On deck: Outfielder Manuel Margot went from a top-10 prospect to a top-two prospect this offseason, and it wasn’t because of his .276/.324/.419 slash at Class A/AA last year. It’s because he went from the Red Sox to the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel trade (to be fair, Baseball Prospectus had him at No. 3 for the Sox in 2015, but John Sickels at minorleagueball.com had him at No. 7 with the Sox; this year Propsectus has him at No. 1 and Baseball America at No. 2). Margot is one of the reasons consensus was the Red Sox gave up too much for Kimbrel (shortstop Javier Guerra was another, though there’s been no reassessment since Koji Uehara has pitched only 1.2 innings this spring, given up seven hits and complained of soreness). Margot can play center field and stole 39 bases last year, though he’s never hit more than 12 homers or walked more than 39 times. However, he’s just 21 and has already played a half season at AA.
2015 Stat: James Shields was the only Padre pitcher to top 200 innings last year, leading the team with 202.1, which ties him for 61st all-time for a single season. It was the ninth consecutive season Shields has topped 200 innings and made 30 starts in a season. His 33 starts led the NL, the third straight year he has led a league in starts.
What he said: Padres GM A.J. Preller on his approach: “Baseball, in general, you have to have patience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the same building an organization, trying to get the right people in the right places.” What he meant: “Forget about the moves I made last off season.”
Outlook: Padres GM A.J. Preller is like the guy who joins your fantasy/playback league and makes a whole lot of trades as soon as he can. His team may not be any better but at least he’s acquainted with his peers.
Preller was busy in his first offseason, trading for Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Craig Kimbrel and signing free-agent James Shields. Predictably, the Padres didn’t much improve. They won 74 games, three fewer than 2014 and a fifth straight season in the 70s.
Preller’s second offseason was more subdued and beneficial, even if about all the Padres have left from the previous winter is Melvin Upton and his bloated contract. At least the Padres aren’t pretending to be something they’re not.
This year’s team isn’t very good and may break the 70s streak, although not in a good way. The Padres last won less in 2009, when they were 63-99, which came after four straight winning seasons — the longest stretch of success the franchise has had. In 47 seasons, the Padres have had just 14 winning seasons, which must be the tradeoff for living in San Diego: perfect weather, flawed baseball.
Preller has that going for him despite his first step being a misstep. He got more for Kimbrel than he gave up to get him, but that was mostly because he had to accept Melvin Upton and his contract, which still has two more years to go (to be fair to Melvin, he had his best season in 2015, in a part-time role, since signing that contract; he hit .259 and had a .369 on-base vs. lefties).
And the Padres have three picks in the top 32 next June, No. 8 on merit and 31 and 32 for losing Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy to free agency. It’s not much of a return for Upton, for whom Preller traded four minor-leaguers, one of whom, Mallex Smith, batted .306, stole 57 bases, had a .373 on-base percentage, can play center field and is not yet 23 years old. Mallex sounds like a better option in center field than John Jay, who Preller traded Jedd Gyorko for, so the pressure is on Preller at No. 32.
The Padres’ farm system isn’t good, which preceded Preller. It shows on the major-league roster, where there’s opportunity. Espn.com’s Keith Law ranks the Padres’ farm system No. 20, and that’s after the critically approved trade for Kimbrel. But some of that is on Preller, because he traded No. 1 draft picks Trea Turner (2014) and Joe Ross (2011) to Washington to get Wil Myers, sent injured pitcher Max Fried, a 2012 first-rounder, to the Braves for Upton and forfeited their 2015 first-round pick to sign Shields. The Padres didn’t make a pick until No. 51 (they took Austin Smith, a high school pitcher, who pitched 17 innings in rookie ball, gave up 27 hits and had a 7.94 ERA; sounds like a Padre already).
Dave Stewart attracts derision, but Preller was no less prospect-friendly.
The Kimbrel trade signified a change in strategy for Preller, and give him credit for that. The last one wasn’t working.
Team Song: Eddie Cochran: Summertime Blues