For some time I have been referred to by a few as an A.J. Preller sympathizer and supporter.
The San Diego Padres DO NOT employ me nor do I write my opinion to try to get on their better side. I simply write what I believe and state nothing but the facts.
With that being said. Yes, I do like A.J. Preller and what he has done for the franchise. For the most part, that is.
He revitalized a fan base that had been dormant for quite some time. The San Diego Padres have abused their fans for seasons on end and some lifelong fans have completely washed their hands of the franchise. That is a fact. There is no denying that. Preller and the modern era of ownership seems different though. Fans are encouraged for the most part.
Not to say that he has been a golden child and done no wrong. He has made errors that a rookie general manager was likely to make. Though he comes with much experience in the industry, he is learning on the job. There have been and will be bumps in the road. Let us take a look at some moments that have shaped the franchise. Not Preller’s best moments and proof that he is indeed human.
THE 2015 FLURRY OF ACQUISITIONS
As before mentioned the franchise needed to wake up the fan base. The Padres acquired players like a fantasy baseball team without any regard to balance or chemistry. They acquired three identical offense outfielders in different stages of their career (Kemp-J.Upton-Myers). Kemp was an over-priced start who is clearly trending down (more on him later), Upton was an over-hyped player who can get hot offensively but in reality his cold streaks with the bat and bad defense kill his overall value. Wil Myers was an often injured young player who needed a change of scenery. Of the three he made the most sense and the team had to pay the biggest price for his services. Thankfully the Padres discovered that Myers has a lot of athletic ability and is able to play multiple positions. That saved the Padres.
All three have big names and in acquiring them automatically people assumed the Padres were playoff bound. Kemp, Upton and Myers all strike out way too much though and each are susceptible to being dominated by right handed pitchers who change speeds. We witnessed that first hand last year as the team could never find any consistency despite having all that potential. Talent and skill are great, but they mean nothing if a player is not motivated. The 2015 Padres were not motivated and clearly going through the motions. Not that A.J. Preller could have known this (well maybe he should have about Kemp). It’s just something you have to witness first hand. Still I can remember clearly writing the team was too right handed and lacked defensive abilities to compete. It’s no coincidence that both issues were drastically changed this season.
All three outfielders were not the answer but they brought excitement to the team. They provided instant offense to a team that was previously featuring Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, Cameron Maybin and Seth Smith as their outfielders. However the addition of the trio was not beneficial for the production of the team as far as wins were concerned. Myers in center was a catastrophe and he ended up having surgery on his troublesome wrist that had been bothering him since he was a teenager. The replenishing of the Padres 25-man roster was bold and did bring a ton of attention to the Padres. It was a bad move in hindsight because of the way Preller constructed the team. It’s hard to classify the 2015 season and the fact the team tried to compete as a fail, as it did help grow the fan base. It is more about how the team was constructed and the personnel they chose to man key positions on the team. Not a great start for the A.J. Preller era.
The acquisition on Matt Kemp was risky from the very beginning. Early health reports indicated he had arthritic hips and that condition was never going to improve. The Padres should have known then that something was up. The trade was halted briefly but in the end the Padres decided to complete the deal. Assuming Kemp’s contract was huge as his production had been slipping for years. The fact the team ultimately gave him away for nothing proves that Preller indeed had regrets about his arrival in town.
It will never be said directly, but we all know he was an issue in the clubhouse. Like most stars of the era, they wear their emotions on their sleeve and if they are not happy then everybody knows it. Kemp alluded to the fact he wasn’t previously giving it all in an article he wrote for the Players Tribune. A huge slap in the face to his past teammates and both the Dodgers and Padres franchises. He promises to change now, but its far too late to mend bridges he has burned. The Braves were foolish for taking on his contract and they will regret it. As the Padres certainly have. Matt Kemp has to be one of Prellers’ s worst moves. Ironically the fact he was able to move him and save the team over $30 million dollars goes down as one of his best deals. Still the Kemp era was not a favorable time in Padres history. We do have the cycle though. I guess that means something.
A FEW BAD DEALS
Besides the Kemp deal, the Padres have made a few trades that have already turned out bad. No, not the Wil Myers trade either. Trea Turner, Jake Bauers and Joe Ross are all great young players but we are enjoying Wil Myers as an all-star now. Each of those three is capable but their abilities are no guarantee. Myers looks to be a productive player for years on end. That is not debatable. The first bad deal I’d like to discuss was actually Preller’s first trade as G.M. of the club. In November of 2015 Reymond Fuentes (who was acquired in the package from the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez) was dealt to the Kansas City Royals for left -handed pitcher Kyle Bartsch. No big deal, right? Not that Fuentes is a great prospect but he is playing in K.C. now and contributing at the major league level. While Bartsch was lit up this season in San Antonio to the tune of a 8.31 ERA. He was released by the team instead of demoted and was promptly claimed by the Royals. He currently has a 0.94 ERA in 28 innings and 15 games for the Royals Double-A team. Really? What is going on there? Why was he not demoted instead of just released? Head scratching stuff here.
Another under the radar bad deal was the trade of Ronald Herrera to the New York Yankees for Jose Pirela. The Padres need arms currently in the upper minor league level. Herrera is 21 years old and is 9-7 this year in Double-A with a 3.85 ERA in 20 starts. He was traded for Pirela who received a cup of coffee with the Padres early this year, but was nothing spectacular. In reality the Padres need another utility type infielder like we all need another hole in the head. Horrible move for the young G.M. as Herrera looks to be a decent prospect while Pirela is struggling to even get playing time in El Paso where he is currently hitting .248 in 35 games. Now those are three horrible deals the G.M. pulled off. But in reality the team has consummated 30 separate trades in his tenure, so the percentages are not bad at all. I’m sorry but it is true. He has done well in his deals to this point, but how about on the free agent market?
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