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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Earlier today the Padres traded Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter to the Kansas City Royals for Esteury Ruiz, Matt Strahm, and Travis Wood.

Woo-hoo, a trade!

Trades are hard to write about these days. The more credit we’ve given to teams for getting smarter and smarter, the easier it is to look at a deal and nod along: “yup, yup, makes sense. yup.” It’s really no different with this deal. The Padres had obvious trade candidates like Cahill, picked up for pennies and reconfigured into a legitimate starter, Maurer, a still-pretty-young reliever who’s consistently shown better peripherals and stuff than surface stats, and Buchter, something of a throw-in who offers some value as an always coveted lefty with good strikeout numbers, so they traded them. In return the Padres got back a pair of younger, interesting players and in the process made the major-league team worse for an anticipated, and choreographed, second-half swoon.

The Padres got back three players. One of them, Travis Wood, is unlike the others. He’s a 30-year-old veteran having an absolutely miserable year. So far in 41 2/3 innings out of the Royals ‘pen, Wood’s posted a gaudy 8.49 DRA, seventh-worst in all of baseball (min. 20 innings.). In fact, among pitchers with at least half their innings in relief, Wood is dead last in the majors. His cFIP, 112, offers some hope for non-disastrous performance going forward, but he’s fallen a long way since masquerading as a league-average starter a few years back with the Cubs.

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