Last week Rany Jazayerli of Grantland dissected the San Diego Padres’ offseason and proclaimed it a disaster. It’s not just that the Padres loaded up for a big year and haven’t been any good. (They’re six games below .500, having actually won four in a row.) It’s that, as Jazayerli explains in excruciating detail, the way San Diego loaded up all but guarantees it won’t be any good anytime soon.
The key paragraph in Jazayerli’s very long story:
Add up the damage and it’s staggering. In one offseason, the Padres traded away one of the best catchers in baseball (Yasmani Grandal); an above-average starting pitcher (Jesse Hahn); an above-average corner outfielder (Seth Smith); an above-average center fielder (Cameron Maybin); and pretty much their entire farm system. Per Baseball America, the Padres traded away their No. 1 (Matt Wisler), No. 2 (Trea Turner), No. 4 (Joe Ross), No. 6 (Max Fried), No. 9 (Zach Eflin), No. 10 (Jace Peterson), no. 15 (Jake Bauers), No. 16 (Mallex Smith), No. 21 (Dustin Peterson), No. 23 (Burch Smith), and No. 30 (Johnny Barbato) prospects, along with the 41st pick in the draft.
The primary beneficiary of this largesse has been the Atlanta Braves, who now employ Maybin, Wisler, Fried, M. Smith and both Petersons. They also exercised the draft’s 41st pick, taking Austin Riley, a third baseman.
As much as we around here hated seeing the Braves offload talented players over the winter, we can’t say they got fleeced on any deal. No, prospects don’t always pan out, but the Braves had little hope of keeping Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, who were about to become free agents; that they, not being an American League team, had no position for Evan Gattis, and that they, having shed those hitters, didn’t figure to need the game’s best closer in Craig Kimbrel. (And they dumped Melvin Upton Jr. to boot!)
If you’re the Braves, you’re ecstatic about every one of those trades today. Shelby Miller, acquired from St. Louis in the Heyward deal, made the All-Star team. They landed prospects Mike Foltynewicz and Rio Ruiz from Houston in exchange for Gattis. They absolutely fleeced the Padres, landing not just a passel of prospects but a starting second baseman (J. Peterson) and a starting center fielder (Maybin).
Before Friday’s game at Turner Field, I spoke with three Braves higher-ups about Jazayerli’s story and the Padres in general. None would admit delight in another team’s misfortune. (Unless that team is the Nationals. The Braves hate the Nationals.) But it was clear they had a hard time grasping what A.J. Preller, the Padres’ rookie general manager, was trying to do.
Loading up the way Padres did, sacrificing young for old, going all-in to win now: “It never works,” said one Braves voice.
Said another: “The team that wins the offseason (by making a slew of glitzy trades) almost never wins the season.”
The Marlins were thought to have “won” the 2011/2012 offseason by landing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell and trading for — that’s correct — manager Ozzie Guillen. They finished last in the National League East and fired Guillen.
That November, the Fish shipped Reyes, Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck to Toronto in the trade that helped the Blue Jays “win” the 2012/2013 offseason. (They also added R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera.) Toronto finished last in the American League East.
There was a time when the Padres appeared to have won the offseason just past. In addition to Kimbrel and the Uptons, they imported Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks and the free-agent pitcher James Shields. There’s thought now that Preller will try to trade J. Upton, Kimbrel and Shields before the July 31 deadline in the hope of reclaiming some of the young talent just jettisoned. That’s not apt to work, either.
As one Braves voice said: “When you do what they did, what do you do now?”
The Braves, who were the biggest sellers of the offseason, and the Padres, who were the biggest buyers, have the same record (43-49). Difference is, one has a viable future.