Does A.J. Preller Sleep?

Let’s see. In the past 24 hours, the Padres…

  • finalized their trade for Matt Kemp;
  • finalized their deal for Wil Myers;
  • acquired All-Star catcher Derek Norris from Oakland;
  • sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to Boston for third baseman Will Middlebrooks;
  • are close to signing backup catcher David Ross.

The question is no longer, does A.J. Preller sleep. We all know the answer to that. The real question is, will he give the bloggers covering the Padres a chance to sleep?

That’s not a complaint, mind you.

At this point, I am not going to give a full evaluation of what’s going on in San Diego, since Preller is clearly not done yet. Hopefully, that will come in the next few days.

But for now, take cheer, Padre fans. Your team is relevant again.

 

What’s Happening with the Matt Kemp Trade?

Buster Olney of ESPN reports in a video blog. See it here.

Update: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2014/12/18/matt-kemp-trade-holdup-padres/20587645/.

Padres Acquire Wil Myers in Three-Way Deal

A.J. Preller has laid his cards on the table.

Fresh off a trade of Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp (pending physical), the new Padres’ general manager has just acquired 24-year-old Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-way trade that also includes the Washington Nationals. The deal was first reported by Jim Bowden of ESPN.

In acquiring the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, Preller has demonstrated that his objective is to win now. This is a swift turnaround for the Padres and their fans, who in recent years had gotten used to their team trading away established talent for prospects.

But now, the tables have turned: to acquire young Myers, the Padres parted with young arms Joe Ross and Burch Smith, catcher Rene Rivera, 19-year-old first base prospect Joe Bauers, and 2014 first-round draft pick Trea Turner–perhaps the biggest surprise of all in this trade.

Turner and Ross were sent to the Nationals, who sent outfielder Steven Souza and pitcher Travis Ott. The Padres also received veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan, and young pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo.

Reaction

It’s hard to see how Tampa Bay benefits from this deal: they trade Myers to San Diego, and yet Washington ends up with the Padres two best prospects in Turner and Ross!

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo helped his club a lot in this deal, trading minimal talent and replentishing his farm system with the high-ceiling Ross and shortstop-of-the-future Turner.

But for the Padres, the message is simple: win now.

Preller’s Method

Whenever a team hires a new general manager, it’s always interesting to see what direction he wants to go. It is now clear that since being hired in August, Preller observed his new team and came to certain conclusions:

1. This team has the pitching (both starters and the bullpen) to be competitive right now.

2. The missing ingredient is offense, so move some of your minor league talent to go and get some–notice that in the Kemp and Myers trade, only two established big leaguers, Yasmani Grandal and Rivera, were surrendered.

3. Manager Bud Black is a keeper. Since he has a year left on his contract anyway, keep him around and see how well you can work with him.

In acquiring Myers, the Padres now have a potentially solid middle of the order, to go with Kemp. Noteworthy is that their top three starting pitchers, Tyson Ross (brother of the departed Joe Ross) Andrew Cashner, and Ian Kennedy, originally thought to be the Preller’s best trade chips this offseason, are still with the team.

More About Myers

This is not the first time Wil Myers was moved. He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals, and groomed in their minor league system.

But then, in the 2012-13 offseason, he was dealt to Tampa in a package of prospects for James Shields, as KC had World Series aspirations. Pundits were aghast, as Myers was very highly regarded, even as the next George Brett.

Myers began the 2013 season in the minors, but was called up to the Rays in June. In 88 games, he slashed .294/.354/.478, with 13 home runs, 23 doubles, and 53 RBI in 373 plate appearances. His play merited him the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Award.

In 2014, Myers regressed badly: in 87 games, he slashed .222/.294/.320, with six homers in 361 plate appearances. While part of this can be blamed on a broken bone in his hand, Myers was slumping before then as well.

Even still, Myers will only be 24 years old on opening day, and he has tremendous upside. Along with Kemp, he will be controlled by San Diego until 2019.

Did They Give Up Too Much?

In getting their second big bat in a week, the Padres mortgaged a lot of their future. While Ross and Smith both have lots of potential, their inclusion in the deal is not a huge surprise: in order to get a bat like Myers’, you have to give up something.

The shocker was their inclusion of Turner, who was a first-round pick just this last June. Until today, he was considered the Padres shortstop of the future. However, San Diego also has Jose Rondon, acquired in the July trade of Huston Street, in the minors. Like Turner, he is also at least two years away from being major league-ready.

If dealing Turner was a shocker, then swapping Rivera for Hanigan was a head-scratcher. Here, the Padres and Rays basically swapped solid backup catchers. It appears the plan for backstop is to have Hanigan and Tim Federowicz (acquired with Kemp from L.A.) to hold down catcher until highly touted prospect Austin Hedges is ready, probably for a late season call-up in 2016.

