Was “Prellerpalooza” Good or Bad for The San Diego Padres?

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 14: Justin Upton
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 14: Justin Upton /

A.J. Preller was brought in as the Padres General Manager in 2014. Following his hiring he made a number of moves that drastically changed the culture in San Diego.

Moving young prospects for talented major-league players, Preller proved that he was serious about the Padres being contenders. He wanted to turn San Diego into a playoff-level team and made headlines regularly for the amount of big trades he pulled off.

However as the 2015 season went on the Padres weren’t winning games. They stayed at the bottom of the NL West and it looked as if Preller’s plan had failed. San Diego fired their manager at the time Bud Black and began selling off some of the assets they had acquired.

For Padres’ fans, that offseason might’ve been considered a disaster. Not only did fans get their hopes up only to be let down, but much of the farm system had been moved. The Padres hadn’t moved the needle and it looked like the Preller experiment failed.

Now going into the 2018 season, four years removed from 2015, we can finally see how Preller’s deals worked out. Obviously the original trades failed, but as Preller went back to the drawing board he was able to acquire more prospects and rebuild the farm system he tore apart.

Some Padres’ fans might consider the 2014 offseason and into the 2015 season a rough patch for the team . But with all the trades completed and all the information known, we could make a full assessment. Did “Prellerpalooza” end up being good or bad for the San Diego Padres?

Matt Kemp

What was traded: Joe Wieland, Yasmani Grandal, Zach Eflin

What was received: Hector Olivera

Trading for Matt Kemp was Preller’s first big move as GM and the deal that kicked off “Prellerpalooza”. It was a shocking deal as it not only made the Padres look like legit contenders in the West, but they were able to acquire a former All-Star from a division rival.

Kemp had some good moments for the Padres. He was the first player to hit for the cycle in team history. Overall he batted .264 with 46 home runs, 169 RBIs and 12 stolen bases during his 254 games with the club. But with the Padres failing to move the needle, he was dealt in a salary dump to the Braves for Hector Olivera.

Olivera never appeared in a game with the Padres after being suspended for Domestic Violence while with Atlanta. When his suspension ended San Diego designated him for assignment prior to releasing him.

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Trading for Olivera saved San Diego $25.5 million in cap space. They were not looking for prospects in return for Kemp, just looking to get his massive contract off the books.

As for what they gave up, Wieland appeared in just two games for the Dodgers, pitching to a 0-1 record with an 8.31 ERA. Eflin never pitched for the Dodgers as he was traded to the Phillies  in the Jimmy Rollins deal.

Grandal ended up being the jewel of the deal for Los Angeles. Over 370 games with the Dodgers, Grandal has hit .237 with 65 home runs and 177 RBIs. He has also thrown out 25% of his runners and was voted to the 2015 All-Star game.

The backstop hasn’t been amazing, and arguably with Austin Hedges waiting in the wings he would’ve been traded anyway. However he has given the Dodgers solid production whereas Kemp has not for the Padres.

Trading for Kemp was a bold start for Preller, although it didn’t end up working in the end. While the Padres didn’t get burned too hard, they did lose an All-Star closer for a player who didn’t help them get any closer to the postseason.

Verdict: Bad

Justin Upton

What was traded: Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson, Mallex Smith

What was received: Left as Free Agent

When the Padres traded for Upton, fans around the league started to see that San Diego was serious. That A.J. Preller wanted to turn this team around quick and would do whatever he could to do so.

Upton was one of the few players who actually succeeded during his time with San Diego. Over 150 games he hit .251 with 26 home runs, 81 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. He was voted to the 2015 MLB All-Star team.

However like Kemp, he didn’t help the team move any closer to the postseason. Unlike Kemp though the Padres weren’t able to move him and saw him leave as a free agent following the 2015 season.

Preller showed his cards with this deal, trading one of his top prospects in Max Fried to land the star outfielder. In 2013 Fried was listed as the Padres’ top prospects and the 31st best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline.

In today’s time Fried is ranked as the Braves’ 8th best prospect and is expected to arrive in the majors by 2018. After dealing with Tommy John surgery for almost two years, Fried looks like the prospect Atlanta thought he was when they traded for him.

Jace Peterson has appeared in 356 major league games with the Braves, hitting .240 with 15 home runs, 98 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. With prospect Ozzie Albies reaching the majors, Peterson will likely be pushed to the bench. However he certainly isn’t the worst backup middle infielder in the league.

Dustin Peterson has yet to appear in the major leagues, although he is currently the 14th best prospect in their farm system. He is banging on the major league doors and could be called up in 2018.

Smith appeared in 72 games with the Braves, hitting .238 with three home runs, 22 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He was then traded to the Rays in a deal that landed them Luis Gohara, currently their sixth best prospect.

Overall, while Justin Upton ended up being one of the better players during the “Prellerpalooza” era, this trade hurt the Padres immensely. They dealt much of their farm system for a player who left just one year later; a tough blow to take.

