Feb 18, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels speaks to the media during MLB media day at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
While Jon Daniels and the Rangers have been relatively quiet this winter, former Rangers executive A.J. Preller has made a profusion of moves for the Padres with a variety of teams. When Preller was picked to become the next GM in San Diego back in August, the nature of the Rangers relationship with the Padres instantaneously became one of interest considering Jon Daniels’ exceptionally close relationship with Preller.
There was speculation that the two men would be more inclined to trade pieces based on their strong relationship; there was speculation that deals would be made impossible due to Preller’s exceptional familiarity with the a Rangers farm-system which still is chalk full of his fingerprints; there was speculation that the Rangers deep system and the Padres controllable pitching options (i.e. Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy) would create rumors and buzz between the two franchises regardless.
For now, despite preliminary talks and discussions, it appears the Preller and Daniels have failed to take their trade talks any real step closer to fruition.
But the Rangers relatively static offseason juxtaposed to the Padres dynamic winter should not come as a surprise to anyone. These two franchises entered the winter with different looks, feels, talents, and expectations. The Rangers have, they believe, a largely competitive roster, should it be able to stay intact. The Padres, meanwhile, had a noncompetitive roster and appeared years away from really competing. For those reasons, Preller had reason to instigate change just as Daniels is focusing on the possibility of one core addition in what could be an otherwise understandably quiet winter.
I think there are several key takeaways from the transactions made by Preller.
First, Preller has pulled off trades now for two big names that the Rangers had been rumored to be interested in for a while in Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. One has to wonder when the Rangers had that interest before August 5th (When Preller was named GM of the Padres) how much was generated by Preller’s own influence. Additionally, it begs to question whether Preller has been simply more aggressive at the onset of his tenure as GM or if he has any better ability than Daniels to get traded ironed out.
Obviously, it is unfair to assume Preller is a better facilitator of trades simply for those he has recently made. He has a franchise with a very fluid roster with expendable players whereas the Rangers are more locked in to their core of players with a better defined franchise direction. It may have no real meaning at all, but it is still intriguing that Preller has so quickly made trades for both Kemp and Upton following the Rangers longstanding interest and longstanding inability to make a deal happen.
Second, it is worth taking a look at the teams Preller has been trading with. He acquired former Rookie of the Year Wil Myers from the Rays in an 11-player deal. The Rangers on the other hand, led by Daniels, have had nearly no contact with the Rays via transactions over the years (an exception to this point is the trade on April 7th, 2013 for Robinson Chirinos). Preller has also orchestrated deals with the Athletics (for Derek Norris) and reportedly the Red Sox (for Will Middlebrooks) in addition to trades with the Rays, Braves and Dodgers.
As a third point, I can’t help but get the feeling that these trades have either led to diminishing chances that the Rangers and Padres could pull off a trade, or that any trade would now have a very different look. At the beginning of the offseason, the Rangers were looking hard at one of the aforementioned trio of Padres starters; that stance has not really changed. The Padres, though, would probably demand a different type of return than they might have required earlier. Now, it seems as though the Padres are making a run at contending faster while the NL west is still relatively poor outside of the Dodgers considering the losses the Giants have experienced, the weak Rockies, and only slightly better Diamondbacks.
Should the Rangers and Padres really get serious about a trade, the Padres would likely ask for more major league ready talent than if Preller had opted to rebuild at the start opposed to wheeling-and-dealing his way into contention as he seems to be aiming to do. Preller might ask for players that could add value to the big league roster by 2015 like Jake Thompson or Alex Gonzalez, opposed to Lewis Brinson or Luis Ortiz, who would need more time to refine their respective skills sets.
The Rangers are still striving to add rotation depth, ideally closer to the top of their rotation too. Should that depth come in the form of a trade with the Padres, they might have to forfeit pitching to replace one of the Padres rotation members in order for the Padres to have the more rounded roster required of a contender.