In an trade deadline puzzler, the Padres held onto Brad Hand. Back in June, I was so sure that Hand was going to be dealt by July 31 that I traded him to every other team in the league, an article that now reads like a graveyard of what could have been. When I updated Hand’s most likely landing spots a few weeks back, I didn’t even consider the Padres as a top five contender.
What happened? In the simplest terms, it appears that the Padres set a high asking price—a fair initial stance for a pitcher of Hand’s quality—and the rest of the league failed to meet it, or even get close enough to make A.J. Preller & Co. budge. The complicated answer is, well, more complicated, and also unknown. Maybe it involves bits and pieces of some distrust of Preller, some distrust of Hand. Maybe it involves the Padres not budging enough from that initial asking price. More so, probably, it appears that the league as a whole decided to back off on dealing marquee prospects for last-ditch deadline improvements.
Justin Wilson, Hand’s most similar deadline comp, was traded to the Cubs, with Alex Avila, for Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes, neither of whom cracked Baseball America’s midseason top 100. That’s a modest package, considering Avila, a one-year rental, is still a catcher OPSing .869. Addison Reed, another rental, was dealt from the Mets to the Red Sox for a trio of unexciting pitching prospects. Sonny Gray, mentioned in the tweet above, is a superb starter with 2.5 years left on his contract, and even he didn’t pry away one of the Yankees top prospects.
Yesterday, on twitter, I did what I do best on there. I hijacked an otherwise innocent thread and turned it into a lengthy debate on nuance (it turned into a good discussion, by the way).
First off, I’m down with the tank. I’ve been on board since day one, and although maybe I haven’t been loading and firing artillery, or driving that thing, I’ve been present in the back, filing paperwork on code regulations and such.
The tank makes perfect sense. If you’re not going to be good, be bad; be really bad. Don’t strive for the middle. That’s about all it is, really. Being bad in baseball gives you certain perks. For your toils, you get a higher first round draft pick, more draft bonus pool money, (formerly) more international money, and the ability to orchestrate a plan that focuses just about all resources on the future. It’s a strategy that allows you to draft MacKenzie Gore, to trade for players like Fernando Tatis Jr., and to audition Rule 5’ers like Luis Perdomo or Allen Cordoba.
The Padres have done a pretty good job with it. Their 68-94 record last year netted them the third overall pick, and they’ve been able to locate and polish up a number of diamond-in-the-rough types, either to use in trades (Trevor Cahill, possibly Brad Hand, etc.) or to maybe hold on to (Perdomo, etc.). They’ve also spent and scouted diligently in the international amateur market, and done a solid job with the stateside draft. As a result, the farm system is loaded with both upside and depth, and it currently ranks like fourth-best in all of baseball, give or take a few slots depending on your source.
The July 2 international signing period opened on Sunday, and as we predicted back in May, the Padres have been plenty busy. According to Baseball America, they’ve already signed 22 prospects from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, and Australia. Unlike last year, however, they can’t go past $300,000 on any player this year (Mexican loophole notwithstanding), so the strategy this time around has been quantity over quality.
According to the BA’s signing tracker, here are the number of signings by each team so far:
There are the Padres, third in all of baseball, only a few signings behind the pace-setting Astros and Dodgers, two more teams under spending restrictions. San Diego has already inked 14 more players than the average team. As we noted previously, when discussing the 57 signings the Yankees made in 2015, it’s not particularly surprising:
Teams like the Yankees (and now Padres) that are heavily invested in the international game, spending gobs of money one year, are probably more familiar with the next class of international free agents than teams that don’t devote as many resources to foreign scouting. It’s easy to just continue signing players in the year following a spending spree, with the $300,000 limit only narrowing the potential market. There’s a good shot that the Padres, given their deep roots in Latin America, follow a similar path, using the next two years to stockpile young, high upside players.
The expensive players—the ones out of the Padres range this year—have better shots of becoming good prospects and productive major leaguers, of course, but this is still something of an educated guessing game. It’s an almost impossibly difficult task to scout 15- and 16-year-old players who aren’t even finished growing yet. The Padres are probably as good at it as any other team, so it’s encouraging that they’re keeping the pedal to the floor internationally. They could have taken a step back this year and nobody would have criticized them, but it’s clear this regime is hell-bent on finding talented baseball players whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The 2014-2015 offseason was a time of great excitement, with the Padres shocking the baseball world by making several blockbusters in the span of a few months, rapidly assembling an on-paper contender. It’s been two and a half years since it all went down, so we’ve all read (or written) numerous postscripts. In a few words: it didn’t work out.
