The Padres’ Executive Chairman, Ron Fowler, and CEO, Mike Dee, have been busy making moves and spending money over the offseason to better the team. After finishing 17 games behind the division-winning Dodgers, posting the worst offense in baseball and missing the playoffs for the eighth straight year, it was time for a change. Fowler reflected, “We knew we had to re-energize the community . . . . After looking at our numbers in terms of attendance and looking at the interest in the marketplace, we felt we had to do some investment spending.”
The teams ownership group, led by Peter Seidler, began making changes before the end of last season by dismissing the General Manager Josh Byrnes, and hiring A.J. Preller, who was the Assistant General Manager for the Texas Rangers.
Offense is what the Padres needed after averaging a major league worst at 3.30 runs per game last season. So offense is what they got when Preller went out and acquired three talented outfield sluggers that include a Rookie of the Year, former MVP candidates, as well as an All-Star catcher, and a promising young third baseman. Their projected new-look lineup is right-handed power hitting heavy, which will play well with the confines of Petco Park since the left field fence has been brought in three feet and lowered one foot because of a new scoreboard.
Back in December, Preller aggressively transformed a lackluster team into a strong playoff contender when he made five trades within a 48-hour time span, which included 24 players and 6 teams.
Will Myers, one of the biggest offseason additions, is a 24-year-old rare specimen that is being called the best hitting prospect in baseball. After being named the Rookie of the Year in 2013, he had a disappointing 2014 season. Padre fans shouldn’t worry though as his talent and upside are far beyond anybody else the Padres have had while entering their prime in years.
Justin Upton, who is entering a contract season, has been one of the most productive hitters in baseball over the last three seasons. His raw power is exactly what the Padres need to jumpstart their offense and put runs on the board. After the production Upton has posted in his first seven seasons, the 27-year-old will be looking to get paid at the end of this contract season so look for him to be as productive as possible all summer.
The culmination of the deals was the acquisition of Matt Kemp. Kemp was the runner up for the MVP in 2011, and arguably should have won, especially since the winner Ryan Braun was caught using performance-enhancing drugs. Although Kemp has had health issues since that stellar 2011 season, he had a well-rounded 2014 season, batting .287 with 25 HR’s and 89 RBI’s. The 30-year- old Kemp has looked solid through his first eight spring-training games, batting .429 with two homeruns. He said he’s happy to be in San Diego and feels healthy going into the start of season, as opposed to the last couple seasons when he was rehabbing and nursing himself back from an injury during spring.
In the infield, the Padres addition of Will Middlebrooks brings more promising young talent to the team. Middlebrooks had a great rookie season in 2012 with Boston, hitting .288 with 15 HR’s. He has had a disappointing couple seasons since then as a result of injuries but still managed to hit 17 HR’s in 2013.
If he can stay healthy then there is a lot of upside for the 26- year-old.
Derek Norris was picked up to take over behind the plate. The 26-year-old is entering his third season and coming off of an All-Star 2014 season. His ability and patience at the plate allows him to consistently get on base, which is something the Padres lineup has been lacking in seasons past.
As well as adding the dynamic offense to the lineup, Preller made a few good pitching acquisitions. The biggest of them is the addition of James Shields, who signed a 4-year deal worth $75 million a few months ago. Shields has arguably been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past few seasons. He won 14 games last season and has won more than 10 games every season for the last eight seasons. His durability over a long season is what the Padres need to bolster the front end of a rotation that battled the injury bug all last season.
Preller, and the Padres ownership group have high expectations as the results of their offseason work. After all the acquisitions and deals, their projected Opening Day roster will have a payroll of $94,184 million, which is only 4 million more than last season and $24,855 million below the 2015 projected average. With money spent comes high expectations of money to be made. The Padres usually average 3 million fans a season; after only drawing 2.2 million last season, the ownership group is hoping to bring in over 3 million fans this season. Season ticket sales, individual game ticket sales, and merchandise sales are all up and expected to continue rising through opening day.
As well as the front office, fans have high expectations for the 2015 season. If the acquisitions don’t look enticing on paper then think of it this way, the Padres haven’t had an outfielder hit 25+ homeruns since Bubba Trammell hit 25 in 2001 and now they have three flashy new outfielders that are more than capable of hitting 25+ homeruns.
The front office has done all they possibly can to insure the team lives up to the expectations of the fans. In 2016, Petco Park will be hosting the All-Star game, which has potential to draw a lot of revenue for the owners, the franchise, and the city; but only if fans are excited about baseball. Transforming the team into a playoff contender is the best thing the owners could have done to get fans excited about baseball in San Diego.