Verdict: Bad

Wil Myers

What was traded: Jake Bauers, Burch Smith, Rene Rivera, Joe Ross and Trea Turner

What was received: Still on Team

When they Padres acquired Wil Myers he was just two years removed from winning Rookie of the Year. His value was sky-high, meaning San Diego had to give up a lot to get him.

Myers has excelled with the Padres, hitting .252 with 66 home runs, 197 RBIs and 53 stolen bases over 372 games. He was voted to the 2016 All-Star game and recently signed a six-year extension with the Padres. Clearly Myers has given the Padres everything they could’ve hoped for, but San Diego did have to give up three promising prospects to get him.

Smith and Rivera never returned value for Tampa Bay. Smith never appeared in a game with the Rays whereas Rivera appeared in 110 games and hit below .200.

Ross has been a solid starter for the Nationals during his three years in the league. He holds a 17-13 record with a 3.95 ERA and a 230/70 K/BB ratio. Ross hasn’t been spectacular, but will likely be Washington’s fourth or fifth starter for years to come.

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  • Turner has looked like a stud during his time in the league, hitting .304 with 25 home runs, 86 RBIs and 81 stolen bases. He is going to be a 20/20 candidate every year he’s in the league, he just has to remain healthy. Turner is definitely a player the Padres have to be upset about losing.

    Bauers will be the key to the deal. Currently the sixth best prospect in the Rays’ system, there’s a chance Bauers enters the year as the Rays’ first baseman. In 132 games at the AAA level Bauers has hit .263 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs. If Bauers ends up being a star, it’d be hard to justify this deal in the Padres’ favor.

    Overall, this deal is more of a pick em’ than lopsided. Yes the Padres did give up three great prospects, but Myers has proven to be the real deal and a force inside San Diego’s lineup. For now, it seems like every team involved got a fair shake and it could be another year or two before we know a true winner.

    Verdict: Inconclusive

    Craig Kimbrel

    What was traded: Jordan Paroubeck, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin, Competitive Balance Pick

    What was received: Logan Allen, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asujae, Manuel Margot

    Craig Kimbrel’s case is interesting as he is one of the few players who the Padres traded for and then traded away one season later.

    The Padres dealt for Kimbrel hoping he would bring them a top notch closer. He had dominated during his time with Atlanta. He wasn’t necessarily bad, but the 2015 season is the only year outside of his rookie in which Kimbrel didn’t make the playoffs.

    Kimbrel appeared in 61 games, pitching to a 2.58 ERA and a 83/30 K/BB ratio while saving 39 games. The Padres decided to part with Kimbrel after the 2015 season as the team decided to re-enter the rebuild.

    As for what they gave away, Paroubeck has never played in the major leagues. Maybin spent just one season with Atlanta before being dealt to the Tigers. Quentin never appeared in the major leagues with the Braves. The Competitive Balance Pick the Padres sent did end up turning into top prospect Austin Riley, but overall three years leader and this looks like a weak package for one of the best closers in the game.

    It wasn’t known at the time, but San Diego received a group of top prospects with one being apart of the team’s current core.

    Allen is currently the Padres’ 13th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He has a career 7-9 record with a 2.95 ERA and a 142/44 K/BB ratio over 24 minor league games. San Diego has a ton of young pitching prospects, but there’s a chance Allen could find his way to the back end of the rotation or as a long-reliever in the bullpen.

    Guerra has yet to appear above A-ball, however he was ranked as the team’s seventh best prospect in 2016. However with Fernando Tatis Jr. in the fray it’s hard to see where Guerra sits in San Diego.

    Asuaje has appeared in 96 games at the MLB level, hitting .266 with four home runs and 23 RBIs. With Tatis and fellow prospect Luis Urias on the way he may be out of a job soon. For now he has a chance to enter 2017 as the starter at second.

    Margot has undoubtedly been the star of this trade. The centerfielder was called up for good in 2017 after getting his first taste of the majors in 2016. Overall Margot has hit .261 with 13 home runs, 42 RBIs and 19 stolen bases over 136 games. Margot is apart of the team’s core and a player to build around. He is the starter in San Diego for years to come and a real 20/20 as well as Gold Glove threat.

    Overall, the Padres won this deal by a landslide. They gave away aging veterans for four players who will help the team in the future. Craig Kimbrel may not have worked out in San Diego, but Preller received arguably his best haul as a GM when he moved him.

    Verdict: Good

    James Shields

    Signed a Four Year/$75 Million contract

    What was received: Fernando Tatis Jr. and Erik Johnson

    Signing James Shields was expected to be the cherry on top to the Padres’ turnaround season. He was coming off of a year in which he appeared in 34 games, held a 14-8 record with a 3.21 ERA and helped the Royals reach the World Series.

    He was thought of the be the new ace of the staff who would be able to dominate pitcher friendly Petco Park. It also showed the Padres’ willingness to spend money as they had not be known to dole out massive contracts prior.

