These days there seems to be more and more teams committing to a massive rebuild. Trade away veterans, acquire prospects, and hope it all works out somewhere down the line. There’s a lot of talk about the future and very little about the present.
Rebuilds can be important and necessary, though I think most fans enjoy seeing their favorite team go all-in and trying to win in a given year. That’s why we all watch, right? We want to watch meaningful games. Rebuilds can be fun in their own way, but winning trumps all.
Perhaps no team made a more ill-advised attempt at going all-in than the San Diego Padres last season. New GM A.J. Preller swung a series of blockbuster trades that left the Padres with a mismatched roster. They had players playing out of position, the team defense was terrible, and they were way too right-handed.
The result was 74-win season in 2015, three fewer than the year before. Going all-in failed spectacularly, so last offseason they set out to begin a rebuild. Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy were allowed to leave as free agents, and both Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit were traded away. It was time to pick up the pieces.
Not surprisingly, the Padres are having another poor season in 2016. They came into Friday’s game with a 62-84 record, so they’ve already clinched their sixth straight losing season. San Diego is on pace to lose 93 games, which would be represent their worst season since going 63-99 in 2008.
Being bad on the field is one thing. Heck, it’s expected of rebuilding teams. This year the Padres managed to be bad on the field and something of an embarrassment off it. It’s been about as bad a season as it can be in sunny San Diego. Look at some of the problems they’ve dealt with.
1. Ross gets hurt
Over the last few seasons Tyson Ross has been one of the best and most unheralded pitchers in baseball. He pitched to a 3.03 ERA (117 ERA+) in 391 2/3 innings from 2014-15 and established himself as the staff ace. Ross was expected to be a key trade chip during the team’s rebuild.
Instead, Ross got hammered on Opening Day (eight runs in 5 1/3 innings) and hasn’t been heard from since. He was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation shortly thereafter and has dealt with on-and-off discomfort since. The Padres got one start out of their ace in 2016, and they were unable to trade him because of the injury. Even if they try to trade him now, Ross can be considered damaged goods.
2. Chairman rips the team
In early June, with his team sitting at 20-33 and in last place in the NL West, Padres chairman Ron Fowler ripped into his ballclub and called them “miserable failures.” Here’s more of Fowler’s rant:
“It’s been embarrassing. I don’t know how else to put it,” Fowler said. “Our performance on the road trip, 1-7, was pathetic.
“I’m a very competitive individual. I think I’ve won a lot more than lost in my life. This baseball experience has been very frustrating, very embarrassing.”
Fowler also singled out veteran right-hander James Shields , calling one of his recent starts “an embarrassment to the team, an embarrassment to him.” Ouch.
Most fans and pundits could see the Padres were not headed for a great season in 2016. Did folks expect them to be this bad? Maybe not. Clearly Fowler did not. His rant suggests his expectations of the team were way out of line with reality. This was a George Steinbrenner rant by someone with a fraction of the clout.
3. Shields traded in salary dump
Soon after Fowler ripped into the team, Shields was traded to the Chicago White Sox in what amounted to a salary dump. San Diego received a teenage prospect (Fernando Tatis Jr.) and a depth arm ( Erik Johnson ) for Shields and a big chunk of his contract. The Padres agreed to pay $31 million of the $58 million left on his contract, so they freed up $27 million.
Shields was signed last year as part of the team’s attempt to contend, and obviously it did not work out as hoped. Simply put, the signing was a disaster. They paid a lot of money and gave up a high draft pick for an average pitcher and two lottery tickets. Free agent signings don’t get much worse. Bad deals like that sink small market teams.
4. Kemp traded in salary dump
Prior to the trade deadline, the Padres made another salary dump trade, this one sending Matt Kemp to the Atlanta Braves for the embattled Hector Olivera . San Diego was so desperate to rid themselves of Kemp that they traded him for a player suspended under the league domestic violence policy, who they then immediately released. They did all that to save $25.5 million through 2018.
As with the Shields signing, the Kemp trade has been a disaster for the Padres. They gave up a very productive young catcher ( Yasmani Grandal ) to get him, and were so desperate to get rid of him less than two years later that they took literally nothing in return. They acquired a player who is persona non grata around the league and released him. The 2015 all-in plan just keeps looking worse.
5. Fowler rips the team again
Because once was not enough, Fowler again stood in front of a microphone and blasted his team in August at an event for season ticket holders. Specifically, Fowler ripped Kemp for what he perceived to be a lack of effort and a bad attitude.
“I’ll be damned if we’re going to pay high-priced talent to sit on their butts and not perform,” Fowler said.
“We made a conscious decision to ship them out because we want people that are prepared to improve,” Fowler said. “If you’re making a lot of money and you think you’re already there, you’re not going to get better.
“… They had a bad attitude. You saw Kemp’s letter. Talk about a bunch of B.S.”
The letter Fowler referred to is an article Kemp posted at The Players’ Tribune, in which he thanked Padres fans for the last two years and said he was excited to join the Braves, his childhood team.
So, after shipping Kemp out of town, Fowler ripped him by essentially questioning his work ethic. That creates headlines and generates internet clicks, but, in reality, all it does is further the divide between the players and ownership. Who’s going to want to play for this guy now? How are the players going to feel comfortable in the clubhouse?
6. Preller gets suspended
To cap it all off, GM A.J. Preller was suspended 30 days without pay earlier this week after MLB investigated some shady dealings. In a nutshell, the Padres withheld medical information from other teams during trade talks to gain a competitive advantage. They kept two sets of medical records: the bare bones set that was filed with MLB’s central medical information bank, and a more detailed set for themselves.
The investigation and the suspension stemmed from the Drew Pomeranz trade with the Boston Red Sox . Pomeranz was receiving treatment while with the Padres that Boston was not alerted to until Pomeranz told them himself after the trade. Also, pitcher Colin Rea was returned after a trade with the Miami Marlins due to a preexisting elbow injury.
This is the second time Preller has been suspended by MLB — he was suspended a few years ago when he headed up the Texas Rangers ‘ international scouting department — and while the suspension may seem light given the infraction, remember that the team’s reputation is in the tank now. How can any team trust them in trade talks? This is a big black eye for the organization. No doubt about it.
To be fair, it hasn’t all been bad for the Padres this season. Wil Myers has broken out as a star and both slugger Alex Dickerson and righty Luis Perdomo look like keepers. The Pomeranz trade, medical issues aside, was very well received because they received a premium prospect (Anderson Espinoza) in return. Ryan Schimpf , Travis Jankowski , and Ryan Buchter have emerged as well. There are some positives.
In the grand scheme of things though, the Padres have had a miserable 2016 season, both on and off the field. They haven’t played well, and between Fowler’s rants and Preller’s suspension, they’ve become something of a laughingstock. This franchise has a long way to go to get back to respectability. The last two years have been a big step back.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Here are six reasons the Padres have been both bad and embarrassing in 2016