When the San Diego Padres hired Fangraphs analyst Dave Cameron last year it really seemed like a very odd fit for a franchise that has traditionally failed to do anything cutting edge.
Most executives tend to hire like-minded, compatible types to join them in the suites. But last year Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller actually added one of his fiercest critics, Dave Cameron, as senior analyst. Preller deserves credit for looking beyond Cameron’s well-placed barbs on FanGraphs in his search for baseball brains.
Cameron played baseball in high school and majored in economics at UNC-Greensboro. In 2011, he received a dire diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia with a poor prognosis. However, treatment led to remission. He started at FanGraphs as a freelance writer in April 2008, but before that he’d also written for Fox Sports, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN among others. Ultimately, he turned this freelance gig into a position as managing editor of FanGraphs. As such he left no doubt about his opinion over the Padres’ handling of medical information early in Preller’s tenure with the team.
In September 2016 Major League Baseball suspended Preller for 30 days and fined the Padres for failing to disclose the complete medical histories of players involved in trade discussions. At the time Cameron wrote in “It Feels Like the Padres Got Off Easy” on FanGraphs that “the idea that the Padres accidentally kept two sets of medical records…is absurd.” Cameron concluded his critical report with the conclusion that “the Padres pretty clearly cheated the system, and the end result is they probably ended up better off than if they hadn’t.”
Since the entire system of trades has to be built on trust, we still don’t know how much of an effect this incident has had on the willingness of other teams to deal with the Padres. At the time, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner complained he found MLB’s punishment too lenient. Since then, however, Boston has acquired Colten Brewer from San Diego in exchange for minor league infielder Esteban Quiroz. Although this cannot be considered a major transaction, it does indicate a willingness to at least pick up the phone if Preller calls.
Before Cameron joined the Padres he also warned against five “2018 Free-Agent Landmines.” Eric Hosmer headed his list followed by Greg Holland, Lance Lynn, Eduardo Nunez, and former Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner. According to Cameron, Hosmer’s overall record and age did not qualify him for the amount of money he received or the duration of the contract ($144 million over eight years). No other teams showed much interest at all.
Obviously, the Padres chose to ignore the judgment of their senior analyst to be. Instead, the team handed Hosmer the richest contract in team history. So far, the results have been discouraging, to say the least. The first baseman’s performance ranked as the worst of his career as he batted .253/.322/.398. A first baseman, Hosmer also doesn’t play a premium position, so his offense has to improve substantially to begin to warrant the contract. Now that he’s more at home in San Diego and a new league, the Padres can only hope for a Hosmer rebound this season.
Preller and the Padres obviously consider Cameron’s expertise to outweigh his stinging rebukes over the medical records and his very public criticism of the Hosmer signing. This demonstrates a thick skin that should bode well for a team still trying to find its way. Conducting business in an echo chamber rarely has positive results and can actually lead to dire consequences.