Prellerpalooza part two a success for Padres

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: AP Photo

A.J. Preller improved his San Diego Padres team with his recent flurry of trades.

San Diego Padres’ general manager Jack McKeon may have been called Trader Jack back in the 1980s, but he never came to close to A.J. Preller’s wheeling and dealing in his tenure in San Diego.  In fact, Preller has the distinction of being the only GM in the game’s modern history to move more than 20 players in just three days.  And he’s managed to do it twice.

In Preller’s most recent trade-deadline whirlwind, he even beat his record of 24 players in December 2014.  Between August 29 and August 31 this year, 26 players changed teams.  Even though he surpassed his record, this latest Prellerpalooza has a more measured feeling.

In December 2014, Preller had been on the job for only four months and had never had the full responsibility of running an organization.  He’d reached the position of Assistant GM with the Rangers but seemed to prefer life on the road searching out talent.  In his time with the Padres, he’s earned a reputation as a tireless risk-taker who operates a bit too close to the edge at times but has an eye for talent, especially rookie talent.

Superficially the two record-breaking trade extravaganzas have the same frenetic feel. However, this version has the advantage of six years of experience and hindsight.  The success of former Padre farmhands Trea Turner and Max Fried has come to define the first go around.  In his career with the Washington Nationals, Turner has the versatility to play short, center, and second and is batting .358/.414/.613/1.028 with OPS+ 168 this season.  Fried, a lefty for the Atlanta Braves, has a 6-0 record, 1.60 ERA, 298 ERA+ in 2020.

In 2014 Preller added Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris, to name a few.  Kemp even crowned Preller a “GM rock star.”  But the rock star also helped the Los Angeles Dodgers in a considerable way. In acquiring Kemp and sending Yasmini Grandal up the freeway, the Padres took the outfielder they’d been trying to trade and provided a starting catcher who would appear in 510 games.  Making matters worse, the Padres replaced Grandal with a disruptive clubhouse presence in Norris.

But changes needed to be made, as the 2014 Padres put up a pedestrian 77-85 record with a third-place finish in the division.  However, that represents the high water mark for the team until this year.  Since Preller took over, the team has either landed in the cellar of the National League West or one rung above.

Thanks to the lousy team record, however, Preller has had the opportunity to restock the farm system.  Every year, that system has received high marks, and this year it helped provide the young talent other teams desired.  At the same time, certain untouchables like MacKenzie Gore remained in the Padres organization.  Of all the players added in 2014, only Myers remains in San Diego, and his tenure has been bumpy at best.  The three years before this, he’d bounced around on defense, including a best-forgotten stint at third base.  This year though, Myers had been playing regularly and playing well both at the plate (.293/.365/.602, 1.4 fWAR) and in right field in most games.  Unfortunately, he was recently placed on the IL for an undisclosed reason.

On paper, the latest trade fest appears far riskier than Preller’s first.  For the first time since 2006, when Bruce Bochy still managed the team, the Padres look like a lock for a postseason berth.  Granted, adding starting pitcher Mike Clevinger and reliever Trevor Rosenthal filled obvious and crucial needs.  There’s a risk, however, that a more drastic roster change could hurt clubhouse chemistry and disrupt established roles.  Adding two catchers completely unfamiliar with the pitching staff carries special risks.  However, two games into the new-look Padres, the team has continued its winning ways.

The schedule also would appear to favor the Padres as only two of the teams left to play, the Dodgers and Oakland A’s, have winning records.   Before the season, most prognosticators foresaw another middling season.  Rotochamp, for example, picked the team to place third in the division with a 77-85 record.

On August 16, the Padres had a losing record (11-12) as the Dodgers ran away with the division.  The following day the Padres decisively beat the Texas Rangers 14-4, which ushered in the beginning of a seven-game winning streak.  Since then, the team has been on a tear, losing only three games.

Thanks to Prellerpalooza v.2, this team belongs completely to A.J. Preller and his instincts.  The first time around, Preller obviously shot from the hip with mostly mediocre or worse results.  This more experienced rendition took considerable risks in his latest flurry of trades and acquisitions with more to lose but so much more to gain.

6 thoughts on “Prellerpalooza part two a success for Padres

  1. Another good article Diane. I have been a part of the “I’m not a Preller fan” fan club. He established his own reputation for buying high. He established his own reputation for being overmatched with other GMs regarding trades. The scouting department has done a terrific job since he’s been here. It’s possible he’s finally done well by using minor league stock and fringe MLB players to make us more competitive.

