Busy offseason propels Padres into contention
San Diego Padres fans finally have reasons to be optimistic. And they can thank new general manager A.J. Preller for the feeling.
Preller has acted aggressively this offseason, making a trio of swift moves in an effort to propel the Padres into contender status. In less than four months on the job, the former Texas Rangers assistant GM has executed two potential franchise-altering trades in addition to a savvy free-agent signing to buck San Diego's recent losing ways.
After landing two-time All-Star Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Preller plucked Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a three-team, 11-player deal. The corner outfielders offer the Padres what they needed more than anything else: offense.
San Diego was the worst hitting team in baseball in 2014, ranking last in runs scored (535), batting average (.226) and OPS (.634), and addressed that hole by acquiring two middle-of-the-order hitters who are both under team control through 2019.
The Padres owe Kemp $75 million over the next five years, as the Dodgers are reportedly eating over $30 million in the proposed deal. Despite his injury history and often-chastised defensive abilities, there's no way he could be had for that little on the open market.
Kemp has plenty to offer even if he's entered his decline phase. He was finally healthy in 2014, playing in 150 games, and slugged a major league best .606 in the second half with 17 homers.
Myers, meanwhile, struggled through an injury-shortened sophomore campaign - slashing a measly .222/.294/.320 with six homers in 87 games - but was one of the game's rising young stars not long ago.
The 24-year-old thrived in the minor leagues before hitting .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers in 2013 to earn American League Rookie of the Year honors.
A 2009 third-round pick of the Kansas City Royals, Myers was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in 2012 for swatting 37 homers with a .987 OPS.
There are questions about his approach and ability to make contact, but his power potential is especially attractive as league-wide offensive numbers continue to dwindle across the game.
So is Kemp's, and the new faces of the franchise will be counted on to provide that power at a tough park for right-handers to hit.
San Diego bolstered its pitching, too, by signing oft-injured righty Brandon Morrow to a bargain one-year, $2.5-million deal. The 30-year-old has power stuff - a mid-90s fastball and hard slider - but injuries have limited him to 87 2/3 innings since 2013.
Morrow can pitch out of the bullpen - if he's not part of San Diego's five-man staff - where he was throwing up to 100 mph for the Toronto Blue Jays in September. And if he does start, Morrow will join a high-upside rotation featuring fellow right-handers Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy.
It's an underrated staff that has been provided with some offensive support. And more help could be coming, as Preller has a surplus of outfielders he can ship out to further improve the club.
Myers' warts and Kemp's injury history may prove problematic. The flipside is that they're both potential stars capable of providing significant impacts to a team in need. Preller snagged a pair of big bats who fell out of favor with their former clubs, moves that could pay dividends for a Padres organization that has sputtered through four consecutive losing seasons.
A lot still has to go right for San Diego in 2015, including good health from players who have struggled to stay on the field. But the Padres are talented enough to contend and be a playoff threat - as crazy as that may have sounded just two weeks ago.