Pro-Preller: Padres eye Ability, Stability, Victory
Nothing says calm, cool, and collected like a teleconference call in the middle of fall.
The Padres held an informal, group teleconference call with season ticket holders and other media members Thursday night, hoping to address some of the burning questions that have already sprung up this offseason and also to field any comments that fans might have regarding the team. The call was hosted by the ever-pleasant Jesse Agler, with the main performers being new general manager A.J. Preller and Padres President/CEO Mike Dee. Jesse led the evening off with a nice welcome and set the agenda for fan questions and other Padres announcements, while Mike and A.J. fielded the questions asked by the listeners at home.
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to sit in on the conversation and take some notes from the night. Most of the questions, if not all of them, were focused on what fans care about the most – the product on the field. A few questions were tossed in regarding the recent announcements of Petco Park’s new modifications as well, and of course someone asked the age old question: Brown or Blue? So what is the scoop on the San Diego Padres offseason update? Here are some notes from tonight’s event:
Indicted and perhaps incarcerated? The only bad news of the night.
Earlier today the news broke that the San Diego District Attorney’s office was going to charge Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera with resisting arrest. The misdemeanor arraignment comes on the heels of his being arrested for driving under the influence back in September. It seemed that President Mike Dee was painfully aware of the news that came out regarding Cabrera, and decided to open the evening by addressing any thoughts regarding Cabrera right off the bat:
“We are deeply disappointed by the news regarding [Everth] Cabrera. We will defer to the legal system… and let the law resolve those matters. Our team will receive updates in the weeks ahead, but were are very disappointed in the news today and will leave it at that.”
Cabrera, if convicted, could face a maximum of one-year’s jail time. Additionally, his possession of Marijuana carries a possible $100 fine along with it. Nonetheless, it seems that Mike Dee did a great job addressing this question at the onset of the evening so that fans wouldn’t be left wondering
Moving on to the positives, with high expectations for high definition.
Undoubtedly, you’ve seen the news today regarding the Padres new high-definition video board which will be installed in the left field stands at Petco Park. The new HD mega-screen is pegged to be the third-largest video board in Major League Baseball, and the largest board in the entire National League.
“We’re hoping that this new and improved board will properly bring the Padres into 2015,” said Dee. “This new HD board will give us the opportunity to provide a wider array of information about the game, as well as being able to show stadium-goers clearer in-game replays and highlights.”
How much of an improvement is this new board? “Most people aren’t aware of this, but our old board was actually purchased in 2001, three years before the park opened. So a new HD board is going to be a welcoming improvement indeed.”
In addition to the new board, the left field seating area is also going to be modified with new concessions and seating areas in the reserved section. Additionally, two rows will be added to the field level part of left field, bringing in the fence a few feet while also lowering the height of the outfield wall from 8 feet to 7 feet.
When asked about the improvements being a possible push for a mid-summer classic in San Diego, Mike Dee said “that’s what we’re hoping for. We’ve been working very hard with Major League Baseball in the past few months to get the All-Star Game back in San Diego and while we don’t have any official word yet, we are hoping to make some sort of positive announcement in the coming days. We’re not sure what that announcement will be, but we are very hopeful. And absolutely; these new improvements and modifications are to really make Petco Park an All-Star caliber field and a great experience for any fan to appreciate and enjoy.”
Construction on the new improvements is set to begin this upcoming Monday and more updates regarding the new improvements to the park will be coming in the next few months of the offseason.
All about the A-Team: A.J.’s new additions.
A.J. Preller was on hand to field questions regarding the team’s development during the offseason and the new crew he brought along with him. One thing was clear from A.J.’s responses: the Padres are looking to play championship caliber baseball, and first step to getting there is through evaluation. Specifically, Preller believes that his new staff featuring longtime scouting advisor Don Welke, former Dodgers scouting director Logan White, will aid tremendously in evaluating and scouting players at the various levels of baseball.
“Don’s 47 years of experience and his landing of Hall-of-Fame caliber players and two world series championships bring a lot to the table. Additionally, White has a strong expertise and is a good talent evaluator which will boost our baseball operations corps,” boasted A.J. “We’re looking at achieving at the amateur, professional, and international level. Our farm system, major league club, draft picks, everything is going to be guided by a lot of what White has to say with Don’s input.”
“We will put together a championship caliber team. We have some strong talent evaluation that is coming in to play here, and the Winter meetings should look better for the Padres than in recent years.”
When asked what makes this year different that previous years of promising playoff-caliber teams, A.J. stated quite simply “we are going to look to players that have ability, and we will sign them and keep them. Ability will lead to stability, and by grabbing strong players with that ability, we should see dividends.”
“From our standpoint, the first thing you need is people with ability and then you need stability. Something that our organization wants to focus on is that… this comes from the ability to evaluate and look through our industry and improve our baseball ops… lots of talented people on playing side is what we need and then we want stability where everyone wants to stay for a long time.”