    These trades will be looked at with hindsight in a few years. AJ will be raked over the coals if a few of these young traded guys become stars when we could have restocked the big club over the next few years. AJ has definitely gone “all in” with these moves. As with everything… time will tell.

    I will say I’ve been excited all year about this team. While I liked bringIng in reinforcements, I wasn’t thrilled with some of our players moved. But, one must trade good players to get good players. AJ is known to overpay so, the other GMs might have gotten more than they otherwise would have. We also knew prices would be high this trade deadline. That assessment was correct.

    Keep up the good work Diane! I enjoy your articles.

    1. Thanks much, Tony,
      Until this year, the Padres under Preller had not achieved anything. On the surface, Preller seemed to lurch from one strategy to another. Our only hope lay in the farm system and getting a glimpse at Fernando Tatis Jr. last year solidified that hope. There’s no question Preller has an eye for young talent and for the first time in a very long time the Padres actually look like contenders. There will be a price to pay, and only time will tell us if it was worth it.
      I really appreciate your input,

  2. It must pain you to write anything positive about AJ. If you’re gona go to the low hanging fruit, so will I. While Trea Turner has had success, the player in his spot is a franchise altering talent and has the “it” to make San Diego relevant again. Remind how he got here?
    Aren’t the Nations in last place? A Nats team without Stras and Rendon is exactly the situation Trea would have been in SD.

    Sure Max Fried looks to be the better pitcher than Chris Paddack but I would be remiss if I didn’t channel my inner Paul Harvey. Max is almost 4 years older. Above advanced A ball Chris had 7 games in one season, Max has had 21 in AA and 15 in AAA over 2 seasons. Chris has had 26 starts in one season prior to the 2020 season, Max had 56 over 3 seasons prior to 2020. How bout we see what Chris does in his 4th season as a Big Leaguer first before this case is closed. Apples to apples. Remind me how Chris got here?

    2020 shows us all what AJ wanted to do all along. That he wasn’t the out of control incompetent most of the National media and you have painted him to be. He did have a plan. That without Mike Dee in the way he could acquire loads of talent that would either be a part of or be used to get pieces to make a contender by 2020. Not everything worked, far from it. However AJ continues to stockpile players as assets.

    2020 is so much different from 2016. After 3 and half years of incessant complaining from so called fans like yourself for stock piling more intl 17 yr olds; AJ chose to cash in long term assets to resolve SPECIFIC needs to elevate an budding contender into one built to make the post season and contend . Contend not just for 2020 , every piece less Rosenthal had control past this year.

    AJ was on w Mad Dog this morning, and Chris threw out the gotcha question of who did you trade that you didn’t want to? His answer was very telling. He said there were many. They believed in all the players they traded but he owed it to the current roster to give them the best chance NOW and for the next couple years after that.

    Peter Gammons wrote about in a piece in the Athletic 2 days ago with a much different take then yours. You should read it. The man you have been burying for the last 4 yrs has made the team you claim to support a legitimate post season contender. Not just for 2020 but for the near future while keeping all of the prospects that are to carry it on. I believe the words you are looking for is thank you.

    1. Wow, Allan Allan Steve,
      Why do you even bother to read anything I write if you think I’m so biased? Am I pleased that the Padres are having the best season in what seems like eons? Absolutely. Does A.J. Preller deserve credit? Absolutely. Does he have a great eye for rookie talent? Absolutely.
      However, you cannot just dismiss the years of futility, questionable choices, and playing a little too close to the edge. Of course, Preller’s misdeeds look like child’s play compared to the Astros’. At the time though, other teams considered it a big deal. Before this breakout season, Preller had been put on notice by Fowler especially that the team needed to improve by this year or next year at the latest. Even ownership had gotten impatient.
      Despite the criticism, thanks for reading and commenting.
      p.s. The Washington Nationals won the World Series last year…

  3. Thanks for the article! AJ has built an organization that has finally turned into a good MLB club. Our farm system despite losing many talented players is strong and highly ranked. The scouting departments are one of the best, if not THE best group in MLB. Seidler and Fowler are doing an outstanding job as owners. SD is lucky to have this team helping us with the only professional sports team in town. We are thankful! Go Pads!

    1. Thanks for your response. It is exciting to have a competitive baseball team (for a change). It’s especially impressive considering the circumstances of the season and all the disruption. It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out with the additions and subtractions. With so little time left in the season, there is a risk. It will be especially interesting to watch the series against the A’s and of course the Dodgers.

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