After the San Diego Padres' incredibly disappointing 2023 season, general manager AJ Preller was already feeling the heat from fans who were expecting the team to compete for a title but were instead given a squad that had to battle to finish above .500.
Combine that with the team trading away Juan Soto and payroll getting slashed in wake of owner Peter Seidler's death, and you have the recipe for a fanbase revolt.
Recently, Padres beat reporter Dennis Lin for The Athletic did a survey of Padres fans to take their temperature heading into the 2024 season. Predictably, fan confidence is generally down across the board given that the Padres' roster was gutted this offseason, but it's Preller's approval rating that begs the question as to whether or not he should be on the hot seat heading into the 2024 season.
The Padres may need to change, but bet on them giving AJ Preller a chance
Fan frustration should be expected to be up when multiple star level players end up leaving town. According to the above survey, only 24.4% of Padres fans that responded "somewhat" had confidence in Preller's leadership of the front office, which is a far cry from the 81% approval he got just a year ago. That is a massive drop-off no matter how to try and slice it.
There are real arguments to suggest that AJ Preller isn't the guy that the Padres need in charge right now. There have been several notable player development failures under his watch, and despite how aggressive he's been in free agency and on the trade market, all the Padres have to show for it is two playoff appearances while he's been at the head of the front office. Newspaper-headline moves are fun, but results matter more, especially to fans with lofty aspirations.
However, the safest bet is that the Padres give Preller time to see if he can succeed under the team's new financial constraints. While the results haven't been there in the ways fans had hoped, Preller has made the Padres far more relevant in his decade of leadership. Also, a change is far more likely to happen when the Padres' ownership situation is fully settled.
That said, 2024 is proving to be a pivotal season for the entire Padres organization. If the team can outperform expectations after a very challenging offseason, then Preller may earn the right to stick around and see things through. If not, don't be surprised if we see renewed calls for big changes starting at the top in a few months.