On Opening Day, the San Diego Padres’ payroll was $108 million, a team record.
Today, their odds of reaching the postseason are about 5 percent, according to FanGraphs.com.
In the calculus of general manager A.J. Preller over the next several weeks, the second number will weigh more heavily than the first.
Some in the industry believe Preller will be reluctant to trade stars like Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel, for fear of embarrassment after raising expectations with a flurry of offseason moves. But Preller’s aggressive nature, which drove the team’s frenetic winter, hasn’t disappeared in a matter of months.
If Preller is presented with the right deal between now and the July 31 non-waiver deadline, he’s going to make it — whatever the public perception may be. And that is why the Padres could be as integral to baseball’s midsummer swap meet as they were in December and January.
The Padres’ current stretch likely will determine Preller’s course, and the early returns have not been encouraging: They are 7-14 since firing manager Bud Black last month. Contending general managers have called Preller, but — for now – he’s telling him that he needs more time to evaluate his team.
Preller has two significant reasons to trade his veteran players: The Padres are unlikely to make up an 8-1/2-game deficit in the National League West, and their farm system (thinned by several significant trades) must be replenished. San Diego’s major-league infield is in particular need of an overhaul, with shortstop one notable weakness.
So, who could Preller trade?
Upton and fellow outfielder Will Venable, starter Ian Kennedy (who has pitched well lately) and relievers Joaquin Benoit and Shawn Kelley are in the final guaranteed year of their contracts.
Kimbrel and starters Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner are valuable pieces, particularly because they’d come with multiple years of control.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who has a history of trades involving large numbers of players, could address his team’s primary needs by acquiring both Kimbrel and one of the starters.
Upton fits any team that needs more offense from an outfield corner, including the Angels, Giants, Yankees and Nationals (whose general manager, Mike Rizzo, drafted Upton for the Arizona Diamondbacks a decade ago).
Venable is a perfect fit for the Cubs, because of his left-handed bat, ability to play all three outfield positions and first-rate clubhouse character.
In less than one year as the Padres’ GM, Preller has proven he’s happy to make a trade whenever the justification exists to do so. It appears he will have that opportunity once more over the next several weeks.