Preller relies on ability to rebuild the farm

April 17th, 2023

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.

The Padres, you may have noticed, don't love talking about "sustainability."

That word. It's just sort of beside the point, they say. The Padres have built a bona fide World Series contender, a team full of superstars, many of whom are locked up on long-term contracts. The city has responded in kind, having sold out eight of the team's first 10 home games.

As such, they'd prefer to keep the focus on the here-and-now. The later can wait for later.

Behind the scenes, the Padres' scouting and player-development departments are tasked with preparing for the inevitable "later."

And that's the secret about all those sustainability questions: It's not necessarily about finances and what the Padres will spend down the road. It's about whether they can replenish their farm system after half a decade spent trading from it. Internally, there's plenty of confidence they can.

"It's always a huge key, no matter what -- how well you can scout, how well you can bring talent into your organization," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said recently. "Hopefully, it's for players that come up and play in San Diego, but even having the ability to supplement and add to your roster in trades. It's the No. 1 thing in order to be successful, to have a scouting, player development system that's top notch. And that's always been our goal here since Day 1."

Preller is quick to point to the 2020 season and its ensuing offseason. The Padres dealt all manner of top prospects in a flurry of moves at the Deadline to land , and bullpen help. That winter, they traded for , and .

Things looked pretty barren then -- particularly after a late-season collapse in 2021. Yet, within 18 months, the Padres had built their farm back into one of the sport's best. They somehow still had the capital to pull off separate trades for and  at the ’22 Trade Deadline.

"After all the deals in '20 and '21, that offseason, you looked up and we still had a system that's as strong as anybody's," Preller said. "I feel like we have some guys this year that are going to show out well, and then it's on our scouts to go out and find more talent."

For Preller, that's the fun part. In the aftermath of the Soto and Hader trades, he's been tasked with rebooting his farm system for essentially the third time as Padres GM. He's already succeeded in doing so twice.

The pieces might be in place for a third triumph. The Padres landed 16-year-old catcher , the top international prospect in the latest class. The scouting world is abuzz with praise for him.

Meanwhile, shortstop  remains the jewel of the system and has continued to turn heads. Outfielder  and pitchers and  boast plenty of upside. No question, the system's depth took a major hit. But if any team has proven it can rejuvenate a depleted farm, it’s Preller’s Padres.

"We relish the opportunity," Preller said. "You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to scout and every single year have good drafts, have good international programs. But also, we feel like there’s still a lot of talent in the system."