A.J. Preller is one of the most aggressive decision-makers in baseball, and this year’s trade deadline was no different. The San Diego Padres added multiple impact players as the franchise hopes to return to the playoffs.
However, heading into the last two months of the year, the Padres are second in the NL West, 12.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. San Diego will almost certainly have to win the Wild Card Series, NLDS, and NLCS to make the World Series. Do their moves at the trade deadline make them a World Series favorite?
The Padres Season So Far
Heading into last season, the Padres were considered to be a World Series contender. The team had both Fernando Tatis and Manny Machado in their lineup and had a pitching rotation full of stars like Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. The season didn’t live up to expectations, with a disappointing second half that saw the Padres finish 79-83, third in the NL West; 28 games behind the division-winning Giants.
This year the Padres entered the season after another active offseason. The team traded for Luke Voit as the NL introduced the DH, and then followed that with trades for Sean Manea, Taylor Rogers, and Jorge Alfaro.
Those trades have mostly been successful. Alfaro has been an above-average offensive player this season and has formed a solid catching partnership with Austin Nola. While Manea has had a 4.25 ERA and had a phenomenal start to the season that helped the Padres begin their season well.
Despite that, the team’s offense struggled without Tatis in the lineup, as the star shortstop has yet to play this year due to a wrist injury. By the All-Star break, the Padres were a league-average offense, and they begin August having scored only 17 more runs than the average National League team.
The Dodgers retook control of the NL West as the Giants struggled, and are one of the best teams in the league. San Diego is still well positioned to make the playoffs as a Wild Card, and the Padres had one of the most incredible trade deadlines in recent memory.
San Diego at the Trade Deadline
While the Padres were becoming a great team at the major league level, the team’s minor league system continued to be one of the MLB’s best. As a result, when Juan Soto became available in trade negotiations, the Padres were thought to be one of the main contenders to trade for him.
However, Preller started the trade deadline by trading for Josh Hader, one of the best relievers in the sport. He traded Rogers just a few months after the original deal that made him a Padre and added a few other pitching prospects, including Dinelson Lamet, to complete the trade for Hader and try to establish the Padres pitching staff as one of the best in the league.
The most significant deal at the trade deadline, and arguably in the recent history of the MLB, came a few days later when the Padres traded for both Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Both players are among the best at their position, and Soto is a top five player in the MLB. The trade solidified the two positions where San Diego could improve the most; first base and the outfield. Another trade for Brandon Drury, who is having a career year, strengthened the lineup even further.
After multiple deals at the deadline, the Padres’ minor league system was used to position the major league roster for immediate success. However, the question facing the organization now is whether or not it will be worth it.
San Diego undoubtedly has a phenomenal pitching staff, one that will only be made better as Hader joins the bullpen. The offense was already going to improve with the addition of Tatis once he returns from the injured list, which is expected in the next few weeks. Soto, Bell, and Drury will all be impact players over the last two months of the season.
However, San Diego is unlikely to pass the Dodgers and win the division, and as a result, they will likely face an extra round of the playoffs as compared to the teams they are contending with to win the World Series.
If the Padres’ trade deadline moves are analyzed from the perspective of wins, and how many wins each player will add, it becomes easier to compare them to the other contenders in the National League. So far the Dodgers have been 11 wins better this season, and the Mets and Braves have been six and two wins better respectively.
It is easy to argue that San Diego’s trades over the last week have added players who will make up the difference between them and Atlanta, New York, and LA. The additions Preller has made to his roster have established a clear group of four teams across two divisions with the best chance of winning the National League in October.
Preller is unique among MLB Presidents and General Managers. He is one of the most active executives in trades every season, and this year put that quality on full display. He has built a super team, one that is led by Tatis, Soto, and Machado, all arguably top ten players in the league, in a modern MLB that tends to focus on depth, flexibility, and lineup construction and matchups.
San Diego is now a World Series favorite. The team has two months to compete with the Dodgers for the division, and at the very least ensure they are the best Wild Card team in the NL. It is unclear whether or not Preller’s trades over the last week will result in the franchise’s first World Series title, but the franchise’s approach to building a contender over the last few years is unique, and it will be fascinating to see whether or not it turns out to be successful.