More To Come?

Preller is not done yet.

San Diego’s already-stacked outfield is now overwhelmed: even before Kemp and Myers, they already had Carlos Quentin, Seth Smith, Will Venable, and Cameron Maybin.

What to do with the overflow? The most likely conclusion is that Smith and Quentin are gone; both are corner outfielders, as are Kemp and Myers. The Padres will miss Smith, who signed a two-year contract immediately prior to Preller’s arrival. He slashed .266/.367/.440 with an .807 OPS with 31 doubles, 12 homers, and 67 walks in 136 games. For this reason, Smith’s value is high, and so he will be a solid piece to trade to another team to help shore up needs elsewhere.

Quentin will be more difficult. Owed $8 million in ’15, there are two options: release him now, and just eat his contract, or see if he performs well in spring training, and hope he does well enough to pique an AL team’s interest.

Venable and Maybin, who were perhaps two of the previous GM’s worst signings, will probably platoon in center field–there are no other options in the foreseeable future.

Preller clearly knows that there are many holes, especially at first base (Yonder Alonso is too injury-prone), third base (in-house options Yongervis Solarte and Cory Spangenburg don’t inspire much enthusiasm), and shortstop (assuming they don’t go with Alexi Amarista).

So even though bats have been added, there is still work to do. But it is apparent that Preller is a work-horse, and he wants to see this team go for it all in 2015. Otherwise, there is no way he would have pursued Kemp and Myers–let alone with so much diligence.

With Preller, Padre fans don’t need to put on a poker face; they can grin with satisfaction that finally, they have an aggressive general manager who’s backed up by a front office that’s willing to spend the money to win.

 

 

Padres Sign Pitcher Brandon Morrow

This was reported by MLBTradeRumors.com. You can read the story here.

As the article explains, this is likely a precursor to the Padres trading one of their top three starters, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, or Ian Kennedy, perhaps for more offense. Lately, they have been linked to the Atlanta Braves’ Justin Upton and Evan Gattis.

 

Padres Trade for Matt Kemp – Analysis

December 11, 2014 is going to go down as one of the most memorable days in Padre history.

Bucking a trend that has gone on for a number of years, they acquired a big-name, high-priced impact player in Matt Kemp.

Any Padre fan knows that this is huge. Just four-to-five years ago, they traded away two of the best ball players in their history in Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy. This was very disheartening to fans, and it communicated the message that then-owner John Moores was not at all interested in winning.

And last offseason, when fans were pining for a big bat to add some much-needed offense, the best that then-GM Josh Byrnes could come up with was Seth Smith–not a bad player to be sure, but certainly not the impact bat that many were hoping for.

All of that has now changed. With the addition of Kemp, the Padres have added a marquee player via a rare trade with their intra-division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Why It’s a Good Deal

On the whole, this is a very good trade for the Padres. They have received a solid hitter who as recently as 2011 finished second in the NL MVP vote (and for those who don’t remember, it was a close, controversial vote–many believed he should have won it). After missing large chunks of playing time in 2012-13, Kemp rebounded nicely in 2014, slashing .287/.346/.506 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI (and an eye-popping .971 OPS in the second half).

Kemp is also 30 years old, and is locked into a contract for the next five years at $107 million. But on that, the news is still good for the Padres: as part of the deal, the Dodgers agreed to contribute $32 million to help pay for Kemp’s large contract.

Lastly, it’s a good deal because of what Padres GM A.J. Preller didn’t have to give up: he didn’t have to trade away his best bargaining chips in one of his three solid starting pitchers Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, or Ian Kennedy.

He also gave away just one established major leaguer in Yasmani Grandal, whose Padre tenure was colored by a 50-game PED suspension and a serious knee injury in July 2013. Grandal batted just .225 last year, though that seems to be in part due to his earlier-than-expected return from his injury.

San Diego also gave up 25-year-old Joe Wieland, who had missed nearly two years of baseball due to Tommy John surgery. Wieland figured to compete with three or four others for one of two starting spots in 2015, so his loss is not immediately felt.

They also gave up prospect Zach Eflin, whom the Dodgers apparently want to send to Philadelphia to complete their trade for Jimmy Rollins.

An additional plus: adding Kemp to their outfield takes some of the pressure off of minor league youngsters Rymer Liriano (who struggled mightily in a late season call-up) and Hunter Renfroe. There is not as much of a rush now for them to hurry up and get to the big leagues; both can take their time to hone their skills a little more at AAA.

So to sum up: the Padres got All-Star slugger Matt Kemp for a talented but injury-prone hitter and two minor league pitchers who have yet to establish themselves at the big league level.

