The all-important 'Vibes' are high in San Diego

May 13th, 2024

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SAN DIEGO -- For about 3 1/2 months, the 2019 Padres were actually pretty fun. They were a young team, largely overachieving and they had a blast doing it.

Then came the Trade Deadline. They weren't close enough to contention to justify buying. They ended up selling instead, trading Franmil Reyes, one of the most popular players in the clubhouse. From there, the season spiraled.

So why do I bring up those woebegone 2019 Padres? Well, I'll let -- one of the few holdovers from that team -- explain it:

"This," Tatis said recently, "is definitely the reverse of that."

I'm not sure how to quantify the way a trade shakes up a clubhouse. It just does. You won't find many who appreciate the data side of baseball more than me. But the vibes matter, too.

You know what breeds good vibes? A trade for an ace on the day the team breaks camp at Spring Training. A trade for a two-time batting champ in early May, as the team embarks on a particularly tough stretch of the schedule.

"Especially how early [general manager A.J. Preller] made those moves, he sent a message right away to us as a group," Tatis said. "You can see it, and you can tell the difference."

The Padres, fresh off winning a series against the rival Dodgers over the weekend, are still riding the high of the trade. Much in the way the trade gave them an early-season jolt.

“The group, before we got Dylan, bought into being the best version of themselves," said Padres manager Mike Shildt. "But clearly it makes the club feel like we're definitely looking ... to compete.

"Then you go out, the season starts, and you add a guy like Arraez -- same deal. It continues to reinforce what we're pouring our daily investment into."

Cease is coming off a dominant outing against the Cubs on Wednesday, which lowered his ERA to 2.19. Arraez, too, has come as advertised. He's hitting .344 with San Diego, and he delivered a dramatic walk-off single in the series opener against Los Angeles on Friday.

They're good players who are making an impact because they’re good. But it’s more than that. Just like the 2019 Padres didn’t suddenly crater 22 games below .500 because they didn’t have Reyes’ middling on-field value.

The timing of these trades -- particularly this season, after a winter littered with key departures -- matters.

"It's a clear message from the top," Tatis said. "When they're doing moves like that, they're giving us more energy, more push. It's just setting a tone for the rest of the season. We're cashing in right away."

Sounds like Tatis agrees: The vibes matter. And right now, the vibes are good.