Padres Clean House & Amputate

Norris returns to Nats in deal with Padres 12-2-16 5:47 PM ET
Derek Norris had about as tough a season as any catcher could have in 2016. The entire Padres rotation was disabled and/or traded. Their All-Star closer (Fernando Rodney) was also traded. Due to service time issues and a hand injury to top catching prospect Austin Hedges, Norris was forced to carry too much of the load, as backup Christian Bethancourt is still a liability behind the plate. Teams can’t have poor defense from the most valuable defensive position, which directly affects the entire pitching staff. Norris is a bounce-back candidate because he’s going to a much better team with competitive depth. This is another nifty move by Padres GM AJ Preller to clear roster room & salary, while adding value.


AJP waited as long as he could and found a situation in Washington to maximize his return with a high-upside young Latin American arm. Preller is essentially continuing his summer selling spree. and will now seriously shop Ryan Buchter & Brad Hand, two of the most valuable commodities on the market: effective & cost-controlled lefty relievers. AJP will be looking for big prospect hauls, or no deal. The alternative is big $$$ free-agent closers, which is a volatile and costly market, so there should be plenty of interest.

The Derek Norris trade also ends any irrational speculation of AJP being unable to make deals after his MLB suspension.  Everyone who paid attention now knows it was an old-school vendetta from East-coast teams whom he had made look foolish on a scouting level. The fallout from the MLB suspension was Padres team president Mike Dee being fired, which has strengthened AJ Preller’s position in the organization. Dee’s replacement has yet to be announced.


SD’s Ross non-tendered, now a free agent.  Righty had October surgery; Pirela, Amarista, Sanchez, Edwards and Johnson let go     12-2-16  ~9:00 PM ET

Shoulder injuries are high risk, and the thoracic outlet surgery to correct Tyson Ross’ problem is still healing.  In addition, there’s rehabilitation & strengthening of the shoulder capsule, which will take him into the summer (at least) before he’s possibly able to pitch. That’s not worth the money (~$10M) as he was going to be in his walk year.  AJ Preller had a chance to trade Tyson Ross in 2015, but held out.

What really cost the Padres with Ross was not getting an early diagnosis. If they had figured it out early, then the surgery could have taken place in time for him to be ready for 2017. Tyson Ross was hurt on Opening Day, and the Padres medical staff didn’t even get a diagnosis until September. That incompetence stung the Padres organization– big time.

I am not around Tyson Ross & the Padres, but I recall reading for months in their MLB forum about “shoulder tightness” and “fatigue issues” which are conditions & symptoms. The Padres were rehabilitating without knowing the cause of the problem. By early summer the Padres had Ross throwing again, even featuring his slider against medical orders according to manager Andy Green.

Part of this debacle was hard-headedness on Tyson Ross. He also set himself back by injuring his ankle in a hotel room, so there are red-flags about his head and what he’s thinking, but the major issue was the Padres medical staff not diagnosing the condition sooner. That is their job, and it took far too long to figure out a problem which has affected others, and has precedence in sports-medicine. All this cost the Padres $9.625M in 2016, and leaves them without the front-line starter they were expecting to have through 2017.


Final Notes: A new MLB CBA was ratified on the eve of its expiration, and will run through 2021. The major takeaway from a business standpoint is the change in the International draft system, where each team now gets $5-6M/year, with a hard spending cap.  The Padres are penalized for the 2017-18 period, and can’t spend over $300,000 on any player they sign, but with the hard cap now in place, that hurts much less than it would under the previous system.  Padres CEO Ron Fowler was leading the negotiations for the owners. A.J Preller played it perfectly knowing the system would be scrapped and revised under the new CBA, grabbing the lion’s share of the most-talented prospect crop under the old rules.

This was the most contentious of the labor issues, as several Latin American players voiced their opinions at the bargaining table concerning the exploitative nature of this annual third world talent grab by MLB.


