5. A.J. Preller, 2015, +7.9 WAA. (23-22-1)
The 2015 season was Preller’s first as a general manager and, like many newly appointed chief execs, his first job involved taking out the trash left behind by the previous administration.
There was a lot of it. In 2014, largely under Josh Byrnes, they finished 77-85, San Diego’s fourth straight sub-.500 season. That August, team owner Peter Seidler fired Byrnes and appointed Preller, then a 41-year-old assistant GM with the Texas Rangers.
Preller’s remaking was so thorough that, by the end of the 2016 season, only six players remained from the major league roster he had inherited. Sixteen had been traded away, nine were released to be signed by another team, and four left baseball altogether.
The ridding of non-productive bodies proved far easier than acquiring useful ones. By trading players to new teams, he cleared the payroll of a dozen names, eight of whom performed poorly for their new clubs. Those eight productive departures included catcher Rene Rivera (-3.1 WAA for Tampa Bay), Jace Peterson (-1.4 for Atlanta), and Cameron Maybin (-1.2 for Atlanta.)
His other wise decision was to walk away from 2014 Padre Jeff Francoeur, who signed instead with Philadelphia. There, Francoeur played a little bit more than half time, and delivered a very ordinary -1.8 WAA.
Preller’s 2015 additions were less dramatic; acquiring and developing talent would take time. The most immediately impactful of them, Justin Upton (+2.4), came over in a trade and had an exceptional season, but was gone by 2016.
Long term, Preller’s most important 2015 move involved a trade he might like to have back. In December of 2014, Preller had concluded a three-team trade with the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays that brought San Diego four players, among them touted outfield prospect Wil Myers. One of the players sent by the Padres to Washington as part of that trade was minor league shortstop Trea Turner, who is today recognized as among the game’s best middle infielders.