Let me be the first to congratulate Padres General Manager A.J. Preller on winning the 2015 MLB Executive of the Year Award.
Preller was officially hired on August 8th. On December 18th, he endeared himself to Padres fans in a way no front office member has since Kevin Towers put together a World Series club in 1998 (we’ll leave it there and not mention the fallout).
Let’s take a quick look back at the week that was for Preller:
Thursday, 12/11/14: On the final day of the MLB Winter Meetings the Padres and Dodgers agreed to a trade that will bring All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and $32 million to the Padres in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and minor league pitcher Zach Eflin. The deal will immediately upgrade the Padres’ near-historically bad offense and inject enthusiasm in to a fan base desperate for star power. Eventually.
Tuesday, 12/16/14: During Kemp’s physical, San Diego doctors discover Kemp has arthritis in both hips. Preller uses this information to bring the Dodgers back to the negotiating table, presumably to re-work the details of the transaction or ask Los Angeles to insure Kemp’s contract. The information being made public upsets the L.A. front office (bonus points for Preller!).
Wednesday, 12/17/14: The Padres, Rays and Nationals work a 3-team, 11-player trade. San Diego receives outfielder Wil Myers (2013 AL Rookie of the Year), catcher Ryan Hanigan (statistically the best defensive catcher in baseball not named Yadier Molina), and minor league pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo. The Padres give up catcher Rene Rivera (2014’s breakout star), along with first baseman Jake Bauers, pitchers Burch Smith and Joe Ross, and shortstop Trea Turner (all currently in the minor leagues). Myers is getting over an elbow injury that limited his production in 2014, but at the age of 24 is still expected to be an impact player. The deal is expected to be finalized on Friday, 12/19/14.
Thursday, 12/18/14: After wrangling for a few days, the Kemp trade finally becomes official. Preller also signs starting pitcher Josh Johnson to a one-year contract worth less than $2 million Performance incentives can push the contract to nearly $8 million, the amount Johnson got for 2014 despite having Tommy John surgery and never appearing in a game for the Padres. Johnson has resumed throwing activities. Even if he comes back as a relief pitcher, a guy with his pedigree at that price is a smart, low-risk, high-reward move. The Padres also finalize a trade with the Oakland A’s to bring All-Star catcher Derek Norris and minor-league pitcher Seth Streich to Petco Park in exchange for pitchers Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez. Norris is an elite offensive catcher (10 HR, 55 RBI, .270 average in his first full season as a starter), but with Hanigan in the mix it’s possible he will move to first base for the Padres.
So, let’s recap. In an eight day span A.J. Preller oversaw the movement of 21 players, three All-Stars (all coming to San Diego), and an influx of $32 million. Oh, and there are more moves to come.
San Diego now has six outfielders and three catchers under contract for 2015. Assuming they go with manager Bud Black’s preferred strategy of carrying 12 pitchers that only leaves four roster spots. Since most MLB teams prefer to play with that many infielders, plus have at least one in reserve, we have not seen the end of Preller’s wheeling and dealing ways.
Oh, by the way, this is interesting. Thursday marked the 133rd day of Preller’s tenure as Padres G.M. That’s exactly 19 weeks.
How fitting is it for THAT to be the number that excites Padres fans again?