How to Take Down a Genius

MLB’s 30-day suspension of San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller for no explained reason is stunning. What’s even more strange are the continuing reports of possible further sanctions against Preller & the Padres organization. Can the Padres be punished twice without an official explanation? It seems it may be possible in this bizarro sports-media world.

AJ Preller: Padres GM

This leads to the question: why are so many people out to get A.J. Preller?

In my summary coverage of this year’s MLB trade deadline, I wrote about the consequences of what A.J. Preller did, which was control an entire trade season up through the deadline. He dumped everything he needed to unload (Shields, Upton, Cashner & primarily Matt Kemp), while killing the market for much of the rest. He owned most of the available pitching, and brilliantly timed & maximized each deal. I also mentioned there would be repercussions, and here they are. [1]

Preller’s most controversial deal was the ‘Cash Out’ which deserves close scrutiny.  At least 10-12 teams were interested in RHP Andrew Cashner as the 8/1 deadline approached.  A few dropped out, but at least half a dozen were still interested when the deal to Miami was announced. It was a shocker to Padres fans, as rookie RHP Colin Rea was included. The Padres were never shopping him, and he was approaching his innings limit. Skipping starts and/or shutting him down, became issues discussed in the Padres fan forums.  Note, these are people with ZERO inside knowledge concerning scouting or team medical, and yet they knew more than the Miami GM, front office, scouting & medical staff.

Marlin’s GM & team president Mike Hill was interviewed during their broadcast that evening, saying how pleased they were to not only get Andrew Cashner, but “also Colin Rea for many years to come.”  Rea was then rushed onto the mound the next evening for the pitching-desperate Marlins, and after 3.1 IP, his right elbow ligament snapped. The Marlins then screamed ‘damaged goods’ as loudly as they could.  AJP was compelled to revisit the deal, and took Rea back in exchange for the A-level reliever prospect in the original deal. The Padres received RHP Jared Cosart, closer Carter Capps (recovering from TJ surgery) and top 1B prospect Josh Naylor– for 2 months of Andrew Cashner.

Andrew Cashner_2

Cashner is 1-4 in eight starts with the Marlins, with an ERA of 6.13 as of this writing. He’s had blister issues in Miami. He’s had nearly every other kind of injury issue in San Diego, so a ‘damaged goods’ claim won’t hold here. Padres fans are glad their GM doesn’t have to worry about making a qualifying free-agent offer to this bum.  Simply bad deal-making by the Marlins who overpaid on Cashner. They probably lost this deal twice, by insisting the Padres immediately take Colin Rea back. Rea is rehabilitating without surgery (for now), and will likely be ready for 2018 either way. That’s probably more valuable than a reliever prospect, even one who throws 100 MPH. This was finalized before the deadline on Monday, August 1; and the Marlins didn’t even bother for a MRI on Colin Rea.

So Preller invents a way to win a deal twice, and the Marlins season goes down the tubes immediately after. Guess who’s help responsible?  Certainly not the incompetent GM’s. Preller managed to scoop up ~30% of the top talent during this year’s International Draft, which will give the Padres a huge competitive advantage for years to come.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  For all this & more, A.J. Preller (the genius) is punished.

The biggest reason ex-Padres pitchers don’t do well for their new teams is pitching coach Darren Balsley. Andy Green is a brilliant young manager, but Balsley is long-recognized as one of the best. LHP Drew Pomeranz was acquired from the A’s (by AJP) in the off-season for 1B Yonder Alonso.  Padres were in need of starters entering 2016, so an open competition was created. Pomeranz had here-to-fore been a reliever, but he went into Green’s office and asked for an opportunity to start. He did very well, and made the rotation as their #4 starter out of spring training.

He steadily listened & learned, and by mid-season he was their best starter. Pomeranz wasn’t initially selected for the ASG, but was added when Clayton Kershaw went on the DL. Green & Preller encouraged NL manager Terry Collins to use him in the game (played in SD), when many managers didn’t even want their pitchers used. Drew Pomeranz pitched a clean inning, and it turned out to be a showcase, as he was flipped to the Red Sox before his next start.

Drew Pomeranz was never hurt, and this whole MLB investigation/punishment is about Preller fleecing the Red Sox (and a few other teams), that did a poor job SCOUTING. There were no unknown injuries to Fernando Rodney, James Shields, Drew Pomeranz or Andrew Cashner. The Padres immediately took back Colin Rea, with the understanding that was to be the end of it.  As it turns out, some East-coast people lied about that. The Red Sox accusing any other team of cheating is beyond hypocritical. [2]

The real issue is the Red Sox were expecting a #2 starter for top RHP prospect Anderson Espinoza, and they got a #3/4 instead. Preller sold high on Pomeranz, which is what a good GM does.  As far as the accusation of “doctoring up medical records to make their players look better to the opposition”, here it seems comparable to washing & detailing a used car before selling it.  If either seller doesn’t do this, they’re a loser and everyone knows it.  Most importantly, it’s the buyers’ obligation to look carefully & extensively under the hood before any final agreement.

That’s why Preller has 100% support from Padres ownership and his organization. Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski got swindled in the Kimbrel deal last off-season too, so he was already looking bad. Therefore the Red Sox called in their daddy (MLB) and big-bully brother (ESPN) to help them out with AJP.


The suspension came with no official explanation from anyone. Just implications from Buster Olney who acts a mouthpiece for the Red Sox. His ESPN articles are full of innuendo, with no hard proof of any malfeasance, hence the collective ‘no comment’ from all the other teams involved. It appears we’re down to therapeutic rubdowns and Ibuprofen not being documented on the medical side.  Sloppy & incomplete?  Yes. But not even close to a reason for nixing any of these deals. The fact that MLB had to dig this deep, to find this little, proves a significant level of enabling for the Boston Red Sox by MLB & ESPN.

