SAN DIEGO -- From “Trader Jack” McKeon to “gunslinger” Kevin Towers to current general manager A.J. Preller, Padres execs have developed quite a reputation for wheeling and dealing through the years.
They’ve done some of their most noteworthy business at the Winter Meetings.
With no in-person Meetings in 2020, let's look back at the five most impactful Winter Meetings transactions in Padres history:
1) The Padres get their ace
Date: Dec. 15, 1997
Transaction: Padres trade Derrek Lee, Rafael Medina and Steve Hoff to the Marlins for Kevin Brown
The Marlins were coming off a World Series title and looking to sell. The Padres were on the cusp of a run to the World Series and looking to buy. The two sides came to an agreement on the final day of the 1997 Meetings in New Orleans. Brown only had one year remaining on his contract, but he made the most of it. There's an argument to be made that Brown's '98 season is the most impactful single season in franchise history. He posted a 2.38 ERA with seven complete games and three shutouts, then dominated in the postseason as well. Brown was the biggest catalyst for the Padres' run to their second National League Pennant in '98.
In the New York Times' account of this trade, Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick was derided by his own wife for dealing Fernandez and McGriff at the Meetings and told to "get home before you screw up the team any further." In retrospect, however, Gillick and the Blue Jays are clear winners. Alomar was a solid player in San Diego, but he blossomed into a Hall of Famer in Toronto. Of course, Fernandez and McGriff were excellent players in their own rights. Both thrived in San Diego, and any rancor about the decision to move Alomar should be tempered by such a solid return. The biggest gripe any Padres fan should have is the fact that both McGriff and Fernandez were dealt two years later, for a pittance in both cases.
3) The Wizard goes to St. Louis
Date: Dec. 10, 1981
Transaction: Padres trade Ozzie Smith and Steve Mura to the Cardinals for Sixto Lezcano, Garry Templeton and Luis DeLeon
It's a dubious distinction that the Padres have traded away two Hall of Fame middle-infielders at various Winter Meetings. Smith was already a wizard at shortstop when the Padres decided to move him at the 1981 Winter Meetings in Hollywood, Fla. But he wasn't producing much at the plate, so the Padres dealt him for Lezcano, Templeton and DeLeon. All three were useful pieces in San Diego, and Templeton currently resides in the team's Hall of Fame. But for all the brilliant maneuvering by McKeon, this is one he'd surely like to have back.
4) Preller's spree starts with Kemp
Date: Dec. 18, 2014
Transaction: Padres trade Yasmani Grandal, Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp and Tim Federowicz
San Diego played host to the 2014 Winter Meetings, and newly hired general manager A.J. Preller did his part to make things interesting. The entire week was a frenzy of Padres rumors, culminating with an agreement to send Kemp to San Diego. The move was the first domino in Preller's wild first offseason. A week later, the deal was finalized -- as were two others. The Padres landed Justin Upton from Atlanta and Wil Myers from Tampa Bay. Prior to the 2015 season, Preller also added Craig Kimbrel, B.J. Upton and James Shields to that haul. The fruits of those moves? A 74-88 record in 2015 and a teardown the following season.
After spending the first eight years of their existence mired mostly in the NL West basement, the Padres made a clear statement of intent at the 1976 Winter Meetings -- the first Meetings to take place in modern free agency after the demise of the reserve clause. Fingers and Tenace both signed six-year contracts with San Diego and would make an impact in turning the franchise around. Fingers posted a 3.12 ERA across four seasons with the Padres. Tenace recorded a .403 on-base percentage. Fittingly, at the Winter Meetings four years later, both were packaged in a trade to St. Louis, bringing back All-Star catcher Terry Kennedy.