Padres Editorial: No, A.J. Preller HAS NOT Destroyed the Padres

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Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

If you are an avid reader of Grantland or you are just a junkie who consumes all news concerning the San Diego Padres, chances are you saw the article by Rany Jazayerli concerning A.J. Preller and his brutally quick overhaul of the Padres’ roster.

Preller worked at a fierce rate to change the on-field product. It started with the acquisition of Matt Kemp from the Dodgers for Yasmani Grandal. That trade was followed by a whirlwind of moves that ended with San Diego acquiring Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton, Jr. from the Atlanta Braves for Cameron Maybin, Jace Peterson and Carlos Quentin.

Okay, so things haven’t gone quite the way that Preller, the team or even the fans expected. The Padres were expected to be a contender in the National League, and were thought to participate in a season-long slugfest with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. Like heavyweights trading blows in an epic bout, the race for the NL West was supposed to come down to the final bell, or pitch, depending on which pun you prefer using.

Instead, the Padres are 41-49 at the All Star break. They are 10 games back of the first-place Dodgers and 7.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card standing. The Cubs hold the second Wild Card spot.

Despite all of the team’s woes, Jazayerli’s criticism of Preller is not only premature, but also is not entirely accurate. From the start of the article to the very end, Jazayerli picks at every move Preller made and has highlighted the results to this point, not only of the players he acquired, but also the players that were dealt to other teams.

The article compares Matt Kemp with Yasmani Grandal. Sure, Kemp’s production is light years behind what it was projected to be. Playing for the Dodgers, Kemp was already familiar with Petco Park. He was expected to continue what he had done as a Dodger, where he posted a .289 career batting average and broke 20 home runs in five different seasons. He was also in consideration for the NL Most Valuable Player award in 2011, and most likely would have won if Ryan Braun‘s steroid use was made public before the vote.

Grandal has performed well in Los Angeles. He’s hitting well, and is also working well with Dodger pitchers. Jazayerli pointed out this fact in his article. What he didn’t point out, however, is that Grandal wasn’t popular in the Padres clubhouse. His reputation with the team was slightly tarnished after his incident with performance enhancing drugs. On top of that, pitchers last season didn’t like working with Grandal, and were more comfortable with Rene Rivera, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the deal to acquire Wil Myers.

Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

Jazayerli throws most of the criticism at the deals with Atlanta. The Padres acquired Justin Upton by trading Jace Peterson and three prospects. Look, Justin Upton may not last an entire season here. He may be gone in the next two weeks, being that the trade deadline is approaching and people don’t foresee him staying beyond this season. His contract ends this year and whichever team signs him to a new contract will give him a hefty amount of money in a multi-year deal.

However, it’s Justin Upton. From the time he was a budding star with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Upton was a coveted bat. Would Preller, or any general manager for that matter, pass up on a chance to acquire a player of that caliber?

Now, this is where Jazayerli really starts pulling at straws to drive his point home. To acquire Kimbrel and Melvin Upton, Jr., Preller dealt Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin.

Trading for Upton, Jr. was a mistake. Atlanta gave him that bloated contract, and were obviously looking for a way to wash their hands of it. To acquire Kimbrel, Upton, Jr. most likely had to be a part of the package. Now, rumors are swirling that San Diego is exploring ways to trade Kimbrel.

This is where the criticism gets ridiculous. Maybin is hitting .289/.356/.418. Okay… and?

Maybin certainly wasn’t producing those numbers in San Diego. Half the time he was either injured or suspended for PEDs. Could anyone have really seen a breakout season coming from Maybin?

Besides, the deal was an opportunity for the Padres to unload Carlos Quentin, the outfielder who couldn’t walk more than 10 feet from the trainers room without sustaining another injury.

Mandatory Credit: Getty Images
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

Preller gave up some good prospects. He received quality in return for those prospects. It hasn’t panned out, but that doesn’t mean people should start calling this a failed experiment. It hasn’t gone the way Padre fans had hoped. But, when was the last time fans were overly excited for a new season to begin?

From 2008-2014, the team had one winning season — 2010. Other than that, this team was nothing above boring. The team had no stars other than Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez, who have both moved on. Gonzalez is now a superstar for the Dodgers. When he was a Padre, he had no protection in the lineup, so opposing teams could pitch around him.

So no, Preller hasn’t destroyed the Padres. The roster is still a work-in-progress, obviously, but to say the team and the season are both ruined is a massive overstatement. The team still has time to turn things around, starting with their first seven games to start the second half. They open with a three-game series at home against Colorado, and then host the Giants for four games. Winning both of these series’ gives them a great opportunity at making up ground they lost during the season’s first half.

Before the season began, it was apparent that the starting lineup was too right-handed, the defense was projected to be below average and was believed to have an effect on the pitching.

All of those concerns came to fruition, but can you really fault Preller for trying? He spotted a problem, that the team had no spark and couldn’t score runs, and made an attempt to correct that problem.

The team will make trades, but no one knows without a doubt what those deals will be. Justiin Upton has already stated his case that he wants to stay in San Diego. He has expressed hope that Preller will wait until the deadline before he starts making deals. The only question is: Will Preller listen?

Jazayerli wrote his article with 20/20 hindsight. Doing so is easy to do, but that doesn’t make it right. So, sit back and watch what happens over the next two weeks. If Preller does in fact start making trades, it won’t necessarily be a “fire sale.” It will simply be an adjustment to what he has built to this point. Middle infield, more importantly shortstop, needs to be the top priority.

Kemp certainly needs to play to the standards that match his contract. If Andrew Cashner is part of the future of this team, he needs to be more effective and not give up so many runs. This team was built to win. They just need to start winning. If not, Preller will replace them with a new crop of acquisitions. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It’s time to sink or swim. Stay in San Diego, or get shipped to a new city in the coming weeks.

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