Tommy Pham, then of the Tampa Bay Rays, is one of five players the San Diego Padres have obtained … [+]
Major League Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings open Sunday in San Diego, giving the Padres a virtual home game.
Under a win-or-else edict from ownership this coming season, the local team has been quite active since the GM Meetings last month, adding players around the periphery.
Back of the rotation starter Zach Davies, infielder Jurickson Profar, and outfielders Trent Grisham and Tommy Pham have been obtained in trades. Free agent left-hander Drew Pomeranz was brought back for the bullpen in a four-year, $34 million deal that’s as curious a move as general manager A.J. Preller has made.
“We see him as a guy that can pitch at the back end and pair with [closer Kirby] Yates to give us a really top-notch combination, right and left-handed,” Preller said at the time of the signing and reported by MLB.com. “Obviously the quality of what he did during the last few months [had an impact]. We’re clearly buying into him as a guy that can be part of a dynamic back of the bullpen.”
All this is seemingly preface to bigger moves as the meetings open with high octane starters Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, plus third baseman Anthony Rendon, still on the market. All are super-agent Scott Boras’ clients.
If recent history is any indication, the Padres have waited the last two years for the free-agent market to mature, swooping in to grab first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Manny Machado for a total cost of $444 million just as spring training began. Hosmer is a Boras client, and Boras speaks very highly of the Padres overall talent and ownership.
Yet, when a middle of the rotation starter like Zack Wheeler signs with the Philadelphia Phillies for five years, $118 million, one has to figure that the price tag on Cole and Strasburg will be very high: In excess of $200 million, particularly with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels bidding.
That would seem well beyond where the Padres are willing to spend. Plus, the market has been moving much faster than the past two years, as Boras predicted during the GM Meetings.
“All I can say is that the competition for all of the pitchers is very aggressive,” Boras said. “It’s probably the most aggressive I’ve seen because we have a lot of very quality pitchers on the market.”
Preller once had Pomeranz, trading him to the Boston Red Sox two weeks prior to what was then the 2016 non-waiver July 31 trade deadline. The Red Sox complained they hadn’t received all relevant medical information from the Padres on Pomeranz, who later that season experienced forearm problems.
After an MLB investigation, Preller was suspended for 30 days.
“I accept full responsibility for issues related to the oversight of our medical administration and record keeping,” Preller said at the time. “This has been a learning process for me. I will serve my punishment and look forward to being back on the job in 30 days.”
It was Preller’s second MLB suspension. In 2010, as the director of international and professional scouting for the Texas Rangers, Preller was suspended for three months because of the signing of a Dominican prospect, who had falsified his age. He served a month without pay.
Back to Pomeranz, the San Francisco Giants signed him as a free agent last year for $1.5 million and he promptly washed out of the rotation with a 2-9 record and 5.68 ERA in 21 appearances, 17 starts.
That was enough for Farhan Zaidi, as the new president of baseball operations flipped Pomeranz to Milwaukee where he had a 2.39 ERA in only 25 more appearances, working primarily out of the bullpen.
Those 26 1/3 innings were evidently enough for Preller to give Pomeranz a raise from $1.5 million to $34 million.
“He simplified his repertoire,” Preller said about Pomeranz, the reliever. “He went to the fastball-curveball combo, and those have been good pitches for him. The fastball went to a different gear, and the curveball’s always been a big weapon.”
OK, then. Perhaps it will all work out. If not, well Preller knows the score.
Preller is now on Phase Three of his rebuilding program and is starting to ship out younger players for the second time.
The offseason after he arrived on the scene in 2014, he traded a host of Major and minor leaguers for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, and Craig Kimbrel. When that didn’t work, the club went on its crusade of spending $100 million on international and domestic amateur players, hoping that the system would peak by now to produce a contender. That has yet to happen.
Thus, Preller is again pruning the system of many of its own home-grown players. Since last July’s trade deadline, he’s shipped out Frammil Reyes, Logan Allen, Victor Nova, Eric Lauer, Luis Urias, Austin Allen, Xavier Edwards and Hunter Renfroe, a first-round pick and 13th overall in the 2013 draft under the previous regime.
Austin Hedges must be next.
There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme, reason or plan to any of this, having produced four 90-plus loss seasons in a row under Preller. Despite various owners, general managers and managers, the Padres haven’t had a better than .500 season since 2010 and haven’t made the playoffs since Bruce Bochy’s last season as manager in 2006.
Executive director Ron Fowler told fans at the end of the latest 92-loss season that he and his fellow owners were sick and tired of all this failure.
“Heads will roll, beginning with mine” if things don’t radically change next season, he said.
For Preller, that is the plan and the edict as his head rolls toward the end of the offseason.
This coming week in San Diego, he needs a productive home game.