HomeSportsWith the latest big move, Padres president AJ Preller is once again...

With the latest big move, Padres president AJ Preller is once again showing that he and San Diego won’t go down without a wave

There may not be a baseball executive more aggressive and willing to make big moves than Padres president of baseball operations AJ Preller.

Preller did it again last week, adding to the long list of deals on his resume by acquiring two-time All-Star second baseman Luís Arraez from the Marlins for a package of prospects. Arraez, who has eight goals in his first five games with San Diego, is under club control until the end of the 2025 season.

“I’m super excited [about Luis],” Padres manager Mike Shildt said this week. “You’re talking about an elite talent with the bat in this league. And so you put him at the top of our lineup, with some people behind him. It will only extend and strengthen our line-up.”

San Diego’s model for player acquisition has been pretty clear since Preller took over in 2014: Draft and sign players internationally, develop them in the minors, and then use those resources to improve the roster in the major leagues. While every baseball team tries to identify and develop talent, the Padres’ unique combination of an elite farm system, an aggressive front office and an ownership group willing to spend money has separated them from the rest of the league when it comes to the player acquisition. . Other teams may be willing to wait for prospects to develop into the players they will become; San Diego has instead opted to sign established players to improve.

Since 2019, the list of players San Diego has signed as free agents or traded for is staggering. Manny Machado, Ha-Seong King, free agency. Even Fernando Tatis Jr. was acquired from the White Sox in 2016 in a trade for right-hander James Shields. In fact, 89.5% of the Padres roster was originally signed or drafted by another organization. Only Jackson Merrill, Adrian Morejon and Luis Campusano were developed by the Padres.

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“AJ will always be aggressive,” Shildt told Yahoo Sports. “The most important thing is to make sure that we have a continuity in the way we play and that there is a consistency in our identity, how we compete and how we look at bringing everyone together on a daily basis.”

Of course, the cost of acquiring as much talent as it has cost the Padres over the past five years is that they traded away a significant amount of potential capital — and not just mediocre, lottery-ticket prospects. San Diego gave up top prospects with the potential to help turn a franchise around, something many of them are now doing elsewhere. The list of players Preller has traded since 2019 includes Josh Naylor, CJ Abrams, David Bednar, Gabriel Arias, Edward Olivares, Cal Quantrill, MacKenzie Gore and Francisco Mejia, as well as prospects James Wood, Robert Hassell III, Drew Thorpe, Jakob Marsee and last year’s first rounder, Dillon Head.

Not all of these transactions produced the effect San Diego wanted. After acquiring generational hitter Juan Soto from the Nationals in a huge upset in 2022, the Padres sent him to the Yankees just 16 months later.

Going forward, trading for Arraez somewhat limits the Padres’ ability to make other moves at the deadline. When a team like the Marlins is willing to trade a two-time batting champion six weeks into the season and pay almost all of his salary, it’s hard to turn that down, but while Arraez provides an undeniable boost to San’s offense Diego, it’s hard to turn that down. Padres, like most teams trying to compete, have different needs, with starting pitching being the most important.

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The team’s rotation has struggled to start the season and currently boasts a 4.18 ERA, which has been helped significantly by the recent performances of Yu Darvish and Dylan Cease. The Padres could use another arm, but in light of the sheer volume of prospects they’ve offloaded lately, it’s fair to question whether the organization has the prospect capital to make another splash at the deadline.

Which brings us to the real problem for the Padres: Despite their aggressiveness in trades and free agency over the past five seasons, the acquisitions haven’t been nearly as fruitful as the team would have liked. San Diego has reached the postseason just twice in that span, resulting in a first-round sweep of the Dodgers in 2020 and a six-game loss to the Phillies in the 2022 NLCS.

Last season, San Diego’s roster was thought to be capable of another deep postseason run, but instead they fell flat and couldn’t be called on until the latter part of the season. At that point it was too late. The Padres missed the postseason by two games.

Now, after the move of former manager Bob Melvin, the hiring of Shildt as his replacement and the reshuffling of the cards with the Soto trade, missing the postseason two years in a row is not an option. Between the investment in the team’s payroll over the next decade and the fact that the farm system has been significantly depleted in recent years, the pressure on this team to reach the postseason and make a deep run once that is accomplished is at an all-time high .

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Preller knows that, and his continued aggressiveness on the Arraez trade could be interpreted as an attempt to buy himself some time while he tries to save his job. He has been San Diego’s top executive since 2014 and is the fourth-longest-tenured lead executive in baseball. But two playoff appearances in the decade since he took over leave a lot to be desired.

Additionally, late Padres owner and chairman Peter Seidler died last season, and he was Preller’s biggest advocate. With Seidler’s passing, there was a changing of the guard in the team’s ownership group, with Eric Kutsenda taking over as chairman and interim controller. There’s no telling what the team will do after this season. Missing the postseason two years in a row after a flurry of trades and with significant money invested in the roster Preller has built will only lead to more questions about whether he is the right person to lead San Diego into the future to lead.

But if his decade at the forefront of the Padres’ front office has shown anything, it’s that Preller won’t be afraid to take the big step, and he’ll likely keep swinging until he can’t anymore. If the mission fails, it won’t be because Preller and the Padres didn’t go for it.

By the end of this season, we’ll find out if their aggressiveness was worth it or if it becomes a cautionary tale of what could have been.

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