SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Preller and Bob Melvin will be back in their respective roles with the Padres in 2024, Preller announced Wednesday in his end-of-season media availability.
Questions had swirled over the futures of both, after the team underperformed in 2023, finishing 82-80 and outside of the postseason. But Preller will remain in his role as general manager and president of baseball operations, and he added that, “Bob is our manager, and he’s going to be our manager going forward.”
The news perhaps doesn’t come as a surprise, two days after chairman Peter Seidler released a statement expressing full support for his “leadership team.”
Still, that same statement noted that the Padres would make the “necessary changes” to turn things around. Preller, entering his 10th full season in charge, will again be tasked with making those changes.
“We started this year with World Series expectations, and I think rightfully so, coming off the [NLCS] berth and having a very talented Major League roster,” Preller said. "Obviously, it was a frustrating and disappointing season. We never really fired on all cylinders. We didn’t play the baseball we thought we were capable of.
“Personally, for myself, it feels like a lost and missed opportunity.”
The bulk of the Padres’ core remains intact heading into 2024, and Preller’s first order of business this offseason was figuring out whether Melvin would remain the person to lead that group.
Melvin is under contract through the 2024 season. It’s rare, but not unheard of, that a manager would enter a season with one year left on his deal. Preller wouldn’t discuss any specifics of potential contract negotiations.
“Both he and I are very excited about the challenge of getting this group back to the postseason next year,” Preller said.
That expectation is the bare minimum for a roster loaded with superstars that expected to be smack in the middle of its championship window. The Padres have reached the postseason under Preller in two of the past four years. But in 2021 and ‘23, they missed the playoffs amid hugely disappointing seasons, hindered by top-heavy rosters. Their depleted depth, a result of a number of blockbuster trades, was a major factor.
“This year, we didn’t get there,” Preller said. “Next year is going to be a different year -- a different team, different players.”
But the same leadership structure, with Preller and Melvin set to return, looking to set things right.
Here are a few other takeaways from Preller’s media session:
On Soto's future in San Diego
Juan Soto will be entering his final season before he’s set to become a free agent. As such, it seems like all possibilities are on the table. Preller said the team’s “first path” would be to explore a potential extension with Soto, who is coming off an All-Star campaign in which he posted a .275/.410/.519 slash line and a career-high 35 homers.
But considering all the Padres gave up to acquire Soto -- and with Soto due for a raise in his final year of arbitration eligibility -- rumors have emerged that the team might consider trading Soto. Preller didn’t exactly shut down those rumors, saying only, “We've never been a group that says no to anything. I wouldn't read into that. That's just kind of the way we operate.”
Refreshed farm system offers options
Regarding the Padres’ flawed depth, it’s clear Preller feels there are internal solutions on the way. With the spate of blockbuster trades over the past three seasons, San Diego’s upper-level depth took a significant hit. But that farm system has been replenished in a big way recently, and Preller intends to use it in 2024.
“We feel confident that from a farm-system standpoint, we’ve got a group that is now getting to Double-A and the upper levels that is going to be able to help us and provide some more of that depth component," Preller said.
What to read into that? Well, it’s hard to envision further blockbusters that would deplete that newfound Minor League depth (though, with Preller, you never know).
On Melvin and possible coaching, front office additions
Asked about his relationship with Melvin, amid reports that a rift emerged between the two, Preller said, “A lot’s been overblown. There were reports we don’t speak, and we’re talking four-five times a day.”
With Melvin set to return, the next step is for Preller and Melvin to finalize the 2024 coaching staff, with Preller noting, “We feel good about a lot of the coaches that are on our big league staff.” He added that he’d like to have that staff finalized in the next month or so.
Preller has served as both general manager and president of baseball ops for the past three years, and, when asked, he acknowledged that he has considered hiring a GM under him.
“I feel good about the current group, but also, always going to be open,” Preller said. “If we can add somebody in place, somebody that brings different experiences … I’ll always be open to that.”