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A.J. Preller, Padres more prepared to go wild this winter

The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Baseball

SAN DIEGO -- The last time the Baseball Winter Meetings were in San Diego, A.J. Preller walked out of his temporary home at the Marriott Gaslamp Quarter each day, made his way toward Harbor Drive and entered the Manchester Grand Hyatt, where he launched a transformation of the Padres roster.

He didn't officially consummate any trades during those meetings, but it was there that the deal to acquire Matt Kemp from the Dodgers was agreed upon and two other monumental trades essentially germinated. The week here kicked off an offseason in which Preller engineered trades and/or signings of what ended up being four new starting position players, a frontline starting pitcher and the National League's top closer. Between them, the new acquisitions had seven All-Star appearances and two Rookie of the Year awards.

Five years later, the Padres general manager has an actual home up Interstate 5 a bit from downtown. He also has a clearer focus, sharpened by the knowledge that comes from experience, an improved structure of internal communication and what seem to be fewer gaping holes to fill.

But as the Winter Meetings return to the Hyatt, Preller has already demonstrated he will be no less maniacal as he attempts to improve his team.

The binge Preller embarked on in the winter of 2014, just a few months after being hired in early August to his first GM gig, enflamed a fan base and caused many observers to predict the Padres would end what was then an eight-year run without a postseason appearance.

By June 2015, manager Bud Black had been fired. By season's end, the Padres were 14 games under .500 and 18 games out of first place in the National League West.

 

The franchise's most recent playoff appearance remains 2006, and this past season was the Padres' ninth straight with a losing record.

It would be myopic to declare that winter an absolute failure, as Preller turned a number of those veteran acquisitions into prospects in trades made over the following year-and-a-half.

But the attempt at the quick fix was a waste of time and money.

And as Preller has launched this offseason at a frenetic pace, making three significant trades and signing a free agent reliever, another legacy of that offseason five years ago is the reminder to beware of the winter wins.

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