Compared with how last offseason played out, the current offseason is on the furthest opposite end of the spectrum.
General manager A.J. Preller isn’t making blockbuster deals at a furious pace like he was this time last year. In fact, he hasn’t really done anything at all, other than dealing Craig Kimbrel to Boston for a handful of prospects, trading Yonder Alonso to Oakland for Drew Pomeranz and making a few low-key free agent signings.
But does this mean that he isn’t going to do much in terms of improving a team that was already built to succeed but failed to do so? Not hardly.
Preller has a smart baseball mind. Working as an assistant GM in Texas, he saw firsthand what it takes to build a successful franchise. The Rangers have a solid team in the AL West, a decent farm system and scouts who have an eye for quality international talent.
When Preller got to San Diego before last season, he dealt away a significant amount of farm-level talent to acquire Major League veterans who would succeed under the “win now” strategy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
This season, Preller is taking a different approach. He still wants to win, but he wants to set the organization up for long-term success, and not a short stint of fame that will be forgotten quickly by the baseball world like other teams have done before (Cincinnati and Philadelphia in recent years).
Preller has begun to restock the farm. However, there is still plenty he can do to improve the Major League product.
As of now, Alexi Amarista is still the Opening Day shortstop. Improving this position is a priority that was never addressed last season. Rumors have swirled that San Diego wants to sign Ian Desmond, but nothing has emerged on that front. Is this only a rumor that hasn’t nor will ever grow any legs? Or is Preller being patient, waiting for his value to drop before making an offer? This is how he acquired James Shields last season, signing him just days before the start of Spring Training.
And will Preller trade Shields as some have speculated? After last season, it seems apparent that interest in the Padres ace has dropped, given his lack of success, paired with his huge contract. He is owed $63 million over the next three seasons. What team would want to trade for that kind of contract for a pitcher in his mid-thirties?
Will Tyson Ross still wear a San Diego uniform on Opening Day? Much speculation also surrounds him, with one rumor suggesting that Ross could go to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Javier Baez. Is it possible Preller could be looking at Baez as a middle infielder for 2016?
Who will play center field? Wil Myers is moving to first base permanently now that Alonso is in Oakland. Will Melvin Upton, Jr. be the everyday center fielder? Most Padre fans hope he isn’t, but with the type of money he’s making and the substantial obstacle of moving him, keeping him on the bench seems like a major waste of space and payroll.
Who will take over the closer role now that Kimbrel is with Boston? Could it be Pomeranz? Or could Brandon Morrow, who is expected to be retained, get the nod from new manager Andy Green to be the closer?
And what to do about left field? Justin Upton refused a qualifying offer, as expected. However, could he still return to San Diego and remain the starting left fielder? Or will Preller make a run at Chris Davis, who is a free agent after turning down a qualifying offer from the Baltimore Orioles?
So many questions surround what this “Rock star GM” will do before April. He’s made it abundantly clear that he wants to win. However, his actions have not reflected that statement thus far.
Remain patient, Padres fans. Preller is a mad scientist at work. He has a method behind his madness. It’s going to take time, but he will bring this full circle before it’s all said and done.