A final note: if the tweets are to be believed, the Dodgers wanted top prospect Matt Wisler to be included in the deal, but Preller said no. Kudos to him for that.

Some Legitimate Concerns

You’ll notice I said in the opening sentence that today will be remembered as “one of the most memorable days in Padre history.” Not the greatest…at least not yet. For now, just the most memorable. That’s because it takes a few years to determine whether or not a trade was worth it. This one will be no exception.

There are at least three reasons for concern.

First is Kemp’s health. Sure, he played in 150 games last year. But in 2012-13, he missed over 170 games, when he was aged 27-28 (he turned 30 in September). Suffice to say, if Kemp’s ’14 season had likewise been injury-plagued, there would have been no way the Padres would have been interested in him. So Kemp’s health is a cause for concern. This is why manager Bud Black will routinely have to give him a day off.

Second is Kemp’s defense. Just three years ago, he was a Gold Glove center fielder. But in the last few years, his range has slipped somewhat, which means he is now best suited as a corner outfielder. He’ll never be the Gold Glover he once was, but surely his bat will more than make up for that.

Third is Grandal. Despite his problems, I like him. He’s young (26), a catcher, has a great batting eye, and is controllable for four more years. Yes, he’s only one player, but given these dynamics, that’s a lot to for a small market team like the Padres to give up.

He also has great hitting ability, despite his lackluster .225 average in ’14. Scouts believe that his ’13 injury affected his play last year, and Dennis Lin recently wrote in the Union-Tribune that of all the players in baseball, Grandal is among the most poised to have a breakout season in 2015. So losing him is a bitter pill to swallow, especially if he continues to develop as a hitter.

All In All…

In spite of all this, trading for Matt Kemp was the right thing to do. It sends the right signal to fans at the right time:

It screams, “We want to win!”

Yes, he’s a lot of money, but again, the big-buck Dodgers will be paying nearly 30% of his salary.

Yes, they surrendered the talented Grandal, and yes, I would have preferred that they have given up Rene Rivera or top prospect Austin Hedges. But someone of Kemp’s stature is always going to come at a price. And to repeat, he was the only established major leaguer the Padres had to give up.

Yes, injuries are a concern. But that’s why Kemp will get rested more, and he’ll see some games at DH when they’re in an AL ballpark.

Yes, his defense is a concern. But the Padres knew that; they’re not getting him for his glove, but for his bat.

And yes, Matt Kemp by himself cannot save the Padres. But no one has ever said that he could! Indeed, Preller was always clear about his plans to add at least one more big bat–hopefully a proven first or third baseman.

So yes, December 11, 2014 will be a day that’s remembered for a long time in Padre-land. But five years from now, will it be remembered fondly, or with disgust? Only time will tell; that’s how trades are.

But I believe it’s going to be remembered as one of the best days in Padre history, for the reasons mentioned above.

Padres Sign Clint Barmes

The Padres have signed veteran infielder Clint Barmes to a one-year contract. At 35, Barmes will provide insurance at shortstop, which the team desperately needs following their decision to non-tender Everth Cabrera.

Not a major signing, but this will help.

Padres Non-Tender Cabrera

Everth Cabrera is no longer a Padre.

Today, he was non-tendered by the team. This is not a huge surprise, given his troubles over the last few years, highlighted by his PED use, and his August DUI which included a charge of resisting arrest.

It is sad because Cabrera has talent. Who can forget his 2012 season when he came up in June, replacing the washed-up Jason Bartlett. Even though he missed the first two months of the season, Cabrera still wound up leading the league with 40 stolen bases. The next season, he was named to the All-Star team, and in addition to his 37 steals, he also played some solid defense.

But then, the Bio-Genesis scandal hit. And then the events of this August. And his awful ’14 season, which featured a .272 OBP–inexcusable for anyone, but especially a leadoff hitter.

What Now?

The Padres now have a gaping hole at shortstop that needs to be filled. Whereas they could have been spending time and resources chasing a power-hitting outfielder or first baseman, they now need to focus on a new shortstop. Youngsters Jose Rondon and 2014 first round draft pick Trey Turner are each at least two years away.

The only current in-house option is Alexi Amarista; while he provided serviceable play after Cabrera’s injury and arrest, he is not viewed as a viable long-term option. Other options include free agents Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew. Signing one of them to a two-year deal might be the way to go until Rondon or Turner is ready.

Given that the Padres felt that he was less than forthcoming about what happened on the night of his arrest, I think they did the right thing in letting him go. This young man has talent, and so a few other teams will likely take a look at him.

But until he gets his act together, he’s probably going to have a repeat performance, regardless of where he ends up.