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  • Shields had some ups in San Diego, but for the most part flopped. He appeared in 44 games with the Padres, pitching to a 15-14 record with a 4.00 ERA and a 273/108 K/BB ratio. Those numbers may be decent for a fourth or fifth starter, but for a guy expected to be an ace, it didn’t cut it.

    He was eventually traded to the White Sox for Fernando Tatis Jr. and Erik Johnson.

    Johnson appeared in just four games with the Padres, pitching to an 0-4 record and a 9.15 ERA. Tatis Jr. on the other hand looks to be a star.

    The 18 year old has appeared in 186 minor league games, hitting .276 with 26 home runs, 100 RBIs and 47 stolen bases. He is as legit a prospect as they come and is poised to be in the top 10 by the end of 2018.

    Tatis is already banging on the MLB wall and looks almost ready to compete at the highest level. While he’ll likely spend another year in the minors, he is undoubtedly the Padres’ shortstop of the future. He has a good blend of power and speed and is already a polished hitter for his age.

    It’s important to note that the Padres still owe Shields $27 million over the next two seasons. However for a prospect as good as Tatis, that number seems worth it. Shields may not have worked out on the mound, but he did bring San Diego one of the best young players in the league. For that reason this move seems like a win for A.J. Preller.

    Verdict: Good

    Other Trades

    Overall, the five moves above define the movement of “Prellerpalooza”. However the Padres remained active and made many other deals during the period. Here are some that help define the era.

    Derek Norris

    When the Padres traded for Norris, he was coming off of an All-Star season in which he hit .270 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs. He then spent two years with the Padres, hitting .222 with 28 home runs, 104 RBIs and 13 stolen bases over 272 games.

    Eventually the Padres traded Norris to the Nationals for Pedro Avila, who has never made it above A ball.

    To acquire Norris, the Padres traded R.J. Alvarez and Jesse Hahn to the Oakland Athletics. Alvarez has appeared in 31 games over his two year career pitching to a 7.39 ERA. On the other hand, Hahn has appeared in 53 games over his four years, pitching to a 18-20 record with a 4.19 ERA and a 212/103 K/BB ratio. He’s expected to be Oakland’s fifth starter this season.

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    Overall, it’s hard to say if there was any real winner. While Hahn remains on the Athletics, he hasn’t been spectacular. This trade has to be considered a wash.

    Brandon Maurer

    The Padres traded outfielder Seth Smith to land relief pitcher Brandon Maurer. Maurer spent three seasons with San Diego, pitching to a 4.33 ERA and a 149/46 K/BB ratio with 33 saves over 166 games.

    Maurer was then moved at the 2017 Trade Deadline for a deal that included Matt Strahm. Strahm was listed as the Royals’ third best prospect by MLB Pipeline in 2016. He’s struggled during his time in the majors, but held a 3.22 ERA and a 304/81 K/BB ratio at the minor league level.

    If Strahm is able to find his form, the Padres were able to land another top prospect for cheap. In 2018 Strahm will likely get a chance to battle for a starting or relief role at the major league level.

    Joaquin Benoit

    The Padres ttaded aging closer Joaquin Benoit to the Mariners for prospect Enyel De Los Santos. De Los Santos was recently moved for shortstop Freddy Galvis.

    If Galvis strives in 2018 and potentially beyond, this deal will be considered a win for the Padres.

    Yonder Alonso

    The Padres traded Yonder Alonso to the Athletics for a deal involving pitcher Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz excelled during his time in San Diego, pitching to an 8-7 record with a 2.47 ERA and a 115/41 K/BB ratio. He was voted to the 2015 All-Star game.

    Pomeranz was then traded to Red Sox prior to the 2016 Trade Deadline for prospect Anderson Espinoza.

    Espinoza is currently the Padres’ sixth best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Prior to season-ending surgery in 2017, he pitched to a 6-13 record and a 3.35 ERA with a 165/49 K/BB ratio.

    He is considered one of the best young pitching prospects in the Padres organization. If he could return to form, turning Yonder Alonso into a young rotation piece has to be considered a win for Preller and the Padres.


    “Prellerpalooza” could be looked at in one of two ways.

    1. Preller went for it and failed, sacrificing a lot of the team’s future
    2. Preller went for it and failed, but was able to bring in a new core

    Preller was able to bring in players such as Wil Myers and Manuel Margot who will be with the team for many years to come. While it did cost stars like Trea Turner, it’s hard to look at the whole movement as a failure.

    While he was unable to lead the Padres to the playoffs during his first season, he certainly set them up for success going forward. It’s hard to tell where the team would be had “Prellerpalooza” not happened, however many of the team’s current stars wouldn’t be involved.

    Looking at the roster then and looking at the roster now, it’s hard to say that the team isn’t improved. Couple that with San Diego’s top five farm system and it looks like Preller knew what he was doing.

    It wasn’t the most conventional way to rebuild, but at this stage of the game “Prellerpalooza” looks like it was successful. While it killed the farm system at the time, it brought in brand new young stars who could help lead the San Diego Padres to their first World Series.

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