In the spirit of not picking anything in the “B” range, I’m going with an A-.

I know, I know, maybe that’s aggressive, but I’ve been inching closer and closer to the front of the A.J. Preller bandwagon since the pains of 2015 have worn away. There are dings, of course—Yasmani Grandal-for-Matt Kemp was always terrible, the Wil MyersTrea Turner trade didn’t look good then or now, and last year’s medical records snafu wasn’t a good look.

The positive marks are overflowing, however, and you can spot most of them somewhere at a Padres minor-league affiliate. MacKenzie Gore, for instance, looks like a steal, even though he was the third pick in this year’s draft. Fernando Tatis Jr. looks like a legit candidate for baseball’s best prospect come next season, perhaps flanked by the aforementioned Gore. And there are intriguing players littered throughout the system, many of whom were acquired to little or no fanfare, like Michel Baez, Hansel Rodriguez, Pedro Avila, and on and on.

Sometimes it seems really easy to build a good farm system—after all, a team like the Chicago White Sox built a super system in the blink of an eye. But the Padres haven’t had many Chris Sales or Jose Quintanas sitting around to deal, so it’s something of an accomplishment that they went from a middling system to a top one in a year or two. Players like Tatis and Esteury Ruiz were plucked in lopsided trades; Gore was a savvy (if obvious) draft pick; Baez, a 6-foot-8 flamethrower, was somehow snagged for a cool $3 million last winter.

In short, Preller & Co. have been great at finding good young talent. That alone is an exciting development, and we haven’t even touched on the solid work they’ve done scraping the bargain bin for big-league contributors (Drew Pomeranz, Trevor Cahill, Brad Hand, Jose Pirela, etc). They still have to prove they can put a winner together, but we’ll find out about that soon enough. I’m a big fan.

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What’s up with Brad Hand?

Recently, both the Nationals and Yankees acquired multiple relievers in single trades, with Washington picking up Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson and New York getting David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle (along with third baseman Todd Frazier). Among those two teams, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Washington look for more help. They lost Blake Treinen in the deal, who has a 5.59 ERA on the season but better peripherals and even better stuff. Plus, Madson’s old and Doolittle’s an injury risk, which, combined with the loss of Treinen, makes the Nationals bullpen still relatively thin given their championship aspirations.

Meanwhile, Hand’s in San Diego, but there are still 12 days until the deadline. Here are some disjointed thoughts on possibly the best reliever left on the market.

How much does the 2.5 years of control add to Hand’s trade value?

Hand has a favorable contract, signed for $1.375 million this year and still arbitration-eligible through 2019. Here’s the thing with relievers, though: they’re relievers. You rarely hear about major-league teams building around a relief pitcher, especially if the player isn’t Craig Kimbrel or Andrew Miller or Kenley Jansen. Relievers are too volatile to really project two or three years down the road. I’d guess that a team looking to acquire Hand would view his arb-eligible 2018 season as a legit bonus. An additional year of control in 2019, though, would hardly register much extra value. Hand will be 29 then, more expensive, and carrying a heavy workload on his left arm.

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The Padres lost 11–0 to the Rangers on Tuesday, and Joey Gallo‘s third-inning home run off Jered Weaver skimmed the underside of one of Big Brother’s satellites. On a another note . . .

The other day I wrote about how the Padres might handle international amateur free agency over the next few years, unable to sign any players for more than $300,000. Then MadFriars, over on Reddit, made an interesting point that I’d overlooked. In their words:

Players from Mexico are generally signed directly from Mexican League teams, and so those teams require a rights fee for letting one of their players go to a major-league club. According to an older article by Ben Badler, only the portion paid to the player is considered as the actual signing bonus. So, as MadFriars notes, it’d be possible for the Padres to sign an international amateur from Mexico for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 million, with $900,000 going to the Mexican League team and the other $300,000 to the player. Badler confirmed as much yesterday.

This is, to say the least, an interesting development, since we thought that the Padres would be limited to $300,000-and-under talent for two years.

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Once June 15 hits, the current international amateur signing period will be over. The Padres will have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 million, penalties included, and possibly much more if they make one final splash and ink Cuban star Luis Robert.

Robert or not, it’s been a historic run for an organization not necessarily known for shelling out the dollars. In their perfectly timed international spending frenzy, the Padres bolstered every part of their farm system, adding high upside arms like Adrian Morejon and a slew of young position players, highlighted by shortstops Luis Almanzar and Gabriel Arias, and outfielder Jorge Ona.

But what comes next?

