Key offseason will precede Preller's reckoning

Renfroe set for minor surgery on his right foot

September 29th, 2019

PHOENIX -- In a way, the Padres' 2019 season was a referendum on Andy Green. The former manager had posted three 90-loss seasons but hadn't been given much roster talent to work with. The ’19 season was different, and when Green's club struggled again, he was out of a job.

Right now, A.J. Preller's status as Padres general manager is secure. But the offseason and ensuing 2020 campaign might offer a similar evaluation of Preller.

As GM, Preller has cultivated the sport's best farm system, and he has brought and to San Diego. But he has yet to produce a playoff-caliber roster. In fact, he's never cracked .500.

Following Green's dismissal last weekend, Preller met with media and was harder on himself and his current roster than he was on his former manager.

"It starts with myself, with our baseball operations group," Preller said. "I’ve got to do a better job."

Preller's reputation as an evaluator of prospect talent is sterling. He landed and -- two of the sport's most exciting rookies this year -- for and , respectively. He overhauled an entire farm system in the span of a few months, and it has been widely regarded as the best in the sport for two years.

Still, the biggest knock on Preller has been his ability to construct a Major League roster. He failed in 2015, his first offseason as general manager, when the Padres landed Shields, , , and , among others.

The Padres quickly changed course after that, and they undertook a rebuild, trading most of those big league pieces for prospects. In that regard, Preller hasn't “gone for it” since. Even this year's roster featured a handful of pitchers on innings limitations, and it left spots on offense open for unproven prospects.

"We're missing pieces, obviously," Machado said after Green’s dismissal. "We've got to reinforce the ballclub and play better baseball than we did this year. We know we can do it.

"We put ourselves in a good situation during the first half of the season. We're just a couple pieces away from being in a different situation than we are today. I know A.J., [executive chairman Ron Fowler and general partner Peter Seidler] -- they've all got a plan for us.”

Among the Padres' brass, the criticism of Preller is viewed in a different light. Just because Preller hasn't yet constructed a roster capable of a playoff push doesn't mean he can't do so. There's a case to be made that it wasn't Preller's primary objective in the past four offseasons.

This winter, it will be. Thus, the referendum on Preller:

1. Preller needs to hire a manager, and he needs to get it right: The Padres fell flat after the All-Star break and never climbed out of their funk. Preller needs a skipper who can sustain the ups and downs of a pennant race with a club that has yet to experience one.

2. Preller needs to find frontline starting pitching and a hitter or two somewhere: The free-agent market is limited. That might mean parting with some of his coveted prospect talent in a trade. In the past, Preller has been hesitant to do so.

3. Preller needs to fill in around the edges: He needs to balance the offense so the left/right splits aren't so heavily skewed. Preller also needs to construct a deep bullpen that won't tire down the stretch and a rotation with depth options, so the club has better alternatives in a pinch next season.

Those all seem like reasonable objectives for Preller this winter. There's a pressure to accomplish those objectives that hasn't been there before.

The Padres have been adamant that their contention window would open in 2020. For a roster that, again, finished with 90-plus losses, that means change is coming.

"We've learned a lot about this group," Preller said, taking the optimistic view of the 2019 season. "That will help us with the decisions we make."

Renfroe set for minor surgery

After an injury-plagued second half, outfielder will have minor surgery to remove a bone spur on top of his right foot in October. Renfroe also has dealt with injuries to his elbow and ankle this month. After a strong first half, Renfroe is hitting just .156/.260/.295 since the break. He refused to use the injuries as an excuse.

"The injury situation sucked," Renfroe said. "But I'm not going to sit here today and blame anything on injuries or my arm hurting. It sucks to have an injury, and it does affect your playing ability. But I'm not going to blame it on that as much as I've just got to play better."

According to team sources, the surgery should sideline Renfroe from his offseason workouts for about a week.