Game On for San Diego Padres
Will the shake-up at Petco pay off for new Padres GM A.J. Preller?
In my 20-plus years of covering baseball, I’ve never seen anything quite like it—the whirlwind of trades that new Padres general manager A.J. Preller pulled off in a dizzying three-day stretch that, essentially, transformed the team from afterthought to baseball’s hottest commodity.
The Padres, without playing a single game, have become relevant again.
Long-suffering Padres fans—well aware their team last made the playoffs in 2006—have been waiting for this kind of roster turnover, and upgrades, for years.
“It’s how to improve the big picture in general,” Preller said on the day he was hired in August.
Fast-forward to the three-day bonanza in December in which he landed marquee players such as outfielders Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Justin Upton (Braves), and Wil Myers (Rays) in trades, among others.
To be sure, these were stunning moves that rocked the national baseball landscape, unheard-of activity for the club. Even the big boys (Yankees and Red Sox) and their deep pockets don’t usually get as many notable players in one winter.
I think back to that last weekend of the season in San Francisco, as the Padres put the finishing touches on a 77-win season and Preller watched the team take batting practice. He’d been on the job less than two months, but you got the sense he was already thinking and planning big.
But did anyone see this coming?
Remember, the Padres, fairly or not, have earned a label from their fan base of moving their top players instead of building around them (need I remind you of the infamous 1993 fire sale?).
When the Padres open the 2015 season on April 6 at Dodger Stadium, they could have 10 new faces on the 25-man roster. That’s unprecedented turnover.
Preller has added former Rookies of the Year and All-Stars and the kind of players other teams would die to have in the lineup. They will all be a part of a revamped team the new GM feels can score more runs than before and contend with the Giants (three World Series titles) and the Dodgers.
Preller wants to win now. After all, the GM did say during his introductory press conference, “In general, you never can have enough talent.”
Will it work? We’ll see. Spring Training starts in mid-February. Then there are 162 games to play, but this much is certain about Preller’s first run as a general manager (here or elsewhere): He’s done his part to change the climate and vibe heading into the New Year—in a big way.
Preller cut his teeth working first for the Dodgers and then with the Rangers, spending upwards of 300 nights a year on the road heading their international efforts to find talent, including mining Latin America for gems.
San Diego team president and CEO Mike Dee says it took about 125 hours to interview eight candidates for the job, four of whom got a second interview. In the end, Padres investor Peter Seidler said Preller stood out from the crowd.
“What resonated with me was his passion for baseball, his creativity, and his work ethic,” Seidler says. “Those three things were off the charts. I think the creative way he articulated that, how he was going to build this, the winning formula he had in mind, impressed all of us.”
Corey Brock has been covering the Padres for MLB.com since 2007. He previously covered the Mariners and Major League Baseball for MLB.com and for Tacoma’s News Tribune.