Just a few months ago, the San Diego Padres were one of MLB's least noteworthy teams. They didn't possess much in the way of a storied past, nor a recent track record of success. They didn't have anything resembling a franchise player on their roster (sorry, Ian Kennedy). Perhaps most importantly, the Padres didn't have much to look forward to in the future, either. The wealthy Dodgers and wildly successful Giants ruled the NL West, and neither appeared likely to relinquish their supremacy anytime soon.
But ever since the Padres hired A.J. Preller as their new general manager, San Diego has been the most entertaining place in baseball. The club's remarkable offseason continued Monday when the Padres reportedly agreed to terms with James Shields on a four-year deal.
The signing of Shields put the finishing touches (unless Cole Hamels is next) on what has been a winter of persistent wheeling and dealing for Preller. When the Padres take the field on Opening Day this April, they'll do so with a roster that will be unrecognizable from the team's 2014 version. Here is a rundown of all the comings and goings in San Diego this offseason:
Once the 2014 season ended, Preller wasted little time in re-shaping the Padres' roster. After weeks of rumors, San Diego landed Matt Kemp and back-up catcher Tim Federowicz from the Dodgers for young backstop Yasmani Grandal and two lesser prospects, agreeing to pay a large portion of Kemp's salary in the process. Sure, Kemp comes with his risks, but the veteran outfielder batted .309/.365/.606 in the second half last season and also gives the Padres the type of recognizable talent they've lacked in recent years.
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Preller didn't stop his outfield makeover there, of course. In a span of two days in mid-December, the Padres traded for Wil Myers and Justin Upton, adding two more right-handed power bats to a lineup that lacked any kind of punch in 2014. That Myers was available came as a huge surprise, even if San Diego had to part with underrated catcher Rene Rivera and young right-hander Burch Smith in the process. Upton cost more young talent, including San Diego's No. 1 overall pick in 2012, Max Fried, but he brings with him a strong track record of production and won't turn 28 until August of next season.
The Padres still weren't done, however. They made two shrewd, under-the-radar moves in trading for A's catcher Derek Norris and young right-hander Brandon Maurer, surrendering expendable pieces in Jesse Hahn and Seth Smith in the process. Norris will immediately take over starting catching duties and give San Diego another above-average bat, while Maurer has the makings of a legitimate back-of-the-bullpen weapon.
Beyond these larger moves, Preller also took one-year flyers on Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson in free agency, and traded for Will Middlebrooks, who still has some offensive upside despite his struggles in Boston the past two seasons.
The most remarkable part of the Padres' offseason is that they acquired all this talent without giving up any of their top three prospects. Grandal is probably the best player that San Diego traded, and although he is a breakout candidate in 2015, the young backstop remains a player who has shown more potential than production in the major leagues.
Besides Grandal, the best two MLB players that Preller parted with were Rivera and Seth Smith, neither of whom are indispensable to the club's future. Rivera receives great marks for his pitch-framing ability, but has a career on-base percentage of .279 in the big leagues. Smith, meanwhile, is little more than a platoon option against righties even if he had a career year in 2014.
The Padres did trade away a bevy of young talent, the most notable names being Fried and Dustin Peterson, who landed in Atlanta for Upton. Jesse Hahn, Joe Ross, Burch Smith and Joe Wieland are all young arms who likely have major league futures , but each comes with plenty of flaws as well. Given the fickle nature of pitching prospects, the Padres shouldn't feel too sorry for parting with any of them.
Projected 2015 lineup and rotation
With the dust all but settled on a busy offseason, what the Padres now have are the makings of a team that can contend in 2015. They aren't a slam-dunk choice for the NL crown by any means, especially in the competitive NL West, but San Diego can at least expect a much-improved offense and potentially dominant rotation if things break right.
Ultimately, Preller has pushed forward the club's window of contention and done a remarkable job of adding depth to the major league roster. Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and Will Venable (along with newcomers Federowicz and Middlebrooks) will help give the Padres plenty of bench options as well. There is plenty of risk here, but Preller has also given San Diego the legitimate means to contend out west both now and over the long-term.
Lineup (bold = new acquisition)
Catcher - Derek Norris
First base - Yonder Alonso
Second Base - Jedd Gyorko
Shortstop - Alexi Amarista
Third base - Yangervis Solarte
Left Field - Matt Kemp
Center Field - Wil Myers
Right Field - Justin Upton
Rotation (bold = new acquisition)