Anyway, I was listening to the Make the Padres Great Again podcast the other day, and Craig and John briefly touched on the Wil Myers-for-Trea Turner three-team trade, classifying it as the worst move from that period. That’s a fair take, but it got me thinking: which move was the worst? . . . were there any good ones? . . . maybe I should make a list.
This is not going to be a super exhaustive look, because, let’s face it, nobody wants that. Instead, I’m breaking down each deal with my proprietary “then, now, forever” method (sorry, WWE). “Then” is how we felt about the deal at the time. This is arguably the most important category, so it gets double the weight of each of the other two categories in the final calculation. “Now” is how the deal looks today, 2.5 years later, and “forever” is our best guess at how the deal will look to (alien) baseball fans in 2200.
Sticking with the relatively simple format, we’re just going with letter grades, from F to, uh, A+, with a C being a ho-hum, run-of-the-mill deal. Alright, here we go, ranked in reverse order (from the best deal to the worst).
When the Padres lost a bidding war for Yoan Moncada a couple of years ago, it was, perhaps, a blessing in disguise. As good as Moncada is—and he’s potentially very, very good—missing out on him kept the Padres inside their international amateur spending budget in 2014-2015, helping to set up San Diego’s all-out assault on the current international signing market. In a sense, they traded Moncada for Adrian Morejon, Jorge Ona, Luis Almanzar, Gabriel Arias, Jeisson Rosario, Osvaldo Hernandez . . . and on and on.
Now, two years after the Red Sox inked Moncada to a $31.5 million deal, there’s a new Cuban phenom in town named Luis Robert. Like Moncada, Robert is very much a Physical Specimen, with speed, power, athleticism, and all the other attributes you’d expect from this sort of supremely talented prospect. A 19-year-old outfielder who will officially be cleared to sign with a major-league team in May, Robert is expected to sign before the next international signing period opens on July 4, when all teams will be limited by a (really dumb) hard spending cap.
If the Padres were drawing all this up when they decided not to match the Red Sox offer on Moncada back in March 2015, this is about how’d it go. With big-market teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees currently on the sidelines for past spending sprees of their own, the Padres—yes, the Padres—got to throw money around like George Steinbrenner after a five-game losing streak. Instead of competing with the Dodgers and Red Sox for top international youngsters, the Padres were competing with teams like the A’s and Braves during the current signing period. And instead of coming up short, they got their guys. Give them credit, too, because they spent, busting past their international spending pool last July 4 while continuing to add talent over the winter.
Listen to A.J. Preller talk enough, and you start to realize that he’s not necessarily all there in the moment. I don’t mean that negatively—I just mean that he’s probably thinking about something baseball-related as he finishes each sentence. His mouth is saying one thing, but deep inside his baseball-obsessed mind, synapses are firing at will about Dominican prospects and such.
The Padres had a press conference for Wil Myers earlier this week. Here, I’ve tried to figure out what Preller might have actually been thinking when he said various things.
What he said: Obviously, uh, here today to announce the—you know—to announce the signing of Wil Myers to a six-year contract extension.
What he was thinking: I wonder if there are any flights to Venezuela available tonight.
It’s doesn’t make much sense to talk about the 2018-2019 free agent class for a lot of reasons, perhaps most obviously because it’s a long time away. But we’ll do it anyway.
When the Padres went for it a few years back, it was exciting. Even though there were some questionable deals, it was still exciting. Looking back, though, with the knowledge we have now, it was maybe a little less exciting. Matt Kemp was getting older and was, in many ways, in severe decline. Justin Upton was only brought on for one year. Wil Myers didn’t have a clear position to play. Derek Norris was just, kind of, a guy. Will Middlebrooks. Never did understand why Will Middlebrooks was always mentioned as one of the big acquisitions of that offseason, but it feels right to mention him here. James Shields was surprisingly available for relatively cheap, and for good reasons. Craig Kimbrel was still good—great, even—but he wasn’t Craig Kimbrel.
