The Best and Worst of the A.J. Preller Era

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Best

November 13, 2015: Padres trade Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox for Carlos Asuaje, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, and Manuel Margot

While it was fun to see one of the best closers in the game in a Padres uniform for a season (Kimbrel saved 39 games with a 2.58 for San Diego in 2015), the haul Preller received from Boston for Kimbrel’s services could impact the Padres for years to come.

First of all, they found their center fielder of the present and future in Margot. He has already shown that. He finished sixth in National League Rookie of the Year voting, and frankly that was way too low. He hit .263, stole 17 bases, and hit 13 home runs and seven triples at the plate. His value doesn’t stop there. In center field, the toughest position at which to maintain defensive success, he posted  +9 Defensive Runs Saved. He plays a future Gold Glove-caliber defense in center.

The handsome return for Kimbrel doesn’t end with Margot. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Carlos Asujae has also proven valuable early in his major league career. He hit .270 in 89 games this past season for the Friars. His glove is developing nicely at second and should the Padres deal away Solarte, Asuaje could step into the everyday role. He puts up a nice at-bat and has a lot of upside.

Javier Guerra was perceived as the best piece in the trade at the time. That is proving to not be the case. The 22-year-old shortstop hit just .212 in 39 games for Double-A San Antonio after being promoted from Lake Elsinore (where he still didn’t impress with a .226 average).

Logan Allen should get Padres fans excited. When you add the success Margot has had already with the upside of Asuaje to Allen’s development, this was a steal. According to MLB.com, Allen is the Padres’ number 13 prospect. In 24 appearances combined for Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore in 2017, he posted a 2.95 ERA. He had 142 strikeouts in 125 innings. He is certainly someone to keep an eye on down on the farm.

Bravo, Preller.

Credit: USA Today Sports

April 8, 2016: Padres claim Brad Hand off of waivers from Miami

Preller nailed it on this one. Hand was coming off of five seasons of “meh” with the Marlins. In 2015, he had a 5.30 ERA in 38 games. Who knew that less than two years later, he would be one of the most coveted relievers in baseball? Preller helped Hand get into the right situation with good coaching and he took off. In 2016, he led the majors with 82 appearances, yet maintained a 2.92 ERA.

In 2017, he went even further in his development. He became an All-Star with a 2.16 ERA and 21 saves after the departure of Brandon Mauer. Preller did not trade Hand during the deadline, much to the surprise of just about everyone. He also survived winter meetings, still on the Padres’ roster. What is Preller’s plan with Hand? We don’t know. What we do know is that Hand has had an incredible turnaround with the Padres, and give Preller a ton of credit for finding this diamond in the rough.

December 6, 2016: Padres sign Jose Pirela to a minor league contract

Yes, the Padres did trade for Pirela previous to this, but this minor league deal is what reaped the benefits of Pirela’s 2017 season. He is under team control until 2023. In 2017, in 83 games, he was a 2.0 WAR player. He hit 10 home runs with a .288 average and 25 doubles. He had a 122 OPS+ to boot. He played five different defensive positions for the Friars and never had worse than -1 Defensive Runs Saved. In left field, where he is likely to start 2018, he posted +3 DRS. He was extremely valuable.

At the plate, he led the Padres in wRC+ at 122. The next closest was Wil Myers at 109. Preller got this guy for cheap and he will be cheap for a long time. Now, if he isn’t in the Padres’ long term plans, I am sure Preller can find a suitor willing to pay a nice ransom for Pirela’s bat in their lineup. It’s moves like this that make a GM great, not the blockbuster trades.

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Nick Lee

Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.


This article has 5 Comments

  1. If I may say so, your “worst” are way off. In fact, as bad as acquiring Oliveras was, I was still surprised/impressed that he could get rid of Kemp (which points to a top 10, if not top 3 “worst” moves for AJ). Even at the time of the trade for Kemp, everyone knew that was a HUGE favor to the other team, which also happened to be the Padres most dreaded rivals. Who does that? Perhaps it was ownership that forced this. Do they have no scouting department? Can they not see the decline in players? Either way, the grand daddy of the worst has to be trading Trea Turner. This one will be felt for years, and on many levels. The Padres have perpetually needed one main position: a shortstop. They also needed a lead off hitter, one with speed, one that got on base, who steals bases, and even has power, and can field at a high level. AND THEY HAD THAT EXACT PLAYER … AND THEN TRADED HIM AWAY!! “Yeah, but they got a great outfielder.” (which was said at the time) … but THEN he had to be moved to firstbase because he is not good in the OF. THEN they compounded these errors by giving him the biggest contract in Padres history. THEN they quasi-admitted this failure by aggressively seeking to sign another a-little-above-average 1B! How did that trade not even receive honorable mention, let alone #1. (oh yeah, they also threw in a couple of other top notch players. One of those players happens to be a highly ranked first baseman, and could very well be better (not to mention, far cheaper) than Hosmer and Meyers. The Padres would be in far, FAR better place if that one trade did not happen.

  2. Interesting article. I think the biggest AJP move was to position the Padres for the 2016 draft and J2 period. The number of picks and the amount of money he got ownership to pony up (and how he spent it) will impact the Padres for the next ten years.

    1. I agree that Tatis has to be up there. Maybe the author figured he covered it with the Shields bad trade. I would almost want to put in giving up Grandal for Kemp trade up there as a top 3 bad one.

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