Jon Jay signed with the Chicago Cubs for 1yr/$8M. The Federalist is a winning player, who is undervalued.  The San Diego outfield youth movement now has room to sort itself out.  If Jay hadn’t been beaned in the wrist by Gnats RHP Gio Gonzalez, he probably would have been flipped at the deadline. Jon Jay was leading the league in doubles with an excellent OBP when he got hurt. Many Cardinals fans this past season talked about how they still root for the Federalist, and I imagine many Padres will now do the same. The Cubs grabbed the perfect guy (at a bargain) to fill CF, and that makes them the team to beat again– already.


Compared to Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, etc… (albatross contracts waiting to happen, due to their age and defensive liabilities), Jon Jay is a steal and proves the brains running the Cubs will keep them in front for the foreseeable future.  Staying away from most of the remaining free agent market, is required for GM’s serious about winning. Smart GM’s save their budget and deal from strength at the 7/31 deadline, for what their team needs most.

MLB article “Non-tendered players hit free-agent market” is a good early list of low-level free agents, of which pitchers will draw the most interest.  AJP now has an extra $20M or so to spend in a very thin market. This will be another interesting Padres off-season, where trades will be the primary vehicle for competitive teams improving, as the free agent market is mostly barren & very costly.  AJ Preller also has Padres fans guessing who he is going to take in the Rule 5 draft, with the 3rd pick on December 8.  Preview at “10 intriguing names for the Rule 5 Draft.”   Remember, AJP made a record four selections last year and two are still on their 40-man roster–  RHP Luis Perdomo & OF Jabari Blash.

Padres reveal lineup of 2017 uniforms   11-22-16

Padres need brown in their uniforms for continuity with their nickname. The Milwaukee Brewers are another organization that had an awesome look (ingenious 70’s/80’s logo design with the glove & ball being the ‘M’ & ‘B’), and threw it away for a generic one. You have to have brown in the Padres uniforms, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. The debate is between yellow or orange as its compliment. More money than brains making these decisions. Who, specifically designed & approved this? This is supposed to be the easy part of franchise building.


Rule 5 Draft Results 12-8-16:

3. Padres: Allen Cordoba, SS, Cardinals is their major Rule 5 pick of 2016.
AAA phase: Padres had the 2nd pick and took Trevor Frank, RHP, Indians
Linked is a brief bio on Allen Cordoba, who just turned 21 and hasn’t played above rookie ball. [1]

This is an intriguing selection, and it would be a bigger jump than RHP Luis Perdomo made last year. Cardinals fans and personnel are probably not loving AJP, after looting them again. Cordoba provides depth behind Luis Sardinas.

AJ Preller also traded for the top 2 Rule 5 picks, right-hander Miguel Diaz from the Brewers, catcher Luis Torrens from the Yankees.  AJP got the top 3 picks in the Rule 5 Draft, which is unprecedented. The cost of a Rule 5 pick increased from $50,000 to $100,000, and from $25,000 to $50,000 for returning a player, in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Total cost for the Padres claiming the top three Rule 5 picks (& a AAA selection) is $324,000, plus the cash to Minnesota & Cincinnati– who also get a PTBNL.

Round 1
1. Twins:  Miguel Diaz, RHP, Brewers No. 21 prospect
2. Reds: Luis Torrens, C, Yankees No. 17 prospect
3. Padres: Allen Cordoba, SS, Cardinals No. 19 prospect

The Padres didn’t lose anybody, so Preller did a great job managing & protecting his roster. He’ll probably let the market settle a bit more before he moves in on free agent pitching. AJP filled his 3rd catcher & backup infielder slots with these selections, obtaining the top available starting pitcher as well. Tell me that isn’t impressive work?

