There’s no busier time during the regular season of the Major League Baseball season than July. Every team is assessing their position and building towards the trade deadline. Whether as buyers or sellers, every team is actively doing their best to make their team not only better in the short-term but, and perhaps more importantly, the long-term as well. While the usual suspects are drawing quite a bit of attention, the San Diego Padres are drawing just as much, if not more, than any organization in baseball.
For a team that seems to never be close to the playoffs, and a team that has more or less already been eliminated from the postseason for weeks, that’s quite an accomplishment.
The San Diego Padres have long been one of the biggest jokes in all of baseball. A perennial loser, the Padres have not made the postseason in a decade. When the Padres brought on A.J. Preller in 2014, and proceeded to make every trade possible that same December, it seemed that the Padres would finally be able to end the drought and make themselves relevant once again. In hindsight, those moves may have been at least a little ambitious, as the team ended up finishing the 2015 season with a worse record than that of 2014, with a worse roster and farm system to boot. For everything A.J. Preller is, his first year as a general manager did not go well.
Despite those mistakes, Preller has had his fair share of successes. While the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and a few others look like bad decisions in hindsight, the trades of Craig Kimbrel, Yonder Alonso, and others look like resounding wins. After a rocky first full season as the general manager, and a rocky first half to the second season, Preller is starting to find his stride as the man in charge.
Just under two years since Preller first came to San Diego, the Padres look to finally be on the right path.
Over the last month or so, more goodwill has been restored among Padres fans than in any of the previous five to ten years. After several stints of failed ownership, and poor general manager after poor general manager, A.J. Preller has finally restored faith among a good amount of fans. Obviously it’s a tedious faith given the team’s history, but the Padres are well on their way to becoming an important part of the city of San Diego once again.
The last month has been a resounding success after resounding success for the Padres organization. After so many bad decisions and inadequacy from ownership and the front office, it has been truly refreshing to finally see the Padres get back on the right path. From the MLB draft, to the international signing period, to the All-Star Game, to the trades the Padres have made, the last month has shown that the Padres are once again truly on the right track as an organization.
First was the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. While the Padres did make somewhat questionable selections in the first round, the team collected a huge haul of arms for the farm system. The likes of Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Reggie Lawson, Mason Thompson, Jesse Scholtens, and many others have injected the lower levels of the Padres system with even more talented pitching prospects. For a team that ranked in the bottom ten of all farm systems in the last year, and a system relatively devoid of impact arms, the draft was a great influx of talent.
Next up, the Padres made giant waves when the international signing period opened on July 2nd. Over the first three weeks of the signing period, the Padres have signed quite a few international players. The Padres signed not only three of the top ten players, including Luis Almanzar, Gabriel Arias, and Jeisson Rosario, but also five of the next forty players, including Alison Quintero, Justin Lopez, Tirso Ornelas, Michell Miliano, and Yordy Barley. The Padres then followed that by signing highly regarded LHP Adrian Morejon to an $11 million deal and then signing highly regarded OF Jorge Ona for another $7 million. All told, the Padres signed ten of the top fifty or so players available under international spending rules. The team may have spent over $60 million, with half of that being spent on penalties, but the Padres got a fantastic haul of talent.
After a successful 2016 draft, and opening the 2016 international signing period with a bang, the Padres followed with several great trades. While the Fernando Rodney trade actually occurred right before the signing period opened up, it was a substantial move for the Padres. In return for sending Rodney to the Miami Marlins, the Padres received young right hander Chris Paddack. Since coming to the Padres organization, Paddack has excelled for low-A Fort Wayne, showing himself as a potential rotation piece of the future. To follow up, almost immediately after the All-Star break was set to end, the Padres shipped LHP Drew Pomeranz to the Boston Red Sox in return for top prospect Anderson Espinoza. With no offense to Paddack, Espinoza is clearly the real prize here, as the right hander has top of the rotation potential at only 18 years of age. With these two trades, the Padres may have found two pieces to their rotation of the future.
Finally, the 2016 All-Star Game was one of the most successful in recent memory. The city of San Diego, and more importantly the Padres organization, were fantastic hosts and everything went on without a hitch. Not only were merchandise records surpassed, but the team also drew more positive national attention than at any point in years. The whole of the baseball world united around the beautiful city of San Diego and a stellar All-Star Game backdrop.
Over the last month and a half, the Padres organization has almost completely turned it around. While the product on the field is still a little rough, the farm system has done an almost complete 180 from where it was at this point last year. Despite being unsure of their direction just last offseason, the Padres front office has gone into almost complete rebuild mode, infusing the farm system with a ton of talent through the draft, international signings, and trades. The Padres now look to have one of the better farm systems in baseball, with the chance for it to only get better.
The Padres may still be at least three years away from a realistic shot at playoff contention. Even so, there is an excitement in San Diego that just hasn’t been there in a long time. The last month may have been one of the most important months in the history of the entire organization. For all that has been said about A.J. Preller, and all the jokes that have been made about the Padres around baseball, the organization is finally on the right path. 2019 may be a long time away, but if things continue to go this way, the Padres could be quite a formidable team by then. Fingers crossed.