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Padres extend utilityman Jake Cronenworth with seven-year, $80 million deal

Jake Cronenworth reportedly signed an $80 million deal with the Padres. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
Jake Cronenworth reportedly signed an $80 million deal with the Padres. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

The San Diego Padres extended one of their biggest organizational wins of the past half-decade. Utilityman Jake Cronenworth signed a seven-year, $80 million extension to remain with the team, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The team confirmed the signing Saturday.

The extension won't kick in until next season and buys out five free-agent years. It ensures Cronenworth, 29, will remain in San Diego through the 2030 MLB season. He'll be 36 when the contract ends.

Cronenworth's age likely played a role in his wanting to sign the deal. He did not debut in the majors until he was 26, far older than most impact players. He performed well immediately, hitting .285/.354/.477 as a rookie, and remained a strong player in 2021 and 2022, making the All-Star team both seasons.

Because of his age, however, Cronenworth would not have hit the free-agent market until he was 32 years old. Even if he performed well, his age might've prevented him from earning a big contract on the market. So it seems he decided he didn't want to play that game and instead committed to sticking with the Padres.

With the move, the Padres extended yet another member of their promising core. Xander Bogaerts, Yu Darvish, Manny Machado and Joe Musgrove are all signed through at least the 2027 MLB season. As long as those players remain effective, the Padres should be in contention throughout most of Cronenworth's extension.

Cronenworth represents massive win for Padres

Of all the excellent moves the Padres made to get back into contention, Cronenworth's acquisition ranks as the team's biggest scouting win in recent memory. Cronenworth wasn't considered a standout prospect after he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB Draft.

His minor-league numbers weren't that impressive his first couple of seasons. Cronenworth was capable of hitting for decent average and showed pretty good plate discipline, but he lacked power. During his first four seasons in the minors, he failed to post a slugging percentage above .400. That lack of pop might've led to the Rays' utilization Cronenworth as a two-way player in 2019. In addition to hitting, he also saw some time on the mound that season.

Cronenworth's biggest development in 2019 came on offense. He broke out as a 25-year-old in Triple-A, slugging .511. Given his age, there was some skepticism about his ability. Had he really made an adjustment? Or was he simply old for his level and picking on much younger players?

The Padres were willing to bet on the former. The team acquired Cronenworth as part of a five-player deal in 2019, and he proved to be the best player in the deal, hitting immediately upon reaching the majors the following season.

Since then, Cronenworth has been a regular in the Padres' starting lineup. His bat remains strong, and his versatility is impressive. He has seen time at first base, second base, shortstop and third base in the majors. He also returned to the mound once, pitching a scoreless two-thirds of an inning.