Since the Padres blew past their $3.3 million signing bonus pool for the 2016-2017 J-2 signing period, they can’t spend more than $300,000 on a single international amateur player until 2019. In other words, all of the high-profile Dominican and Venezuelan players available to sign this July 2 are off limits, not to mention any major Cuban amateurs (i.e., players under age 25) that leave the island over the next two years.

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Thanksgiving, still my favorite holiday of the year.

Also, the time of year where everyone’s “[XX] Reasons For [insert team name] Fans To Be Thankful” pieces come out. And I do mean EVERYONE’S.

Two years ago I wrote about the things I was thankful for as it relates to the Padres. I thought it would be fun to go back and look at how those things worked out then give a new reason to be thankful.

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Sometimes letters never reach their intended targets, instead becoming lost, abandoned, or otherwise discarded amongst the abundance of flyers and coupons in the mailperson’s sack. Sometimes those letters end up at the doorstep of the Padres Public headquarters, where we promptly publish them. Here are some of those letters.

Mr. Mike Dee
CEO, San Diego Padres Baseball Club.
April 20, 2016

Dear Mr. Dee—I just wanted to write to tell you how much I like the new Sycuan sign at Petco Park. What a beaut! It’s such a delight to be patrons of a team that cares so much about quality advertising, and that, my friend, is some quality advertising. I went to the game the other night with my boy and the first thing he asked me about was that glowing monstrosity looming over the batter’s eye, and we proceeded to have a wonderful conversation about my past tribulations with a game called blackjack . . . but I digress.

We marveled at the incandescent light shimmering off each letter, a gorgeously centered backdrop to the drubbing the home nine were taking on the field. It’s really a great location for such aesthetic mastery, boldly affixed atop the field of play. What a beaut!

Shoot, more I think about it, I can’t even remember what was there before. And now I’ve got an eight-year-old son who wants to hit the Vegas Strip. I just wanted to make sure you know how much we appreciate that sign, and for that matter, everything else you do—although I’m sure fans around the park are always telling you the same.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Cheers,
Sam in Escondido

P.S.—Can any other team in the majors boast a one-two advertising punch like the Padres, with the aforementioned Sycuan sign and the now slightly overshadowed—but impressive in its own right, darn it—National University sign in left-center? That’s a heckuva combo. Keep up the good work.

***

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This Offense Might Stink

I try very hard not to get too swayed by early season results, and getting shutout by Clayton Kershaw, like what happened on Opening Day, is just a thing that’s supposed to happen in life. But the Padres have now been blanked four times in nine games, and they scored just once last night and five times over a three-game set with the projected cellar-dwelling Phillies—and two of those three games were started by Charlie Morton, who I proudly picked on my HACKING MASS team, and Jerad Eickhoff, who is quickly monopolizing the Google search term “Jerad.”

Of course, in between the shutouts the Padres exploded for 29 runs in two games against the Rockies, and you can’t completely discount that kind of hitting performance even though it happened in Colorado. It’s a sign, at least, that this team won’t get shutout at a 44.4 percent clip all season, which is what happened last year (I think). The bigger concern is that they haven’t scored more than four runs in any of the other seven games, and this isn’t an offense we were expecting a ton out of going into the season. Crap.

Obligatory Andy Green Complaints

It’s certainly possible that we all got a little carried away with Jabari Blash. Fun name, power potential, cool story, nice fella—it’s easy to get carried away with that kind of profile. But I really believe this dude might be somethingHe ranks second in the entire Padres organization in PECOTA-projected TAv, which I’m sure I’ve referenced in this space before.

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The San Diego Padres ended their 2015 season by telling interim manager Pat Murphy he would not be returning as full-time manager in 2016. And they waited slightly more than an hour after the last out of the season to tell him.

There has been plenty of speculation already on who the Padres are going to hire for the manager’s job. Most of it is just that, speculation. There aren’t many details other than a few reports on people being granted permission to interview. Which is better than no news, I suppose.

Let’s take a look at the candidates, no matter how ridiculous their candidacy seems, shall we?

It’s time to play Whack-a-Manager!

