Not surprisingly, when 29-year-old Cuban second basemen Hector Olivera held a showcase last week in the Dominican Republic, only one general manager joined the hundreds of scouts and other front office personnel in attendance. That GM — naturally — just so happened to be the Padres AJ Preller.
Preller is like the cop who gets the promotion to the cushy office job after 20 years on the beat, yet can’t resist the temptation to return to the streets. You’ve seen the movie before. And Preller apparently wasn’t there just because somewhere buried in his contract it says that he has to scout every player. According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, the Padres are the favorites to sign Olivera once he becomes available (more on that later), flanked by the Giants, A’s, and Braves as other leading potential landing spots.
Back in August, Badler and Baseball America ranked Olivera as the sixth-best player left in Cuba, a nation that seems to grow baseball stars at the same rate it loses them. The infielder was a perennial star in Cuba toward the end of the previous decade, impressing scouts on the international stage (like the 2009 World Baseball Classic) and tearing up Cuba’s Serie Nacional with loud contact and a solid approach. In the 2011-2012 Cuban season, his best offensive output, Olivera hit .341/.468/.626 with 17 home runs and a two-to-one walk-to-strikeout ratio in 258 plate appearances. He wasn’t a one hit wonder either, as Olivera posted a .900-plus OPS in each of the four seasons that preceded his 2011-’12 campaign.
One of the interesting things about AJ Preller’s early reign as San Diego Padres general manager is just how quickly our perception of him has changed.
Make no mistake, way back in August, there was plenty of optimism surrounding his hiring. Preller was known for his tireless work ethic, his expertise in the amateur international market, and his overall scouting/player development chops. Most of us — at least myself — probably envisioned Preller sort of starting where Jed Hoyer left off, trying to draft well and beef up the Padres international efforts, all while attempting to fix a player development system that had become too proficient in churning out injured or ineffective prospects.
Instead, Preller’s focus — at least on the surface — has been on fixing the major league roster, mostly by trading prospects and young players for big league talent, quickly transforming the Padres from boring afterthoughts to exciting fringe contenders. Despite the activity, there’s still some question as to just how good the offseason has been in total, however (and it’s not over yet, by any means). The Padres still have gaping holes on the left side of the infield, a range-challenged outfield, potential issues with catcher defense, and significant question marks in an often overrated starting rotation. The Padres have seemingly bypassed a number of opportunities to upgrade at shortstop or third base either via free agency or trade, and they’ve (thus far) failed to add an impact arm to the rotation while losing Jesse Hahn.
I believe it’s been mentioned on Twitter that the former site of Lane Field is being redeveloped. Lankford and Associates are leading the effort, which should culminate in 800+ additional hotel rooms downtown. You can read more about the effort here.
But we’re baseball fans first, not members of the Chamber of Commerce, and Lane Field holds some nostalgic magic. It’s where the PCL Padres played for 22 years, and where Ted Williams started his professional career. Because of that, in 2003 the local SABR chapter had a marker placed commemorating the ballpark at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway.
With the redevelopment there was concern that the marker would be removed, lost, or buried in a location it could not be seen by the public. Thankfully that will not the case. After the jump, some photos of the new Lane Field memorial.
The San Diego SABR (Ted Williams) Chapter will hold it’s Winter/Spring meeting next Saturday, 24 Jan, at the San Diego Central Library. The discussion will start at approximately 1pm, and probably run until 4 or so.
As with all our meetings, attendance is free, and not limited to members of the Chapter. If you are interested in attending, please come on down. Parking at the library is pretty convenient, either underneath the building (2 hours are free with validation) or across the street in one of the public lots.
Why should you go? Take a look at the agenda:
- Padres Baseball Operations staff members Brian McBurney (software developer) and Wells Oliver (baseball systems architect) will talk about their position and responsibilities within the organization, as well as up-to-the-minute happenings with the team. Given how active AJ Preller has been this off-season, theirs has not been a slow winter.
- Padres Social Media Host and broadcaster Jesse Agler. Jesse will cover a wide range of subjects, which should include the use of social media in baseball and significant changes to PETCO Park in advance of this season.
- SD-UT reporter Kirk Kenney. Kirk will talk about growing up a Padres fan, graduating from SDSU, and his career as a newspaper reporter. His writing career began with Tony Gwynn’s last season at SDSU, and resulted in a long-term friendship.