Yasmani Tomas Signs With [Not the Padres]

Once all the hoopla settled down, it turns out that Yasmani Tomas is not going to be a Padre. It has been reported that Tomas has just signed a six-year contract with the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks.

This has got to be a huge disappointment for San Diego, and especially for general manager A.J. Preller, who had been aggressively pursuing Tomas. Just this past weekend, Preller personally visited Tomas’ agent in the Dominican Republic. Tomas may very well have been the Padres’ best bet to obtain a premium bat this off-season.

So, what now? In the short term, it’s back to the drawing board for Preller. All is not lost; as Fox Sports reported recently, Preller has been very diligent in his job, inquiring with numerous other GM’s about various players who might be obtainable via trades.

The best bet right now would seem to be Boston; on top of signing third baseman Pablo Sandoval, they also inked Hanley Ramirez, and announced that he would be the new everyday left fielder. But this adds to an already-crowded outfield, which currently includes Allen Craig and Yeonis Cespedes, in addition to young talent Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Cuban defector Rusney Castillo. Craig and Cespedes would probably be the most attainable, and perhaps San Diego and Boston would be open to an even swap: Cespedes for Ian Kennedy, since both are free agents after the 2015 season.

Even still, it has got to be disappointing to Padre fans in general, and A.J. Preller in particular, that Tomas signed elsewhere. It’s not the end of this off-season for San Diego, but regardless of whatever else happens, it does put a damper on things.

Reaction to Sandoval Signing with Red Sox

Foxsports.com is reporting that the Pablo Sandoval sweepstakes are over: even though the Padres apparently offered him more money, the former 2012 World Series MVP is going to Boston.

What should our reaction be? On the one hand, Padre fans should breathe a collective sigh of relief. On the other hand, there are two reasons to be concerned.

A Sigh of Relief

Would Sandoval have helped the Padres? Let’s put it this way: he would have represented an immediate upgrade over what they have right now at third base (i.e., a couple of otherwise utility infielders in Yongervis Solarte and Corey Spangenberg).

However, “Panda” would not have been much more than that–especially at $100 million over five years. The fact is, his numbers really aren’t that great. His best season was in 2009, when he slashed .330/.387/.556 with a .943 OPS, including 70 runs scored, 45 doubles, 25 home runs, and 90 RBI.

To repeat, those numbers represent career highs. He might have been worth what the Padres were offering if these were his average numbers, but not since they represent his high-water marks.

In the five years since, he has averaged 16 home runs, 70 RBI, and a .283/.336/.442 slash. In two of the last five years (’11 and ’13), he missed over 40 games.

Suffice to say, the fact that he was offered as much money as he was, was not nearly so much a reflection on his talent as it was on the dearth of available third basemen on the market. The only other such free agent is Chase Headley, whom the Padres parted with in July. And just as an aside, Headley is a far better fielder than Sandoval.

I haven’t even mentioned Sandoval’s girth, which concerns a lot of scouts: how much longer will he hold up? Guys who are heavier now tend to have more, not fewer, health problems down the road. So if Padre fans are upset about owing Carlos Quentin $8 next year and Cameron Maybin $15 over the next two, just think: they nearly signed an overrated third baseman to $100 million for five years.

All together now: Whew!

Reasons for Concern

That said, there are two reasons for concern as the Padres move forward. First, even though the Padres offered “Panda” more money than Boston, he still went there. Does this mean they’re still going to have trouble getting free agent bats to come to San Diego? Are all of the available big bats afraid that donning Padre jerseys will sink their numbers, given that Petco is still a pitcher’s park?

Perhaps they should consider bringing the fences in some more.

Second, general manager A.J. Preller now has even more competition for highly touted Cuban defector Yasmani Tomas. Just a week ago, MLBTradeRumors.com reported that they and the Braves were the favorites to land him. The Giants were already interested, but now they are going to double their efforts, especially in light of losing Sandoval. Should they sign him, Bochy’s team apparently plans to play him at third base. If Tomas is half as good as they say, then this would be bad news for San Diego, having him in the same division.

At any rate, Preller has to get back to the drawing board. I still hold out hope that he would consider signing Tomas’ fellow Cuban, Jose Fernandez, to play second base, and move Jedd Gyorko to third. This by itself would represent a significant upgrade, given that Fernandez’ specialty is getting on-base–one of the many offensive categories in which the Padres finished last in 2014.

But for now, things remain unchanged…for the better.

The Padres Are On the Map!

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has a new a piece on the Padres, and in particular on new GM A.J. Preller. According to those in the know, Preller is “all over the map” in seeking offense for San Diego. It seems that ownership chose wisely when they selected Preller to rebuild the team’s shabby ’14 offense.

Read the article here.

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