Any mention from Olney that the Padres discovered bone chips in Anderson Espinoza’s elbow? The Padres aren’t blaming the Red Sox for not telling them, they are managing the issue with medical science & diligence.  MLB likely pried open Padres proprietary team data in order to educate a few patsy GMs who were behind the curve in scouting & medical evaluation. A fan can actually understand why no one wants to talk about that.


AJ Preller’s Padres: Youth & Upside

Steal City: Jankowski swipes home for 2nd time 8-10-16
The screenshot thumbnail shows what a great athlete CF Travis Jankowski is, as he touches home plate with his right hand, while running nearly full-speed & avoiding the catcher. He would have likely been out, if not mishandled, but it’s his speed which applied the pressure that made PIT crack. That needs to be the limit of his daring on stealing home, as a playoff team would have nailed him. Still: 25 SB, 5 CS is excellent all-around. He’s had a few replay calls turned against him, which proves how fast he is to the umpires on the field.  Padres fans also love his defense and .378 OBP.

CF Travis Jankowski: Padres AA

Jankowski has replaced Jon Jay, beautifully. The Federalist may still be traded, if he can recover from his broken wrist and clear waivers by 8/31.  Padres really can’t QO him, and he doesn’t fit their roster anymore.  Otherwise he’ll remain as a 4th outfielder. We’ll see…

Padres unconditionally release Olivera 8-10-16
Green said Wednesday that he had discussions within the organization to make sure that the Padres’ Minor League affiliates are cognizant of the replay process at the Major League level — even though it doesn’t apply in the Minors.

“We have to really do a better job, even if it costs us at the Minor League level, of holding the bag longer and holding our tags longer, and driving tags through guys,” Green said. “Those are things that you’ve just got to clean up as an organization.”

That’s leadership (Green & Preller) getting ahead of the curve. Great news for an organization that has been mostly behind. It’s why so many Padres fans are excited, despite their current 4th-place record. This team sold off all its contracts at the deadline, and got better!  Padres are younger (upside & cheaper), with better OBP & defense.  More power comes with age and experience.  Solid planning & execution, from Padres ownership & management; through to the coaches, scouts and the rest of the organization.


By officially releasing 3B/OF Hector Olivera, Preller proves this deal was a pure salary dump of RF Matt Kemp to ATL.  Padres eat $28.5M on Olivera. The Braves get shifted $10.5M of the LA Dodgers money (from SD) on Kemp’s deal, and owe the remainder of this year, plus 3 more years at $21.75M/year.

Preller & Kemp

Padres got a season and two-thirds out of Matt Kemp and paid him ~ $15M ($3.25M in 2015 + ~$12M in 2016), plus the $28.5M on Olivera for a total of ~$44M.  That’s an over-pay, (for sure), but not a disaster– due to it’s short length.  The longer an albatross hangs, the more it costs.  Kemp was likely foisted upon Preller, by an over-eager new Padres ownership group in 2014:

Peter Seidler, left, Kevin O'Malley, Tom Seidler, and Brian O'Malley of the San Diego Padres new ownership group

Padres fans thank RF Matt Kemp for his professionalism, and for hitting for the only cycle in franchise history in 2015.  Now, only the Marlins (existed since 1993) have not had a player hit for the cycle.


Padres remain the only MLB franchise, w/o a no-hitter pitched.

A. J. Preller did a masterful job, dumping a losing player (currently .285 OBP) onto an organization that (obviously) has no idea on winning.  This opportunity came about for the Padres, because the Braves couldn’t handle their own mess.  When Hector Olivera became a PR disaster that wouldn’t go away, Preller swooped in and handled it for them, while dumping the player he HAD to trade– at minimal cost to the Padres.  ATL fans and coaches can argue Matt Kemp’s merits, but they need to realize Braves GM John Coppolella should have made the Padres eat more themselves, instead of just transferring Dodgers money ($10.5M).  Call the Padres’ savings on Kemp, A.J. Preller’s ‘handling fee’ on Olivera, doing what the Braves should have done long ago.

John Coppolella_Braves GM

The Matt Kemp dump may have been the most brilliant deadline deal A. J. Preller made.  It clearly made NYY GM Brian Cashman take a closer look at the A-Rod situation, and arguably influenced the Yankees actions.  The mighty Yankees were getting shown up by a West-coast ‘small-market’ team willing to eat ~$70M to improve themselves.  It was only $27M for the Yankees, who have now done what the Padres already did.   Notice, the Padres have done more, with much less– due to AJP’s skill & creativity.  Of course the Yankees get more hype on this, because they’re the Yankees.

Padres welcome back versatile lefty Richard 8-7-16
This must certainly be better than LHP Matt Thornton (Age 39, 17 IP, 5.82 ERA). Green & Balsley will work on Clayton Richard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a crack at starting in September. Padres need to shut down RHP Luis Perdomo & LHP Christian Friedrich soon, so they’ll need all the arms they can get. Preller is doing his job, acquiring whatever pitching he can get, after trading his staff away for prospects or losing them to injury.  The Edwin Jackson pick-up (waived by the Marlins) has really helped: 3-1 in 5 starts, with a 3.62 ERA in 32.1 IP.

Edwin Jackson_Marlins

Padres may use six-man rotation temporarily

Club hopes to limit innings during 16-game stretch without an off-day   8-7-16

Smart. It’s all about managing injury-risk for pitchers. Opposite of the Marlins.


Fangraphs 8/11/16: The Padres Are Running Like Crazy People  [1]