As has become custom, we will meet in the Baseball Research Center, located on the 8th floor of the library. Thanks for reading, and I/we hope to see you then.
Wait – he still writes here?
Fangraphs is releasing Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections one team at a time, and recently it was the new look Padres’ turn on the mic.
I’ve developed quite an affinity for projections lately. I like projections because they take the emotion that naturally occurs in things that are awesome like baseball and removes it. Normally emotion is a good thing. It’s what makes baseball fun. But emotion also make it easier to be wrong, which is less fun.
Looking at the amount of available information about a player is overwhelming. There’s a lot there. What’s important? What isn’t? If a player hit well two years ago, but poorly last year, what can we expect this year? What if he got on base well but slugged poorly two years ago, but those were reversed last year. What can we expect then?
It’s been an exciting offseason, hasn’t it? That being said, there are a few things that we here at Padres Public haven’t necessarily been on top of.
Okay, the fact is that Dustin and Nate do a great job of recapping & analyzing trades and roster moves. I, on the other hand, do not. Other than complaining about Alexi Amarista playing center field, I tend to focus on the ballpark experience, media, and public relations.
I guess what I’m saying is that by “we,” I mean me. I haven’t been on top of things.
So, here’s a couple of items that have come up in the last week or so.
At certain points this offseason, it looked like the Padres were treating their 2015 payroll like the Yankees or Dodgers might, by largely ignoring it. First, they were interested in premier free agents like Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas and, even though those deals predictably (at least at the time) fell through, the Padres made legitimate runs at players that would generally be considered far too pricey for San Diego.
Then, near the end of the winter meetings, AJ Preller struck. The Padres picked up Matt Kemp and a large chunk of the $100-plus million owed to him over the next five years. And Preller wasn’t close to done, as he reshaped the entire Padres roster over the next couple of weeks. Notably, with concern to the ’15 payroll, the Padres also acquired a likely one-year rental by the name of Justin Upton, an outfielder who is owed just shy of $15 million this coming season before he departs via free agency. That’s two outfielders that would have been out of the Padres price range in offseasons past.
In a fitting footnote to an unheralded career, Brian Giles didn’t receive a single Hall of Fame vote this year. While the likes of Troy Percival, Aaron Boone, Tom Gordon, and Darin Erstad — all significantly inferior players — combined for nine total votes, 549 ballots were filed without Giles checked off on any of them. Since he didn’t receive the required five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot for another year, Giles joins Carlos Delgado as one-and-done Hall of Fame candidates who at least deserved to stick on the ballot for a few years of rumination.
Of course, Giles, like Delgado, probably isn’t a Hall of Famer. His career started too late and ended too abruptly to merit Cooperstown enshrinement, but in between was a player who posted a career .400 on-base percentage and once smashed 35-plus home runs for four straight seasons. A sort of modern day Ralph Kiner, Giles spent the heart of his career in the relative anonymity of Pittsburgh — when the Pirates were postseason afterthoughts — and also bookended his playing days with two small-market franchises.
Rick and Chris are joined by Dustin, who writes with Chris under The Sacrifice Bunt at Padres Public. They chat about Dustin’s curious beginnings as a Padres Fan (featuring double flapped helmets) and the crazy twists and turns of Trader Preller’s beginnings as GM of the San Diego Padres.
If you have any questions or comments, leave them down below or e-mail us.
Alternate title: The Battle For Third Base (as of the morning of January 6th, 2015)
AJ Preller has only been on the job for six months, but he’s already garnered a serious reputation — not just as an international guru or a tireless worker. He’s also proven capable of overturning a roster in half an offseason without sacrificing the Padres best prospects or any of the starting rotation’s top three members. Just last week he turned his focus to the bullpen, adding two right-handed power arms in as many days. Earlier in the offseason, Preller and the Padres acquired an entire outfield in less than a week.
It’s early January, which means there’s just under three months until Opening Day. For the eager baseball fan, the start of the season is right around the corner. Football can get you through until February and then, boom, spring training is suddenly underway.
For Preller, however, three months might be enough time to acquire a new outfield trio. Kidding aside, Preller’s aggressive approach to roster management makes it difficult to discuss a potential positional battle, especially at a spot of relative weakness, with this much offseason remaining. On the other hand, it’s early January and the Padres haven’t made a move in six whole days, so I’ve gotta write about something.