Are the San Diego Padres rebuilding? Tanking? Is there a difference? Fans can only hope that their wait for a winner doesn’t drag on for much longer.
The San Diego Padres front office may prefer to say the team is in rebuilding mode, but others in baseball know a tanking team when they see one. “GM A.J. Preller’s unprecedented 2017 roster is as unabashed a tanking declaration as we’ve seen from any recent rebuilder,” Ben Lindbergh, staff writer for The Ringer put it succinctly.
The composition of the starting pitching staff at the beginning of the season signaled a clear intent to end up as a bottom feeder. After all, the lower in the standings at the end of the season, the higher the team drafts the following year.
The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, poster children for tanking, ended up with players like Carlos Correa (9.3 total WAR) and Kris Bryant (16.6) thanks to their abysmal records for several years. But high draft picks alone do not build a winner. Both the Astros and Cubs took other routes to winning seasons as well, including intelligent free agent signings and trades. For example, the Cubs turned Andrew Cashner into Anthony Rizzo courtesy of the Padres.
However, the Padres have unique disadvantages in both the trade and free-agent markets. Thanks to Preller’s indiscretions in dealing with other teams, any trades with the Padres will be approached with an extra dose of caution. Executive Chairman Ron Fowler’s intemperate interviews will lead free agents to think twice about engaging in discussions with San Diego. Fowler recently targeted pitcher Jered Weaver in an interview on the Dan Sileo Show on 1090 AM.
“At this point, you would like to think someone in the organization would talk to Fowler about dialing it back a little during his interviews,” Chris Cwik (of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports) wrote in response to the interview. “The Padres haven’t exactly turned themselves into a desirable destination for free agents lately, and having an executive who is happy to rip struggling players isn’t going to help.”
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Thus, the drafting and developing of young players carries even further weight for San Diego as long as Fowler and Preller remain in leadership positions. Historically the Padres have been renowned for their futility in those vital areas. According to some evaluators though, the Padres’ minor league system has improved and is ranked as high as third.
Baseball America ranked San Diego 9 at the beginning of this year, up from 25 in 2016 and 14 in 2015. However, in 2014, the year that Preller took over, Baseball America actually ranked the farm system at 6, obviously higher than it does now.
In other words, under Preller the Padres’ farm system may have tread water or even regressed. Padres’ fans, used to waiting, will just have to wait at least a year or longer to see if the oft promised waves of talent actually appear this time around.