“We need guys who are exciting… and have talent.”
Free Agency and Premiums on Power.
It wouldn’t be a Padres forum if the inevitable “when are we getting a power bat” question was asked. So, when are we getting a power bat? “Power is at a premium in this league,” responded A.J. “Every team in the market is going to be looking for that power, someone who can change the composition of a game with one swing of the bat. It’s going to be a focus for most teams this winter, and it will certainly be our focus when the winter meetings come to San Diego – hopefully we will have some home field advantage there.”
A fair response to a fair question. What about free agents? “We definitely have a hit-list and a target-list put together for the types of free agents that we want.” When asked about the gamble on Josh Johnson, Preller responded “we want players who have a history of success who we know can and will perform. But we will see what happens in the next few months… rest assured that we are looking into everything we can to put players on the field.”
One fan asked specifically about players such as Adam LaRoche or Adam Dunn. Another fan asked about the possibility of signing Cuban free agent Yasmani Tomas. “There aren’t any players in particular that we have started looking at into greater detail yet. Sometimes free agents will announce their being signed with a team in the winter meetings, sometimes after – it’s a process that takes time. As far as Yasmani goes, we’ve looked at him as an organization and we are still evaluating. We’ve had him for some workouts… he’s a 24-year old Cuban defector with some experience on the Cuban National Team and in the World Baseball Classic… We’re in the mix of teams looking at him and talking to his agents… you always have to compare yourself to other teams in the market for that type of player.”
If nothing else, it seems that Preller is a big fan of Yasmani. “I’ve had my eyes on him… and we will see where this takes us.”
Product on the field versus the product of the field itself.
One fan asked Mike Dee how he planned on handling any criticism he might receive for the team spending money on the ballpark as opposed to spending money on the players. “Well there’s nothing more important than a team on the field, and it’s important to note that these are not buckets of resources that are comingled. There is money for the ballpark that has come in part from the acquisition of the team by the Fowler group, and then there is money that is going into payroll.”
Dee continued by saying “A lot of renovations have been funded from the sale of the team, and the payroll has steadily increased since the sale of the team. Certainly, we will be continuing to boost that payroll even into this year so that A.J. has the tools he needs to build a winning team.”
When it comes to spending on the players and spending on the park, Dee said “it’s not a question of either-or… it’s a question of both. Again, nothing is more important than the product on the field.”
Non-Sports entertainment and of course, brown or blue?
With all the baseball talk, it’s helpful to sometimes throw a curveball in there. Most notably, things that aren’t baseball related. Jesse took a few breaks during the event to mention some events coming to Petco Park in the coming days, including the Winter Wonderland featuring Snow, Reindeer, Santa Claus and other family fun.
More information regarding the Winter Wonderland can be found at http://padres.com/holiday.
Additionally, pop star Taylor Swift will be performing at Petco Park in Summer of 2015. If that’s your sort of thing, then you can find more information at http://padres.com/TaylorSwift. (Note: this particular author doesn’t feel like going into much detail about Taylor Swift. If that bothers you, shake it off.)
And of course, just as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, the age old question of “brown vs. blue” was brought up once again. A.J.’s response? “I don’t know. I grew up with the brown back in the 80’s… but I think I will defer to Mike on this one.” Mike Dee? “Whatever jersey we win in is the one we will wear.”
Bring Back Buddy?
Near the end of the teleconference, there was on last hot button topic to address. Was A.J. planning on bringing Buddy Black back for the 2015 campaign?
“The tone throughout the organization is to win and win division titles and play in the world series… over the last months I’ve had a chance to build a relationship with Buddy and the coaching staff, and the coaching staff has expectations at the same levels as I do… it’s a process, so I just have to keep talking baseball with him, find areas of improvement, continue to look and improve. We will look at his position and how he can help players achieve and over-achieve, and I think Buddy and his coaches have the ability to do that… we want to give Buddy more talented players and that way he can do his job and his coaches can do their job.”
Suffice to say, that sounds like a yes.
The offseason is off to a rough start for the Padres, and the 40-man roster has already changed since the final pitch of 2014 was thrown last week. The Padres have already DFA’d catcher Adam Moore (who elected free agency), RHP Donn Roach and LHP Eric Stults. Additionally, pitchers Case Kelly and Corey Luebke have been reinstated, along with OF Carlos Quentin and 1B Yonder Alonso. Tim Stauffer is eligible for free agency and the Josh Johnson option was not picked up.
While there’s still a full 3 months to-go before Spring Training, it seems that the team is gearing up and getting ready to tackle the offseason to – you guessed it – bring a championship caliber team onto the field in 2015. Keep the faith, Friar Faithful. Keep the faith.