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Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • How baseball’s tech team built the future of television (The Verge) – Ben Popper pens a long but fascinating piece about the development of MLB.tv and the applications of its technology in non-baseball markets. MLBAM, the entity behind MLB.tv, is now partnered up with the NHL, HBO, and others to deliver content to their viewers. Popper touches on regional blackouts, but only from the technical standpoint. No solution is offered (yeah, I know) for folks such as myself who are legally prohibited from watching their hometown team via the Internet, although there is less-than-satisfying movement on that front. [h/t Sean Lahman]
  • Preller, Padres should build on rebuild (MLB.com) – Barry Bloom discusses the future with A.J. Preller, who admits that “we’re not where we want to be as a group” and teases that Justin Upton’s tenure in San Diego might not end with the season. Bloom also notes that increased television revenue and attendance will help pay for things that the Padres haven’t been able to afford in the past, like a fleet of killer whale submarines. Meanwhile, Christina Kahrl suggests that Padres fans should temper expectations regarding potential waiver wire activity (saying farewell to Will Venable, the last player from the Padres teams I watched on television, might be it). [h/t reader Didi for the Kahrl item]
  • Rea shows promise in big-league debut (U-T) – A possible part of the future is Colin Rea, who doesn’t overwhelm with stuff but who knows how to pitch. His catcher, Austin Hedges, has nice things to say: “Knowing Colin for four or five years now, I couldn’t tell a difference if he was pitching in a low-A game, a Double-A game or a big-league game.” John Sickels also has nice things to say.
  • Kemp completes first cycle in Padres history (Padres.com) – Did you know that nobody had ever hit for the cycle while playing for the Padres? Wow, I did not know that. Now Matt Kemp has done it. I was hoping he would throw a no-hitter, but what are you gonna do. Maybe Rea will do that.
  • Cooperstown Chances: Is Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer? (Sporting News) – Graham Womack discusses Hoffy’s candidacy, confirming my fears that he is more likely to be associated with the lesser Lee Smith than with the greater Mariano Rivera and putting his chances at 60 percent. He is Tim Raines to Rivera’s Rickey Henderson. And speaking of great left fielders who played for the Padres (Henderson, not Raines), you’ll want to read Michael Barr’s piece about a painting of Ted Williams.

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Padres Negotiate With All, Strike Deal With None (FanGraphs) – Craig Edwards offers what I would call a very conventional take on the Padres, assuming that A.J. Preller and company were (or should have been) eager to sell and rebuild, talking about “limited budgets” and such. But I believe this misinterprets their intention, which I’ve mentioned before is to rebrand the team as something other than cheap and not simply rebuild again ($). Whether they truly believe they can contend this season, that’s the story they’re selling. They built the team over the winter the way they wanted to build it. Right or wrong, this is the plan, and they’re not going to abandon it just because popular opinion assumes they will do so. Besides, Preller’s inactivity adds to his aura of unpredictability. Everyone expected him to zig, but he zagged instead. As a bonus, people are still talking about the Padres. As a further bonus, there’s no evidence that Preller is pursuing Pablo Sandoval, as some would have the Padres do. [h/t reader Didi]
  • On the Genealogy of Trades, Part I (Hardball Times) – Speaking of trades, John Marsh has written (or at least started) a fascinating series. The first installment focuses on the 19th century, while Part II wonders which trades shaped the way baseball teams make trades, examining among others the infamous Curt Flood deal. Also at Hardball Times, Miles Wray reminds us that the Padres haven’t had an All-Star center fielder since 1989, when Tony Gwynn split time between that position and his more familiar right field. Wil Myers could have broken the streak this year if he’d stayed healthy. And, you know, been able to play center field.
  • My experience on the Cubaball tour (SABR) – Donald Plavnick recounts his recent trip to Cuba to watch and learn more about the history of baseball in that country. Remember all that stuff about Fidel Castro being a great pitching prospect? Fun, but no. Or as Peter Bjarkman puts it, “historical facts rarely stand in the way of enticingly good baseball folklore.” But hey, at least we have visual evidence that Castro pitched in some capacity. Even better, you can watch real Cuban pitcher Luis Tiant do his thing in the 1975 World Series. The Cubaball tour sounds like a great time and includes a stop at the soon-to-be restored Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s fabled home near Havana.
  • El Paso Notebook-2015 (MadFriars) – John Conniff didn’t travel quite as far but did return with tales of old El Paso. Well, okay, the Chihuahuas. Close enough for government work. Skipper Jamie Quirk likes his bullpen. On the offensive side, Conniff calls out Alex Dickerson, who is enjoying a fine Triple-A campaign despite hitting fewer home runs than one might expect from such a strapping young lad. The former Poway High star, who came to the Padres in a November 2013 trade that sent Jaff Decker to the Pirates, missed much of last season with a nasty heel injury that could have threatened his career. It’s good to see him back on track.
  • After stint in Minors, Gyorko’s found his swing (Padres.com) – Speaking of El Paso and guys back on track, Jedd Gyorko says that he’s “starting to lay off some of the higher fastballs and the low sliders” since returning to San Diego. Meanwhile, Sac Bunt Chris has thoughts on the young second baseman’s batted ball velocity, among other things.