Preller set for first Hot Stove season as Padres' GM
New Friars boss tasked with upgrading squad for 2015, especially at the plate
SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Preller has been on the job as general manager of the Padres for nearly three months, assembling his staff, adding new faces, retaining others, while holding numerous meetings with the team's player-development and baseball-operations staff, shaping the vision of the front office.
Now comes the practical application part of the job, with the chance to mold the 25-man roster for 2015 and beyond. The Hot Stove season has arrived in time for Preller to tackle the task of trying to assemble a team that can get back to the postseason for the first time since '06.
It won't be easy, not for a team that ranked last in about every pertinent offensive category this past season -- and one that plays in the competitive National League West, where the Giants claimed their third World Series title in the last five seasons and the Dodgers won 94 games.
Preller, who got rave reviews from his time with the Rangers for his work ethic, certainly has his work cut out for him as he goes about trying to reshape the roster, mostly the position players.
The Padres have about $41 million in guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season, and executive chairman Ron Fowler has stated that Preller will have payroll flexibility.
Is a roster overhaul on the horizon? Will there be significant additions? That certainly hasn't been the Padre way in the past, spending big in free agency.
Pitcher Tim Stauffer, San Diego's longest-tenured player, is a free agent. He would like the chance to start, though that won't likely happen here. Stauffer could get the chance to do that elsewhere. On Thursday, the team declined the $4 million option it held on pitcher Josh Johnson, though there's a chance he could return on a smaller deal.
Offense. The Padres could use upgrades at their corner-infield positions, and they need to decide if shortstop Everth Cabrera (.272 on-base percentage in 2014) truly fits in their plans for '15. Mostly, though, it's finding a dependable everyday bat for third base and first base. There are other areas where San Diego can upgrade as well.
The Padres have and will consider players who are non-tendered by other teams, and they have already been looking at potential targets internationally, which is a strong suit of Preller's and an area that the team wants to explore. Since the Friars typically don't dabble heavily in free agency, trades are still the easiest way to make quick improvements. Last winter, they traded for a bat (Seth Smith), dealing from an area of strength (pitching). Will they do so again?
While trading an asset for an asset isn't ideal, it might well be the reality for San Diego. They could deal a starting pitcher from the trio of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross or Ian Kennedy (Ross seems unlikely, though he would command the highest return). Offers for Kennedy at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July didn't impress the team much. Cashner, who a year ago turned down a contract extension, figures to be a popular target of other teams.
We really don't know what to expect from Preller and Co., simply for the fact that he's never done this before. In terms of support, Fowler has vowed to increase payroll, and he did that a year ago (nearly $90 million). But that still ranked in the bottom third in baseball.