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A.J. Preller Is the Most Exciting Man in Baseball

Ryan Phillips
Seattle Mariners v San Diego Padres
Seattle Mariners v San Diego Padres / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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A.J. Preller has done it again.

The most aggressive general manager in Major League Baseball history made the huge deals every fanbase wishes their GM would make. In less than 48 hours, he energized a mostly dull MLB trade deadline and made the San Diego Padres a legit contender. No one in the sport creates excitement the way Preller does. Quite simply, he makes baseball fun.

In a span of two days, Preller acquired Josh Hader, Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury, fundamentally remaking the Padres' lineup and securing the back of their shaky bullpen. It was a stunning flurry of acquisitions, something that has become a Preller trademark over the years.

Preller is a quiet guy, who looks completely out of place when he has to put on a collared shirt or a sport jacket for a press conference. He has awkward posture and not what you picture a high-powered executive to be. But the man is an absolute killer when it comes to acquiring talent.

Since the end of the 2019 season, Preller has swung trades that netted the Padres Jake Cronenworth, Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Austin Nola, Trent Grisham, Sean Manaea, Jorge Alfaro, Hader, Soto, Bell and Drury. That's seven All-Stars and a few other important pieces. He also lured Manny Machado to San Diego before the 2019 season, gave Musgrove a $100 million contract extension and locked Fernando Tatis Jr. up for 14 years. Perhaps equally important, he hired manager Bob Melvin away from the Oakland A's. That's the kind of stuff you can't even pull off in a video game. He acts the way fans say they would if they were GM of their favorite team.

Not all of Preller's big splashes have worked out. In his first offseason on the job back in 2015 he traded for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel and Will Middlebrooks. Those moves wound up flopping and cost the Padres Max Fried and Trea Turner (among others). During the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Preller owned the deadline, landing Clevinger and Nola in huge deals, plus some bullpen and bench help. Clevinger pitched well after arriving, but blew out his elbow a few weeks into his Padres tenure. Nola hasn't lived up to the price the Padres paid for him. And in 2021, the Padres traded for Adam Frazier and Daniel Hudson, who both flopped after arriving.

Somehow, 2022 feels different.

In Hader, Soto and Bell, Preller brought in three reliable major leaguers who have performed at a high level for years. These aren't pop-up guys, they're the real deal. The price paid to land Hader was light, but it took a king's ransom to acquire Soto and Bell. Almost every expert agrees it was worth it.

The reason Preller can make these kinds of moves so often is his uncanny ability to scout and sign young talent. The Padres draft as well as anyone in baseball, are aggressive on the international market and also seem to pluck gems no one else is considering. They take chances on high-upside talent and are anything but risk-averse.

Every time Preller swings a big deal, prospect-hugging analysts claim he's decimated his farm system to win now. But somehow, a few months later he's making another huge trade. Under Preller, the Padres are supremely confident in their ability to build an elite farm system and they've proven they can do it repeatedly. Development of those prospects has been spotty at times, but the Padres have no issues finding it.

Throughout his tenure, Preller has aggressively used that prospect talent to improve the his major league roster. He did that again this week in stunning fashion. He shook up the league in the process.

Will it work out this time? Who knows? But damn, it will be fun to watch.

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