Rebuilding the Padres: What is the Plan?

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A.J. Preller tried to knit together a contender last season with veterans like James Shields and Matt Kemp, young former top prospects like Wil Myers and Jedd Gyorko, and whoever else he could trade for. It did not work. When you look at the teams that made the playoffs though you see a pattern emerge: Rebuilds. Last year the Astros, Cubs, and Mets joined the Royals, Pirates, and Blue Jays as teams that have reached the playoffs after long years of blank spaces on their stadium facades.

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The Padres fit the profile of a team due for a post-season appearance, but until this year haven’t seemed to either fully embrace a rebuild and content with mediocrity and hope. Now to start the 2015-16 off-season they have traded away Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso. So what is next for the Padres and how much will they embrace the rebuild?

For perspective, the Padres didn’t really get started last season until December 18th when they traded for Matt Kemp. So in some sense it is very likely A.J. Preller is about to set off another domino rally of deals to bring the Padres up to par. Yet it doesn’t really feel that way, does it?

Baseball is getting younger. The Blue Jays were the oldest team at 28.4 years old with the Brewers the youngest at 25.9. Teams are being built on speed, youth, and raw power. Teams build up their farm system, then lower the boom with a few key veterans at high prices to go all in. Look at how the Royals spent years drafting and raising up their Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez‘ before acquiring a few key pieces in James Shields and Wade Davis which helped them reach the World Series in 2014. Last year they gambled and won in a big way on Chris Young, Kendrys Morales and a mid-season trade of Johnny Cueto.

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The Cubs had been middling around for years making playoff runs every 5 years when they got lucky until Theo Epstein took over with a plan. He traded away veterans like Aramis Ramirez and began stockpiling younger prospects. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and then Kris Bryant who moved along in 2014. Then in 2015 he got Joe Maddon to come manage, saw an emergence in Jake Arrieta and went out and got Jon Lester. What do you know they made it to the playoffs. Yet 2016 is now clearly the real year they were planning to come out. Jason Heyward signed with the club Friday, and along with playoff veteran John Lackey they look hard to stop.

Which brings us back to the Padres. They signed up James Shields and Matt Kemp to long contracts last year and both of them are over 30. Yet Preller appears to see the light. Gone are middle of the road starters Alonso and Jedd Gyorko. With the addition of Christian Bethancourt from the Braves, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Derrick Norris shipped away for prospects as well. The bullpen is void of stars, and only perhaps Tyson Ross could be seen at this point as any sort of building block. Unless you count Hunter Renfroe in the minor leagues.

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The only hard part to take is that the Padres seemed to have had a larger stable to minor league talent that they traded away last year. Max Fried and Mallex Smith hold down spots on the Braves top prospects list while Justin Upton is gone after a season and Melvin Upton Jr. isn’t. Matt Wisler is 23 and starting in the major leagues, along with Trea Turner at a position the Padres desperately need: shortstop.

Of course rebuilds are tough to gauge. The Royals stuck with the Dayton Moore plan for years before it finally paying off the last two seasons. Will Padres Team President Mike Dee and other executives have the same patience?

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