The San Diego Padres were the most talked about team in Major League Baseball during the offseason, due in large part to their new General Manager, A.J. Preller. There is no doubt that the offseason is used to analyze the previous campaign, be it successes or failures, and make organizational moves to help carve the path to a world Series Championship. Hired on August 5, 2015, Preller and the San Diego Padres took this process to an entirely new level. With 61 transactions (trades, free agent signings, designations for assignments, Minor League moves, etc.) from December to February, the Padres were easily the busiest team in baseball during the winter months.
In a 24-hour window between December 18-19, the Padres made a total of 30 transactions which, since data became available, is the most ever by a Major League club in a 24-hour window. Among these moves were three blockbuster trades that brought two All-Stars and the 2013 American League (AL) Rookie of the Year to America's Finest City.
On December 18, Padres General Manager (GM) A.J. Preller and Los Angeles Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman agreed to a trade that would send All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego along with about $32 million to help cover part of Kemp's remaining $107 million salary. Kemp, who finished second in National League (NL) MVP voting in 2011, finished the second half of the 2014 season hitting 17 of his season total 25 home runs and led the Major Leagues in slugging percentage over the same time period. His only downside is that injuries have cost him 150 games over the last three seasons. He underwent a major shoulder operation after playing 106 games in 2012 and ankle surgery after playing 73 games in 2013.
On December 19, Preller continued to work his magic as he and Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart agreed to a deal that saw All-Star outfielder Justin Upton and top Braves prospect Aaron Northcraft to the Friars in exchange for former first-rounders Jace Peterson and Max Fried, third baseman Dustin Peterson and center fielder Mallex Smith. Upton, who is a two-time all-star and one of three NL outfielders awarded the 2014 NL Silver Slugger Award, was considered one of the Braves' best position players and finished 2014 with a .270/.342/.491 slash line with 29 home runs and 102 RBIs in 641 plate appearances.
The final mega-trade of this whirlwind 24-hour period was a three team trade involving the Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals. In this deal, the Padres received 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, catcher Ryan Hanigan, left-hander Jose Castillo, and righthander Gerardo Reyes from Tampa Bay and in return sent right handed pitcher Burch Smith, first baseman Jake Bauers and catcher Rene Rivera. As part of the deal with the Nationals, San Diego sent right-hander Joe Ross and a player to be named, who will join his new club as a player to be named later on June 14. Myers won AL Rookie of the Year in 2013 by hitting .293 with 13 homers in just 88 games. Unfortunately he was kept to just 87 games in his first full professional season due to a fractured right wrist and only hit .222 with six homers and a .614 OPS in 325 at-bats.
Between January 7 and February 27, Preller and the Padres signed 27 free agents to either Major League or Minor League contracts. The biggest name among those signed was All-Star and former Kansas City Royal James Shields. Preller signed Shields to a four-year $75 million deal, with a club option for a fifth year. This deal is the largest contract, free agent or otherwise, in Padres history surpassing Jake Peavy's three-year $52 million contract in 2008, the previous record-holder.
In 2014, Shields led the AL Champion Kansas City Royals with a 14-8 record, 3.21 ERA, 180 strikeouts and only 4 walks in 227 innings. Entering his 10th season in the big leagues, Shields holds a career 144-90 record with a 3.72 ERA with time spent with the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City.
In just eight months on the job, A.J. Preller has put the Padres in an excellent position to make some noise in the NL West and make all other National League teams sit up and take notice.
While speaking in El Paso at the Chihuahuas Winter Banquet in January he touched on several different topics including the flurry of activity in the offseason. While talking about his mindset during the offseason and goals for the franchise Preller stated, "[We] want to put a team on the field that is successful and generates interest, we think we have done that the last few months and we will see how things play out here in San Diego this year."