object when a team is declared the "winner of the offseason." What matters is who wins the actual season, they repeat with the harshness of a mule's bray. They're right about this, of course, but the winter affords us few living, color television examples of This, Our Baseball, which means we're forced to talk about who wins the offseason. 

On that point, consider the San Diego Padres to be the current favorites to win the offseason. Yes, it's been a glacially paced winter, at least until the Padres began tending to business over the weekend, which means a number of alluring free agents and trade targets remain. Consider, though, what the Padres achieved within a span of 24 hours or so: 

Add those needle-movers to a largely intact roster that won at a .617 clip last season and that boasts an impressive mix of young and veteran talents, and you've got genuine World Series aspirations in place. Further consider that Snell and Darvish are under contract for multiple seasons and that ace-caliber right-hander Mike Clevinger will return from Tommy John surgery in 2022. Given the team's locked-in-place strengths elsewhere, the Padres will have more than one viable chance to hoist the trophy for the first time in franchise history.

Such maneuverings would be impressive no matter when they happened or who achieved them, but in the Padres' case they become even more notable for three reasons -- reasons that will allow the author to utilize large-font subheads for the remainder of this piece. The busy sales professional no doubt appreciates such a digestible composition, and with regard to such considerations we remain of, for, and by the people. Forthwith: 

1. The Padres are swimming against league-wide tides

Most teams look for any tidy rationale they can find to tamp down on player spending. Typically, this involves advancing risible falsehoods about how unprofitable the team is and how onerous the balance sheet is. Now, though, they're able to make such claims on the firmer footing of exaggeration as opposed to wholesale invention. That's because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic of course whittled down the 2020 regular season to just 60 games and didn't allow for in-person attendance until very late in the playoffs, and then only in very limited numbers. Yes, MLB teams took a hit in 2020, but for reasons previously laid out in this space owners are greatly inflating the scale of those losses for cynical ends

Most teams are using the pandemic as an excuse for austerity, which explains why the Cubs were willing to part with Darvish for a modest return. To be sure, the Mets figure to be an exception given that they have a new owner in place and share the largest media market in the Western world. The Padres, though? They're in the 29th-largest media market in the U.S., wedged between Nashville and Salt Lake City. Per Forbes' informed estimates the Padres in 2019 ranked 17th among MLB teams in revenues. Yes, the Pads appear to be out-performing their market size, but they're hardly among the most well heeled of squads. 

Against that backdrop, the Padres have plowed money into the roster by taking on two highly valuable starting pitchers whom their prior teams deemed too expensive and paying the going rates for a free agent from the "1B" tier. That's to the enduring credit of ownership, especially in light of peer behavior, and they might just claim both belt and title for their troubles. 

2. They've already invested a great deal in this core

Of course, this is more than just one winter's worth of good behavior on the part of San Diego ownership -- meaning, mostly, Ron Fowler and now Peter Seidler. The Padres signed Manny Machado to a $300 million pact prior to the 2019 season. The prior offseason, they inked Eric Hosmer to a $144 million free agent contract. Before that came Wil Myers' six-year, $83 million extension. Now the Darvish-Snell-Kim troika adds about $40 million to those obligations in 2021 alone. As a result, the Padres' payroll for 2021 is in line to be somewhere between $160-170 million. That puts it roughly in line with what it was in 2020 on a non-prorated basis. Not actively shedding salary in the current environment is, as noted, a point of distinction, and it points to the Padres' good-faith efforts to build around their young core as opposed to using it as the lone load-bearing column. 

3. They're doing so despite underdog status in the NL West

The Padres' success last season is noted above, and it rightly informs their aggressive approach this winter. However, consider that they finished six games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. Across the full 162 games, that would translate to finishing 16 games out of first place. The respective run differentials are only slightly more favorable to the Padres. The Dodgers -- urgent bulletin forthcoming -- went on to win the World Series, and the expectation is that they'll fortify the roster for a vigorous title defense. Note that said roster already includes the likes of Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager and Walker Buehler and Cody Bellinger and so on.

The Padres, though, aren't daunted by divisional prospects that would daunt pretty much every other team, especially given those baked-in pandemic excuses. The Padres could've sat back, pared their nails, and let the pieces in place carry them to a likely wild card berth. Instead, they're building the best team possible -- one that now looks capable of challenging the Dodgers and perhaps even ending their eight years of sovereignty in the NL West. That simple first principle that so many teams duck these days, that of doing your most to win as many baseball games as possible, animates the Padres' decisions. 

As well, we don't know what the structure of the 2021 postseason will be. It's possible that winning the division will carry more of an advantage than usual, and if that's the case then the Padres will have responded to those incentives ahead of time. Even if that isn't the case, the Padres have given themselves the best chance of achieving their ultimate goal by ignoring the steep divisional odds and leveraging the competitive meekness of other teams. 

Novelty of novelties, the Padres are spending money to be the best damn baseball team they can be. It shouldn't be such a rare quality in the game right now, so let's praise it where we find it.