Preller, Padres would be wise to raid Athletics & Rays front office

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Undoubtedly, one of the reasons San Diego Padres’ G.M. A.J. Preller plucked coaches, advisors, and players from the Texas Rangers would be his long-time association with the franchise.

Preller met the Rangers’ president of baseball operations, Jon Daniels, at Cornell University. Hired as Director of International and Professional Scouting by the Rangers in 2004, he stayed with the organization for a decade before becoming the general manager for the San Diego Padres on August 6, 2014.

In the future, he should definitely consider candidates from two low-rent franchises that defy the odds year after year—the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Neither the A’s or Rays come close to the Padres $172 million payroll, not this year, not any year. In 2021, Tampa Bay ranks 26th in payroll at $60 million, Oakland is 24th at $74 million. At 83-48, .634 winning percentage,  Tampa Bay leads the American League East (and the uber-rich New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. In the American League West, the Houston Astros (78-53) are ahead of the A’s (72-59), but Oakland still has a shot at the playoffs. Both teams have won more games than the Padres (71 games).

Currently, no graduates of the Oakland or Tampa Bay franchises are included in the Padres’ front office.In the meantime, the division-leading Dodgers and Giants have raided the A’s and Rays for leadership.

In the early 2000s, Billy Beane helped usher in a new way of looking at scouting and player acquisition as an advanced scout and later as general manager for the A’s. The team had won three World Series titles in a row from 1988-1990 with the highest payroll in the sport. However, new ownership cut off the gravy train, and Beane had to adjust, turning to analytics to make up for his small budget.

In 2003, Michael Lewis wrote a book called “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” about Beane’s untraditional approach to scouting. The book inspired a movie by the same name, starring none other than Brad Pitt as Beane. Despite their low budges, the A’s have appeared in the postseason 11 times just since 2000. During that same period of time, the Padres have reached the post-season three times, including last year’s mini-season.

The Dodgers lured their current President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, from the Rays on October 14, 2014. From 2006 to 2014, Friedman, who had worked in finance, guided the Rays to four trips to the postseason, winning division titles in 2008 and 2010.  After his first winning season in 2008, Sporting News named Friedman, the Executive of the Year.

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On November 6, 2014, under Friedman, the Dodgers chose Farhan Zaidi as their general manager. During his tenure in Los Angeles, the Dodgers won at least ninety games each year and, in 2017, made their first World Series appearance in 29 years. Four years later, the San Francisco Giants snapped up Zaidi, who has presided over a season that has defied all the pundits. He took over a team that had won three world series in six years (2010, 2012, 2014) but had subsequently posted sub .500 records. At 84-48 and run differential of +14, the Giants are hanging on to their lead over the Dodgers the National League West by half a game.

This year the Giants have outwitted everyone in the sport. The team signed 30-year-old Kevin Gausman in 2020. During his six years with the Baltimore Orioles and two with the Atlanta Braves, Gausman had sub-.500 records. With the Giants the past two years, he has a 15-8 record and a winning percentage of .652. In his first year in San Francisco, Anthony DeSclafani has also far surpassed his performances in one year with the Miami Marlins when he had a winning percentage of .500 and with the Cincinnati Reds (five seasons) .486. This year he’s gone 11-6 with a winning percentage that has gone up to .647

By contrast, the Rangers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2015. In fact, the team has reached the postseason just eight times dating back to its move from Washington in 1972. The Senators had a win/loss record of 740-1032 (.418 winning percentage), and the Texas version has only improved slightly to a .489 winning percentage from 1972 to the current year. This year, the Rangers have an even more pitiful record at 46-85 and winning percentage of. 351.

After the disappointing 2019 season ended for San Diego, Preller surprised just about everyone by choosing Jayce Tingler as the new manager. Although many other teams had been in the hunt for new field managers, only the Padres showed any interest in Tingler. After a short career as a player, Tingler joined the Rangers in 2007 as a coach for their Dominican Summer League team and rose through the ranks to become Minor League Field Coordinator in 2012. He later served on the coaching staff for the Rangers and in the front office.

Tingler replaced Andy Green, another surprising hire after he was fired before the end of the 2019 season. A virtual unknown, Green had the dubious honor of managing the Padres through four years of rebuilding—and losing. During his tenure, the Padres won 274 games and lost 366. His replacement, Rod Barajas, managed eight games, going 1-7 to end the season.

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No doubt, Tingler has navigated two of the most difficult seasons in the history of San Diego baseball. He’s had to deal with a global pandemic, a shortened season, and the pressure of playoff runs in his first two years.

In the future, though, Preller should at least check in with the two teams that do the most with the least, the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s, for players, coaches, and front office personnel.

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