I don’t know if the Mets still do the annual “Welcome Home” dinners anymore since I’ve not lived in New York since the 2005 baseball season. However, the San Diego Padres and their AAA affiliate in my adopted hometown, the El Paso Chihuahuas, just held their first ever Winter Banquet at the Fort Bliss military base featuring as keynote speaker 37 year old anti-Sandy Alderson, A.J. Preller. The GM of the parent club has made quite a few splashy headlines this year and it was interesting to get his take on the state of all things Padres and Chihuahuas.
First of all, to recap the off-season for San Diego, they have been incredibly busy. First were the bold outfield moves that resulted in adding Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp (with the Dodgers paying $18 million of his salary this year making him just a $3 million man). Granted, Upton is a “rental” in that he can declare free agency at the end of the year, but Myers was a real coup and more than a few Mets fans were rather green eyed watching the west coast club aggressively seeking to improve its offense.
In addition, the Cornell educated Preller also secured the services of third baseman Will Middlebrooks from the Boston Red Sox and catcher Derek Norris from the Oakland A’s. What was most astonishing is that San Diego did not have to sacrifice anyone from its impressive core of young starting pitchers nor even give back any key prospects from the minor league system. Are you watching how it’s done, Mr. Alderson?
Now at lot of you are sitting there thinking, “Yeah, but they have a real payroll and an ownership committed to spending what it takes to win.” Well, not really…you see their payroll has actually dropped rather substantially and should hover in the $75 to $80 million range WITH all of these offensive additions.
Now would it have been possible for Alderson to do the same? Absolutely! What he would have had to do was to find takers for Bartolo Colon, Daniel Murphy and Dillon Gee. Rafael Montero could likely duplicate or better the production you got out of Gee and Colon last year, plus you only needed to fill one of the pitching vacancies as Matt Harvey was assuming the other. Those three subtractions would have created $25 million in payroll that could have been used to address other needs. Instead Alderson spent his $10 million on Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry, Jr., then called it a day. The end result is a payroll $20 million higher but an offense not nearly as improved.
Joining Preller on the podium was the Chihuahua’s slugging first baseman, Cody Decker. His effusive personality and sense of humor made him a fan favorite and a local media darling. Now at age 28 and never having ascended to the majors, he’s their version of former Met farmhand Allan Dykstra. He finished the year with a .261/27/77 slash line. The chunky first baseman may never hit it big, but then again incumbent Yonder Alonso is coming off a .240/7/27 year, so anything’s possible. He’s been working out behind the dish and in the outfield in order to improve his versatility and make himself more attractive to the Padres ball club.
Preller was asked about the Padres holding an exhibition game here in El Paso and he thought it was a good idea for the near future but 2015’s schedule was already set in stone. This taste of major league baseball here would be great for the city and it’s an event that would sell out very quickly (as the Chihuahuas already were among the hottest tickets in all of minor league baseball).
It was a great event and proceeds didn’t help defray Justin Upton’s salary, but instead went to a very good cause, the Special Olympics of Texas.