Padres complete trade for Rule 5 pick Torrens
Friars send VanMeter, cash to Reds for catcher 12-9-16
Josh VanMeter is now listed as a 3B, and hit .198/.248/.274 in just over 100 PA’s at AA San Antonio in 2016. He’ll be 22 next spring and is way behind for his age– likely destined to be a career minor-leaguer. This and $500-$700k (best guess) is what it cost the Padres for the top 3 picks in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft, all of whom were top-30 prospects from organizations with deep farm systems: MIL, NYY & STL.

With the Winter Meetings over, the Mariners, Twins & Pirates will be competing with the Padres for FA pitching bargains.  For the 2017 Padres, only 1B Wil Myers & 3B Yangervis Solarte (thanks NYY) are proven. Fans are hopeful on long-time prospects C Austin Hedges & RF Hunter Renfroe, as well as newbie CF Manny Margot (Kimbrel trade). They are going with Luis Sardinas and a Rule 5 utility guy at SS. Christian Bethancourt and Rule 5 pick Luis Torrens make 3 catchers, with some interesting flexibility for Andy Green. LF needs a bat, with Alex Dickerson being the best internal option at this point, and Travis Jankowski as a 4th outfielder– until he learns to hit lefties. Second base is still a bit of a mystery as Ryan Schimpf was incredibly productive at the plate for half a season, but his defense was fair-to-poor. Cory Spangenberg will be ready, but who knows what to expect from him at this point?  Fans only hope he stays healthy, which leads to off-season priority 1A (after acquiring starting pitching), which is cleaning up & improving the medical staff. The Padres invested ~$75M in the J2 draft, with many of these young prospects being pitchers. The Amateur & Rule 5 drafts have also yielded high-upside pitchers for the Padres under AJP. These arms are potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if they can be kept attached. The point is, with these investments in talent it’s critical to their development to keep them healthy. If that fails, then all this planning & hard work has been for naught.

The most veteran player on the current Padres roster is Carter Capps, with 4+ years of MLB service who is Arb2 in 2017. Every other player is Arb1 or less, giving this team payroll flexibility, especially as the dead money moves off the books. Every Padres fan needs to know this schedule: 2017 $31M, 2018 $20M, 2019 $10.5M, 2020 $8.5M. That’s the cost of foolish handouts (Byrnes/Gyorko) and FA splurging (Fowler group/AJP for Kemp & Shields).

Final Padres off-season thoughts:  Four teams have dealt with AJP since his suspension: Nats, Twins/Angels & Reds. New Twins GM Thad Levine even went so far as to say, “Working with San Diego in this regard was extremely beneficial because they’re very creative.” See: Twins trade for RHP Haley in Rule 5 Draft 12-8-16. It was a very creative deal as the Twins got the pitcher they wanted (for free, paid for by SD), the Angels got some cash, and the Padres got the pitcher they wanted for a few extra hundred thousand dollars. Win-win-win. The only wariness other GM’s need to have in dealing with Preller is that he is a shark.

There are only 3 teams in which relationships between organizations were damaged by AJ Preller’s various dealings: the Red Sox, White Sox & Marlins.

I believe GM Dave Dombrowski would make another deal with Preller, if they needed say (ace lefty relievers) Brad Hand or Ryan Buchter, because Boston is always in it to win it and will do whatever they feel is necessary, putting hurt feelings aside.
The White Sox would be tougher to deal with, because they really feel burned on the James Shields deal, which they were. It was just a bad trade, no medical issues there, but owner Jerry Reinsdorf won’t forget it. That’s a family organization and the front office will have its orders, so any attempts to deal with them will likely be fruitless, as their price will always be too high for AJP.
The Marlins I believe will refuse to ever deal with AJP again. Preller made their front office look foolish three times in 2016, once in the Fernando Rodney deal and twice in a few days with the Cash Out & then the Colin Rea trade-back. This is a petty & narrow-minded organization, owned by a complete scoundrel. It’s too bad because they had a nice team in 2016, until bad trades (then the Jose Fernandez tragedy) ruined it.


Jose Fernandez 1992-2016