Padres revamp roster with series of blockbuster trades
The San Diego Padres took a break from a dizzying series of trades Friday afternoon to introduce one of their new sluggers, Matt Kemp.
Kemp, in turn, put the blockbusters by general manager A.J. Preller into perspective as only a guy fresh from Hollywood could.
"This is unbelievable. He's a GM rock star right now, moving in and out and doing so many things right now," said Kemp, who sat between Preller and manager Bud Black at news conference at Petco Park. "Every day there's something different."
Preller smiled and said, "That's definitely the first time I've gotten the rock star tag."
Later, Preller, a native New Yorker, said he listens to Frank Sinatra most mornings, "but I don't know if that characterizes me as a rock star."
Preller has certainly gotten the Padres humming with a badly needed new identity in just more than a week.
Since Dec. 11, Preller has worked a five-player deal with the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers to get Kemp; an 11-player deal with Tampa Bay and Washington to get outfielder Wil Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year with the Rays; a six-player deal with Atlanta for slugger Justin Upton; a four-player trade with Oakland that landed All-Star catcher Derek Norris; and a straight-up trade with Boston to get third baseman Will Middlebrooks for catcher Ryan Hanigan, who came over from Tampa Bay.
Preller's wheeling and dealing isn't over yet, since he has a surplus of outfielders.
It's a stunning haul for a team that has had only two winning seasons since its last playoff appearance, in 2006.
Preller said acquiring Kemp kicked-started the process, and the other deals started falling into place.
Preller has managed to give Black a more well-rounded club "that gives us a chance," while retaining top three starters Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, and most top prospects.
"We wanted to get a core group that we could give to Buddy and his coaches and hopefully have that group play together for a long time," Preller said.
Preller said the Padres are taking a "win now and win later attitude. I don't think we went out and just emptied the cupboards and don't have any other players in the system. We definitely looked at different paths to the offseason and one of the things that was attractive to us was to find a way to get offense without touching the front-line pitching in the big leagues."
Black said the caliber of players "that have come in in a short period of time is extremely impressive, from All-Stars to MVP candidates to guys who are talked as potentially some of the best players in the game as far as talent and production."
Preller was hired in August after developing a reputation as a hard-working, hard-charging scouting and player development executive with the Texas Rangers.
Kemp and Upton are among the game's top power hitters.
Kemp had a strong second half in 2014 for the NL West champion Dodgers. He finished the season with a .287 average, 25 home runs and 89 RBI. That deal, agreed to early the morning of Dec. 11 at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, was finalized Thursday night.
Although he's hit well at Petco Park, Kemp said he hated facing Padres pitchers.
"Now we have some offense and we're going to help them score runs," he said.
On Thursday, there was a report the Padres were concerned that Kemp had arthritic hips.
"I've got a little arthritis," he said, adding that it's nothing to worry about.
"These hips are unbelievable, man," he said to laughter. "These hips are great. You all keep talking about my hips. You want to see my hips, man? Strong hips."
Upton, who will earn $14.5 million in the final year of his contract, had 29 homers and 102 RBI last season. That deal has yet to be finalized.
Preller seems to be a later-day "Trader Jack" McKeon, just without the cigar. McKeon was general manager of the Padres when they went to the World Series in 1984, earning his nickname for his fondness for deals.
The Padres also got catcher Tim Federowicz and $32 million from the Dodgers to help defray the remaining $107 million on Kemp's deal. The Padres' obligation of $75 million to Kemp during the next five years becomes the biggest contract in club history. The Dodgers got catcher Yasmani Grandal and right-handers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.
Myers and Hanigan came over from Tampa Bay in an 11-player, three-team deal. The Padres gave up catcher Rene Rivera and four prospects. Shortly after that trade was finalized Friday morning, Preller flipped Hanigan for Middlebrooks.
Upton and a minor-league pitcher cost Preller four prospects, including lefty Max Fried.
The Padres had a historically awful offense in the first half of 2014. Although they played better in the second half, they finished at the bottom of the majors with a .226 average, .292 on-base percentage and 535 runs. Their 109 homers were the second fewest in the baseball.