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Preller gambles on potential at Trade Deadline

@AJCassavell
July 31, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Stacks of the T-shirts arrived just a few days after the Manny Machado signing. Padres players wore them at the Peoria Sports Complex all spring, and fans lined up to buy them in droves. On the chest, the words "In Preller We Trust" circled the stoic face

SAN DIEGO -- Stacks of the T-shirts arrived just a few days after the Manny Machado signing. Padres players wore them at the Peoria Sports Complex all spring, and fans lined up to buy them in droves.

On the chest, the words "In Preller We Trust" circled the stoic face of Padres general manager A.J. Preller -- the man who landed Machado while cultivating the sport's best farm system.

Following a Trade Deadline in which he dealt one of the Padres’ most lovable players without adding to the big league roster, Preller is clearly asking for some of that trust.

San Diego made two moves ahead of Wedneday’s Deadline, adding outfield prospect Taylor Trammell from Cincinnati and righty reliever Carl Edwards Jr. from the Cubs. Both will begin their Padres careers in the Minor Leagues.

Meanwhile, Franmil Reyes, a breakout 24-year-old slugger and one of the most beloved Padres in recent years, is headed to Cleveland, along with lefty prospect Logan Allen. Reyes’ colossal home runs made him an instant fan favorite. His larger-than-life personality captured the city.

“Those things are definitely going to be tough to replace and things that we're going to miss with Franmil,” Preller said. “Ultimately you would love to keep everybody. But if you're going to get something back that you need, you've got to give something.”

Preller felt as though the Padres needed Trammell just a bit more. As a lefty-hitting on-base threat with speed and some power potential, Trammell should fit nicely into the Padres' plans. The No. 30-ranked prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline, is expected to arrive in the big leagues next summer.

“We have a fairly right-hand-heavy big league club this season,” Preller said. “... We were looking for somebody that balances out the lineup, looking for somebody that gets on base and can preferably hit from the left side, a guy that's a two-way player on offense and defense.

“Taylor, for us, checked each one of those boxes, and he also has the ability to grow with an exciting nucleus that we've put together.”

Preller's record of trading for Minor Leaguers is sterling. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack represent two of the greatest prospect heists of the last decade. While Trammell has scuffled this season in Double-A, Preller and his staff are confident he'll bounce back and become a star.

In fact, Preller viewed Trammell’s recent struggles as an opportunity to pounce. During the offseason, the Padres were told Trammell was untouchable. Then, he posted a .236 average through 94 games this season – albeit with a .349 on-base percentage.

“There's still a lot of good things in his performance when you see a guy that's getting on base at a high clip, a guy that's not chasing out of the zone and a guy that's still capable of making things happen on the bases,” Preller said. “[With] some of the underlying numbers and what the scouts saw with their own eyes, we feel like the player he's been in the Minor Leagues the last couple years -- he's that player.”

Perhaps the Padres front office has earned that trust.

Sooner or later, however, Preller needs to turn his attention to constructing a roster capable of contending. It's clear the Padres are worse this season for having traded Reyes and Allen. Plus, both could’ve been Padres for a long time.

But Preller felt Trammell’s ceiling is higher than both Reyes and Allen, and the Padres still feel as though he’ll be able to reach it. They’ll be able to help him along the way.

There’s no question Preller took a risk this week. It’s not the first time.

What's next for Yates?

Kirby Yates owns a 1.02 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 44 innings this season. He's been arguably the best closer in the sport. He's also 32 years old with a contract set to expire after the 2020 season.

Yates' value on the trade market will never be higher than it is right now. But the Padres are dead-set on contending for the postseason in 2020, and having Yates at the back of their bullpen will undoubtedly help them do so.

“Looking to make a push to contend for a playoff spot and get into the playoffs, having somebody like Kirby back there in the back part of the bullpen is crucial,” Preller said.

Still, in the days and hours leading up to the Deadline, there was some action surrounding Yates. Sources said the Dodgers were interested, and the Padres put together a package with Yates at the forefront in an effort to acquire highly-touted middle-infield prospect Gavin Lux. That deal never came to fruition.

With Yates still on board, the Padres' focus changes. Yates has strongly stated his desire to remain in San Diego long-term, and the two sides will pursue an extension, according to a source.

It's the logical next step. Otherwise, the Padres would've been more active in looking to deal Yates this week.

Pursuing an ace

Those Noah Syndergaard rumors? They're going to linger into the winter.

The Mets pulled the hard-throwing right-hander off the trade market Wednesday morning. But it's worth asking just how available Syndergaard really was in the first place.

Sources said the Mets' asking price went well above what San Diego was willing to offer. The specifics of that price are unclear. But according to a source, they involved second baseman Luis Urias, San Diego’s No. 2 prospect.

Given their July swoon, the Padres seemed better served to wait until the offseason in their pursuit of a frontline starter anyway. Presumably, the price for someone like Syndergaard or Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd will be lower. They'd be one season closer to free agency, after all.

But make no mistake, the Padres will enter the offseason with starting pitching at the forefront of their to-do list. And they don't want to go small. They've got plenty of in-house options to compete for places at the bottom of their rotation already.

“We'll get to the offseason, and it'll still be a focus,” Preller said. “Every year, you're always going to look to see if there's a way to add on the pitching side.”

Deadline tidbits

• The Padres couldn’t line up on a deal involving right-hander Craig Stammen, who will be a free agent after the season. Preller touted the importance of keeping veterans like Stammen and Yates on staff for the remainder of the season with a relief corps that features a handful of the Padres’ top prospects.

• Trammell says he’s comfortable playing all three outfield positions, but he’ll report to Double-A Amarillo and play center field there, Preller said. Obviously Trammell’s long-term value is significantly higher if he can play center regularly. He has the athleticism to do so, but his arm strength is a question mark.

• Edwards will report to Triple-A El Paso. He’s posted a 3.30 ERA in five big league seasons with the Cubs, but that number ballooned to 5.87 this season, and he’s spent most of the past two months with Triple-A Iowa.

• Preller was asked about the impact of subtracting from the big league club at the Deadline, without making an addition. Here’s his response:

“We were very open-minded to adding talent from outside the organization. It just didn't quite line up. What we want to avoid doing is feeling like at the Deadline you have to do something. It'd be nice to go into that clubhouse and feel like, 'Hey, we added a piece that improved our club.' But honestly, there's a lot of faith in the guys that are down in that room.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.