SBD/August 7, 2014/Franchises

New Padres GM A.J. Preller Brings Stability, Optimism To Struggling Franchise

Preller is known for his acumen in int'l scouting and player development
Faced with their "most critical personnel decision to date," the Padres yesterday named Rangers Assistant GM A.J. Preller Exec VP & GM, according to Dennis Lin of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Sources said that Preller "accepted a five-year deal" from the Padres. Preller lands in "one of the game’s most challenging environments." Known for his "acumen in international scouting and player development, he joins a club that has been sorely lacking in both areas, as well as in stability." Preller will be the Padres’ "fourth GM in the last six years." Following Josh Byrnes’ firing June 22, a "trio of the Padres’ highest-ranking officers" -- President & CEO Mike Dee, Exec Chair Ron Fowler and co-Owner Peter Seidler -- "arrived at their final choice after three rounds of interviews with eight candidates, four of whom became finalists." Preller "got the nod over" Yankees Assistant GM Billy Eppler, Red Sox Assistant GM Mike Hazen and MLB Senior VP/Baseball Operations Kim Ng. With less than two months remaining in the season, Preller said that he would "take the time to become familiar with and evaluate the Padres’ personnel, including eighth-year manager Bud Black." Dee said, "There are some restrictions we agreed to with the Rangers, but we’re confident that, with A.J.’s vast network along with the existing staff that we have in place here, we’re going to have the best front office in baseball" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/7). In San Diego, Jeff Sanders reports Padres VP & Assistant GM/Player Personnel Chad MacDonald "is following [former VP & Assistant GM] A.J. Hinch out the door." He "may not be the last, either." Sources said that while a "complete house-cleaning is not expected," anyone with close ties to Byrnes "may not survive the transition." Hinch and MacDonald "both had strong ties to Byrnes" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/7).

REASONS FOR HOPE: In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes this was "a terribly important hire" and the Padres "found all available rocks and turned them over." In the end, Preller "won." The "way Fowler talks about him" is reminiscent of what Chargers President Dean Spanos said of GM Tom Telesco, who "looks every bit the right hire." Fowler said of Preller, "He looks at the world differently, and that's how you have to look at it here. You can't look at it like the Yankees and Dodgers." Asked why Byrnes was fired so early, Fowler said, "We wanted to have the best shot of looking at the (potential GM) pool without having to deal with five other teams" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/7). Also in San Diego, Tom Krasovic notes in an era of "parity fostered by increased revenue sharing, the Padres have managed to be irrelevant six of the last seven seasons." But there is "opportunity here." Preller's new bosses "funded an Opening Day payroll that ranked 21st of 30." While that is "not spectacular, it's a big improvement over recent years dating to the 2008 divorce between team owner John Moores and his wife, Becky." In payroll, the Padres "were 17-20 in their first three years at Petco." Expect them to be "close to that range going forward." That is "enough to make things interesting, if you're smart" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/7).

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: In Dallas, Evan Grant writes losing Preller will "force Rangers management to enlarge their 'circle of trust,' and bring in an outside voice, even if the 'outside voice,' comes from within the organization." Since losing the '11 World Series, the "only aspect of the organization that hasn't seen significant change is the decision-making inner circle." The "natural order of things works like this: When a team has great success, the less fortunate try to poach talent." The Rangers for seven years have "done an exceptional job of resisting that natural order by locking executives to long-term deals and keeping a clubby inner circle." But the front office, like "every other component of the organization, is being forced to evolve" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/7).
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