On the eve of the start of his 30-game suspension, A.J. Preller worked late into the night to dot Is and cross Ts before vacating his office before the stroke of midnight. His to-do list is even longer as the Padres’ general manager returns Wednesday ahead of the official start of the offseason following the conclusion of the World Series.
The organization has already begun its search to replace the team president that some – despite ownership’s claim otherwise – have speculatively pegged as the fall guy for the medical records fiddling that led to Preller’s month-long ban. With the youth movement already in full swing in San Diego, the work that the Padres’ third-year general manager has to do to repair relationships across the game could very well overshadow much of the business he’ll conduct to whip his roster into shape for the 2017 season.
A MATTER OF RECORD
- 2016 finish: 68-94, 5th in NL West
- 2016 draft position: 3rd overall
- At home: 39-42
- On the road: 29-52
- Preller’s return: As steadfast as the organization is in its loyalty to Preller despite an embarrassing suspension, the first true test as to whether or not he can truly work with other front offices arrives the second week of November at the General Manager Meetings in Phoenix. That’s the first opportunity to begin to address whatever fences need mending ahead of laying the groundwork for any trade discussions that carry into the Winter Meetings. The Padres are simultaneously searching for a replacement for Padres President Mike Dee, an endeavor that very well could impact the direction of the organization.
- Trade winds: Because the Padres have moved all players owed money beyond 2016 off the roster, they likely won’t be as active as they were heading into the trade deadline. Their top trade chip and most expensive player (Tyson Ross) recently underwent shoulder surgery after missing virtually all of 2016, suppressing his trade value heading into his walk-year. After a year-long slump at the plate, C Derek Norris’ value is also trending in the wrong direction at a time when the Padres appear poised to hand the position off to Austin Hedges and Christian Bethancourt.
- Wil-ing to stay? Both 1B Wil Myers and the Padres confirmed interest in extension talks after he represented the organization in the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game, a conversation that both sides preferred to push off until the offseason. This one arrives as the 25-year-old Myers – fresh off his first full season – becomes arbitration-eligible for the first time. He’s certainly due for a healthy raise over last year’s $524,000 salary, but will Preller use the opportunity to buy up arbitration and early free agent years at a discount as his predecessor did so often?
- OF Jon Jay: Even with the Padres in a full-fledged youth movement, there’s mutual interest on a return as the coaching staff values Jay’s veteran leadership in the clubhouse. Making $6.23 million in 2016, the 31-year-old Jay hit .291/.339/.389 while having injuries limit him to 90 games.
- LHP Clayton Richard: The Padres were on a short-list of teams willing to offer the 33-year-old an opportunity to start following his release from the Cubs and Richard rewarded them with a 2.52 ERA over 53 2/3 innings to close the season. Both sides have indicated interest in a reunion next season.
- RHP Edwin Jackson: The 33-year-old showed flashes of brilliances in the rotation following his release from Miami, but still fashioned a 5.89 ERA in his 13 starts for San Diego. He’ll earn a fraction of what the Cubs were paying him in 2016 ($12.5M), but owns a 98 mph fastball that figures to draw interest somewhere on the open market.
- INF Adam Rosales: The 33-year-old utility turned in a career year (1.7 WAR, according to baseball-reference.com) while making a modest $800,000 in 2016. His 13 homers nearly doubled his previous best (7 in 2010).
- RHP Carlos Villanueva: The 32-year-old posted a career-worst 5.96 ERA after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal for 2016.
- RHP Brandon Morrow: The 32-year-old returned to the Padres on a minor league contract but only appeared in 18 games at the end of the season.
- Already committed to 2017 payroll: IF RHP James Shields doesn’t opt out, the Padres will be paying $33.95 million to players on other teams rosters – Melvin Upton Jr. ($11.45M), Shields ($11M), OF Hector Olivera ($6.5M), OF Matt Kemp ($2.5M) and INF Jedd Gyorko ($2M) and SS Alexei Ramirez ($1M buyout).
- Through 2018: Shields’ contract expires after paying him $11 million, as the team’s commitments to non-rostered players (Kemp, Gyorko, Upton) totals $22.5 million.
- Through 2019: Payments to Olivera ($7.5M), Gyorko ($3M) and Kemp ($2.5M) will total $13 million.
- Through 2020: The last leg of Olivera’s contract has the Padres paying him $8.5 million.
- Nov. 2: Game 7 of World Series
- Five days after World Series: Deadline to make qualifying offers to pending free agents
- 12 days after World Series: Deadline to accept qualifying offers
- Nov. 7-10: General Manager meetings (Phoenix)
- Dec. 2: Last day to tender or non-tender arbitration-eligible players.
- Dec. 4-8: Winter meetings (National Harbor, Md.)
- Dec. 8: Rule 5 draft
- Jan. 13: Salary arbitration figures exchanged
- Jan. 30-Feb. 17: Salary arbitration hearings
- Feb. 11: Pitchers and catchers report for spring training (tentative based on WBC)
- Feb. 16: Full squad reports (tentative based on WBC)
- April 3: Opening Day (Padres at Dodgers)