A.J. Preller is the next general manager of the San Diego Padres. He is 36-years-old.
While Preller is under 40, he does have over ten years of experience working in an MLB front office. Youth is the new in when it comes to sports hiring it seems, and the Padres hope that Preller can join his old Cornell fraternity brother and Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels as a successful executive. Daniels of course became the youngest general manager in history at just 28-years-old. He was even younger than Theo Epstein was when he had taken the reins of the Boston Red Sox.
Some questions could be asked how ready Preller will be to run an organization. Though he has served as director of player development and scouting, it certainly stands to reason he will make some mistakes upon taking the job.
Daniels made a few early bad moves with the Rangers, as the Padres can thank him for Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. Yet for trades like that could doom a career, he then traded Mark Teixeira later that season, for prospects Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, all starters in the majors leagues today, and two still key members of the Rangers.
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Later in 2006, as the Rangers were contending, they traded for a rental first baseman in Carlos Lee, but in giving up four players of their own asked for a throw-in. Meet Nelson Cruz, who hit a lot of home runs for the Rangers before being suspended last season for PED use and leaving for the Orioles where he currently leads the AL in home runs.
The point is – Preller was a consistent voice behind all of these player decisions. For a Padres’ team that has been involved in more bad trades than Adam Eaton and Aki trades listed above, this is a very good sign. While general managers and their mentors have a history of following each other and making similar decisions (see the path of Jed Hoyer, Theo Epstein, and follow Anthony Rizzo around the league), for every good decision, they see their mentors make the mentees also seek to avoid those same mistakes.
The Rangers organization has come under fire in the past several seasons for how they have handled their players with both Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler taking shots at Jon Daniels before, during, and after leaving. Kinsler called Daniels a “sleazeball” and hoped the Rangers went 0-162. They are well short of expectations this year, but their pitching staff has been decimated and their biggest off-season acquisition in Prince Fielder is done for the season. Hopefully Preller was paying attention and can make better personnel decisions in that regard.
He has been around a franchise that made it to the World Series two years in a row – and Padres ownership is committed to spending the money and making the moves to do it. As Padres’ fans that have not seen the Padres get close to the World Series since 1998 – we’ll take getting there and take our chances. What he inherits now is the question, but a rising slew of prospects both offensively and pitching-wise must excite him. Will Preller find the next Odrisamer Despaigne? Is Nelson Cruz waiting to be traded for Ian Kennedy? Time will tell.
Congratulations Padres fans, let’s hope this one lasts longer than the now-departed Josh Byrnes and brings a championship to San Diego.