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

Credit: AP Photo

A.J. Preller has been the Padres’ general manager for over three years.

When I say there have been ups and downs, that is a severe understatement.

He made a statement almost right away, in his first offseason, before the 2015 season.

This offseason has been a lot quieter.

We are still waiting on the fate of players like Brad Hand and Yangervis Solarte and also awaiting Eric Hosmer’s decision of where to go. Let’s take a look at the three best and worst moves of his time so far in San Diego.

I will start with the bad, in order to end on a good note.

The Worst

February 11, 2015: Padres sign free agent James Shields

Like many bad ideas, this at first looked like a great idea. Shields was coming off of a strong season with a 3.21 ERA in 227 innings and a World Series appearance. He was the definition of “workhorse” as he posted eight straight 200+ innings before coming to San Diego.

The signs were there that he was headed for a decline. His first season in San Diego was acceptable except for the fact that he led the major leagues in homers allowed with 33. He did reach 202 innings and won 13 games though.

The reason why he makes this list is because he signed a four-year, $75 million contract and the Padres still owe him just over $10 million, despite the fact that he was traded to the White Sox in the middle of a disastrous 2016. I witnessed his final start as a Padre when they played the Mariners at Safeco Field. He was blasted for 10 earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings. The home run ball continued to be a problem as he had a 4.28 ERA in 11 starts for the Friars in 2016 before being shipped to the White Sox. Now, I give credit to Preller for getting Fernando Tatis Jr. in the deal for Shields, but the fact that the Padres are still paying him to stink it up with a different team hurts.

Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

July 30, 2016: Padres trade Matt Kemp to the Atlanta Braves for Hector Olivera

I am of the unpopular crowd that was quite sad when Kemp left. I liked him as a Padre. It gave the Padres a face and its lineup had a name everyone in baseball recognized. Now, I understand there may have been some behind-the-scenes clubhouse issues with Kemp, but at the plate, I don’t understand why the Padres and Preller were so eager to say goodbye.  For one, he hit for the first cycle in Padres history. He reached the 100 RBI plateau in 2015. He had 23 home runs with a 106 OPS+ in 100 games for the Padres in 2016 before being dealt. He was nothing short of productive at the plate. His defense may have lacked in the outfield, but how many outfielders are Gold Glovers with that kind of power? Maybe three? Picky, picky, picky.

Plus, let’s look at the other side of things. Olivera is worthless. He’s only played in 30 major league games and none since April 11, 2016. He was arrested after a domestic dispute and was suspended for 82 games. Olivera is a free agent, yet the Padres are still on the hook for over $20 million of his contract. I would rather be paying Kemp to hit and play suspect defense than Olivera to beat women and sit on his couch.

February 9, 2017: Padres sign free agent Jered Weaver

The fact that this makes the list is a testament to how successful Preller has been. He really has not had a ton of clunkers. After that really disappointing 2015, he made up for it by stocking the farm system well.

Weaver was on the tail end of a solid career. The Padres signed him to a one year, $3 million contract. They got virtually nothing in return (maybe besides the younger guys getting some veteran tips from the 34-year-old). He made nine starts in a Padres’ uniform and posted a 7.44 ERA. He basically made over $330,000 per start. He also never won a game for the Friars, going 0-5, and in fact, the Padres were 0-9 in his starts.


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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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