The Padres were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, essentially, and instead . . . well, maybe they did catch lighting in a bottle. Catching lightning in a bottle doesn’t sound too pleasant, really. Either way, things didn’t work out. Just looking back at that offseason retrospectively—and we kind of knew this in real time, too—we can say that the Padres tried to half-ass their way into a contending team. Sure, they bumped the payroll up over $100 million and added some legitimate talent, but they also moved prematurely, without a winning cast of players surrounding the high-priced newcomers.
Mike Dee was fired today, which was equal parts surprising and inevitable. But this isn’t about Mike Dee, business man—this isn’t even really about Mike Dee at all.
The question now becomes (at least for people, like me, who geek out on baseball stuff more than the business side): how does this effect baseball operations for the Padres? There’s a decent argument that the Padres need some figurehead in baseball ops, someone like Theo Epstein or Chris Antonetti. Dee was sort of playing that role for the Padres, although not in the overarching way Epstein and Antonetti are in Chicago and Cleveland, respectively. A.J. Preller’s (and staff) been driving decision-making on a micro level, but ultimately he reported to Dee, and it’s possible that Dee played a significant role in the team’s long-term approach to the baseball side. Preller’s made a number of good moves over the last year, but he’s young, inexperienced (as a general manager), and still serving the final days of a month long league-mandated suspension for keeping shady medical records.
Someone like Alex Anthopolous (Craig Elsten mentioned him) might make sense, or Ben Cherington, or Jed Hoyer (also via Craig, and a long shot), or Tony La Russa (wait, no). Surely, there are numerous other names that would work, names that would provide a stabilizing presence in baseball ops while adding knowledge and experience to the organization. Names that would work as a sort of guiding force to Preller, keeping him out of trouble in Latin America while assisting in trade negotiations with skeptical rival GMs.
In case you weren’t paying attention, a General Manager was suspended 30 days by Major League Baseball, and it wasn’t Dave Stewart for taking over an on-the-rise Diamondbacks team and running them into the ground. Ineptness is generally fine with Major League Baseball. Were it not, our beloved Padres would have been forced to fold a long time ago.
No, it was our own AJ Preller, suspended for the 2nd time as an employee of a baseball franchise, this time for failing to disclose required medical information when trading all-star starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox for top prospect Anderson Espinoza.
It’s a really crazy situation. According to multiple reports, Preller, whose suspension begins today, pissed off just about everyone he made a trade with this year. It went so far that the Padres had to take back Colin Rea from the Marlins after he partially tore his UCL ligament in his first start after being traded, with the Padres having to send intriguing prospect Luis Castillo back to the Marlins to make things right.
The White Sox were also upset with the medical information disclosed during the James Shields trade, but despite the tire fire he’s been in their uniform, they sought no compensation and did not formally complain to the league about the trade. They’re stuck with him, but the Padres are paying most of his salary already, and Erik Johnson, the guy they sent back in the trade, almost instantly evaporated into the ether never to be seen again. Maybe he’s pitching for the Padres in the Upside Down.
It seems only the Red Sox tattled to the league like the whiny babies they are, which led to the investigation into the Padres record-keeping, which led to the 30 day suspension, which has now led to a variety of hot takes from Padres fans and from around the baseball world.
That’s the question Padres ownership will have to answer for a solution to the problem they’re facing: what to do about AJ Preller. The Padres were investigated by Major League Baseball for a complaint filed by the Boston Red Sox for withholding information in the Drew Pomeranz trade.
Preller was suspended for 30 days, which isn’t a huge deal in and of itself since major moves don’t usually happen between now and the end of the World Series. What is a big deal has less to do with MLB’s investigation and more to do with how other teams view Preller. Will anyone trust him after this?
As reported by Buster Olney, the accusations boil down to the reporting of player injury information to a central database. According to Olney, teams are required to record all information regarding any kind of treatment players receive. The Padres apparently didn’t include everything that was required. Ken Rosenthal reports that Drew Pomeranz “and others” were taking oral medications that weren’t disclosed, which led to the suspension. The Padres admit to the behavior, but say it wasn’t “malicious” which I guess means they claim they didn’t know it was against the rules.