How they got here: SD's 1st playoffs since '06

September 27th, 2020

In every facet -- from the players on the field to their style of play to their style, period -- this year’s Padres club bears little resemblance to the middling teams that graced San Diego over the past decade.

Sure, they’re the most exciting young team in baseball right now. But they spent last September mired in a freefall that would send them 22 games below .500 by the end of the season.

An overhaul was needed. And general manager A.J. Preller nailed that overhaul.

In late October 2019, the Padres introduced Jayce Tingler as their new manager. In mid-November, they unveiled fresh uniforms and a new color scheme -- sleek brown and gold that marked the dawn of a new era. Then, Preller went on a spree and re-tooled every corner of his roster.

It culminated in the Padres’ first trip to the postseason in 14 years -- and a young roster that makes it clear they won’t have to wait as long for their next trip.

So, how did they get here?

How they were built:
Amateur Draft: David Bednar, Luis Campusano, Joey Lucchesi

International signings: Michel Báez, Dinelson Lamet, Adrian Morejon, Jorge Oña, Luis Patiño

Free agents: Eric Hosmer, Pierce Johnson, Manny Machado, Drew Pomeranz, Garrett Richards, Craig Stammen

Trades: Austin Adams, Greg Allen, Dan Altavilla, José Castillo, Jason Castro, Mike Clevinger, Jake Cronenworth, Zach Davies, Trent Grisham, Javy Guerra, Tim Hill, Jorge Mateo, Francisco Mejía, Mitch Moreland, Wil Myers, Austin Nola, Chris Paddack, Emilio Pagán, Tommy Pham, Jurickson Profar, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Strahm, Fernando Tatis Jr., Taylor Williams

Waivers: Greg Garcia, Kirby Yates

Rule 5 Draft: Luis Perdomo

Key offseason acquisition:
Too many to count, really. Davies has been a brilliant addition to the rotation. Cronenworth has solidified himself as the team's second baseman of the future. Pomeranz didn’t allow a run until the season’s final weekend. Pham missed time due to injury, but should be a force in the lineup in the playoffs. But the most impactful offseason addition has been Grisham -- a reliable presence atop the Padres' lineup and a legitimate Gold Glove candidate in center field.

Key managerial decision:
Don't undersell Tingler's decision to let Myers bat sixth for much of the season. The Padres had grown to rely a bit too heavily on Myers during most of his tenure in San Diego. But with a much deeper lineup in 2020, the burden of carrying the offense was no longer placed on his shoulders. Myers responded in kind with a season that makes him an obvious candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Season-defining stretch:
In a wild 48-hour span, Preller took an overhauled roster and overhauled it again. Ahead of the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline, Preller traded for eight players who would make an impact -- the most big leaguers acquired in the month before the Deadline in at least the past 35 years. Among those moves, the Padres landed a front-line starter (Clevinger), a closer (Rosenthal), a starting catcher (Austin Nola), a backup catcher (Jason Castro) and a DH (Mitch Moreland).

Breakout player:
There's a strong case for Grisham, who is playing an All-Star-caliber center field. But the Padres gave up a lot to acquire Grisham, so they were banking on a big season from him. (Maybe not this big, but him doing well isn’t as much of a breakout surprise.) Cronenworth, meanwhile, was viewed by many as a throw-in in the Pham deal. Now, he's the favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award and set up to be Tatis' long-term double-play partner.

Calling card:
"We want to be able to beat you a lot of different ways," Tingler said, and the Padres do just that. Their offense ranks near the top of the Majors in both home runs and stolen bases. For all the Padres' power, they make contact, too, and employ all sorts of trickery on the bases. On the mound, they've got a deep rotation, and a bullpen that has been one of the best in baseball in the second half of the season. If anything, the Padres' calling card is their swagger. They never think they're out of a game, and their league lead in come-from-behind wins proves that hunch is often a correct one.

Memorable moment:
What else? Fernando Tatis Jr.'s 3-0 grand slam against the Rangers on Aug. 17 drew plenty of ire in the Texas clubhouse. But it sparked something special in the San Diego clubhouse. The Padres entered that night sitting a game below .500. They would go on a 21-5 tear over the following four weeks. They also hit grand slams in each of the next three games and four of the next five. In the process, the Padres became the first team in MLB history to hit a grand slam in four consecutive games. Slam Diego was born.