San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller was suspended by Major League Baseball for 30 days without pay as a result of an investigation into the July 14 trade of pitcher Drew Pomeranz from San Diego to the Boston Red Sox.
This is not the first time Preller has run afoul of baseball rules, and perhaps more alarmingly it could be a part of a larger problem for the Padres.
Pomeranz made the National League All-Star team with a 2.47 ERA in 17 starts for the Padres, and during the All-Star break was dealt to the Red Sox for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. The 18-year-old Espinoza was a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball before the 2016 season, rated 19th by Baseball America, 39th by MLB.com, and 73rd by Baseball Prospectus.
At issue was whether the Padres shared all relevant medical information prior to the trade of Pomeranz, who has a 4.60 ERA in 11 starts with Boston.
“Sources within the Boston organization say it wasn't until after the deal was made, that they became aware of some of the preventative measures that had been provided for Pomeranz,” reported Buster Olney of ESPN earlier on Thursday.
"We accept the discipline handed down from Major League Baseball earlier today and will fully comply with Commissioner Manfred's recommendations pertaining to changes with our medical administration and record keeping,” the Padres said in a press release. “Rest assured, we will leave no stone unturned in developing comprehensive processes to remediate this unintentional, but inexcusable, occurrence.
“To be clear, we believe that there was no intent on the part of A.J. Preller or other members of our baseball operations staff to mislead other cubs. We are obviously disappointed that we will lose A.J.'s services for 30 days, but will work closely with him upon his reinstatement to ensure that this unfortunate set of circumstances does not happen again.”
MLB in a statement said after thorough review from its department of investigations that it considers the Pomeranz matter closed. But that might not mean San Diego nor Preller is yet out of hot water.
The Padres also made a trade with the Miami Marlins, sending starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea to Miami in a seven-player deal on July 29. But in his first start for Miami, Rea left in the fourth inning with elbow pain, a condition the Marlins were unaware of when the trade was made.
Those two teams were able to amend the deal, with the Padres taking back the injured Rea for minor league pitcher Luis Castillo, one of the players Miami originally sent to San Diego in the transaction.
If this pattern seems familiar, it may be by design. Olney reported that the Padres under Preller have kept two different medical databases, one for internal use and another, less informative one for sharing.
According to the two sources with direct knowledge of the meetings, the athletic trainers were told that by splitting the medical files into two categories, the Padres would benefit in trade discussions.
According to sources, the Padres reached midseason with dramatically fewer medical entries on their players [in MLB’s centralized system]. An average number of entries for a given team might be in the range of 60 by the All-Star break. The Padres had fewer than 10, according to a source.
Preller, hired by the Padres as executive vice president and general manager in August 2014, was also suspended by MLB while he was the director of international scouting for the Rangers, for whom he worked since 2004.
MLB never officially announced Preller’s suspension with Texas, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports in 2014 reported the suspension was for a violation of international scouting guidelines, and was originally for three months but appealed down to one month, plus a $50,000 fine paid by the Rangers.
But that’s not all.
Despite these reported efforts by Preller to game the system, the Padres are finishing out their sixth consecutive losing campaign, and their second straight with Preller as GM. The team lost 88 games in 2015, Preller’s first full season in San Diego. This year, San Diego (62-84) needs to finish 12-4 just to match that mark.
"I accept full responsibility for issues related to the oversight of our medical administration and record keeping,” Preller said in a press release. “I want to emphasize that here was no malicious intent on the part of me, or anyone on my staff, to conceal information or disregard MLB's recommended guidelines. This has been a learning process for me. I will serve my punishment and look forward to being back on the job in 30 days.”