The Padres have had a revolving door of General Managers. Manager Buddy Black is now serving under his fourth GM. In that time we have seen a variety of approaches to the offseason. By examining a few of them perhaps we can guess how current General Manager A.J. Preller will approach this one.
Back in 2009 when Jed Hoyer was just starting on the job he took a cautious approach to the offseason. The only thing close significant move he made before the calendar ticked over to 2010 was one where you need the hindsight of now to know it was significant: he signed Chris Denorfia to a minor league deal. We were left having to analyze the importance of trading for C Dusty Ryan until January 16. Hoyer found his groove around then.
In January 2010, the future Cubs GM traded incumbent 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff to the Oakland A's to free up the position for Chase Headley and acquired Aaron Cunningham and re-acquired Scott Hairston. Future A's starter Eric Sogard also went north. He then shopped at the bargain bin to sign Jerry Hairston, Jr., Jon Garland and Matt Stairs. February saw him go for one more bargain with Yorvit Torrealba. Either because he was cash strapped or because he was cautious about his funds, the first Hoyer offseason was one of patience and precision strikes.
Even with a patient approach, one would expect Hoyer to act a little faster in his second offseason. He did exactly that by working some trades first. In mid-November he traded middle relief arms for stalling Marlins prospect Cameron Maybin. And then in December he made his decision on what to do with star slugger Adrian Gonzalez. On December 6, 2010 he executed a deal with his former employer, the Boston Red Sox, to acquire prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes along with Eric Patterson.
On the same day he went back to the bargain bin again to grab Aaron Harang and then a week later also signed Dustin Moseley. He then tried to find two other pricier bargains by trading some expendable young arms:Brandon Gomes, Cesar Ramos and Adam Russell along with young infielder Cole Figeroa for Jason Bartlett. And a few days later signed free agent Orlando Hudson. The bargain shopping would again continue in the new year: Brad Hawpe, Chad Qualls and Jorge Cantu. Hoyer's offseasons in San Diego were defined by bargain shopping and precision trades.
Josh Byrnes took over in 2011 and like Hoyer in his first offseason stayed quiet initially, but by December was making noise and trying to earn the nickname Trader Josh. He acquired Huston Street in exchange for 1st round bust Nick Schmidt. He traded Mat Latos for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger. He also dealt a young arm Simon Castro for Carlos Quentin. His only free agent signing were of the minor league variety with the most notable being Dale Thayer. When the new year began he was back to trading again. This time it was Anthony Rizzo (and Zach Cates) for Andrew Cashner (and Kyung-Min Na). Only additional minor signings followed (Jeff Suppan and Micah Owings). Byrnes method for the offseason was to makeover as much of the roster as possible. His strikes were not quite as precise as Hoyer's. Street was a bit of a luxury item, Quentin wasn't the best fit for the NL, Grandal wasn't major league ready and was semi-blocked by Nick Hundley, a lot of pressure was put on Bartlett and Hudson to perform better and the rotation was significantly weakened.
After a flurry of moves in the first offseason, Byrnes was happy to rest on his laurels. The only moves of consequence was re-signing Jason Marquis and trading for project Tyson Ross. Marquis was another bargain signing whereas Ross would work out down the road. Another signing like that was Rene Rivera to a minor league deal, which would only pay off over a year later. The GM put his trust in players who hadn't being healthy getting healthy and young players from the minor leagues filling in the gaps.
In his final offseason, Byrnes did a little more than the previous but still nowhere near what he did in his first. One could view his 3 offseasons like this: in his first he planted his garden, in the second he let it grow and in the third he did some pruning. The team seemed to have too many relief arms so he offloaded Miles Mikolas, Brad Brach, Colt Hynes, Anthony Bass and Luke Gregerson. The only player he acquired in those deals that could impact the major league roster was Seth Smith (acquired for Gregerson). Oddly enough after dealing all those relief arms he spent a pretty penny (relatively speaking) to sign Joaquin Benoit and then bargain shopped for Blaine Boyer singing him to a minor league contract. He then acquired another one when he traded Logan Forsythe, Brad Boxberger (another relief arm), Maxx Tissenbaum, Matt Andriese and Matt Lollis to get Alex Torres. However he did also acquire Jesse Hahn in that deal who would turn out to be a quality starting pitching prospect. Still, most of the major league roster remained intact and and the team was left to spend another season doing more of the same.
I don't have a thumb on the pulse of what A.J. Preller will do. So far all we have seen is that he won a bid for Korean pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim. What we do know is it is early yet. With the except of the Cameron Maybin trade and some relief pitcher dumping the previous two GMs stayed quiet in November. What I can say is what expectations should be based on what we have seen over the last 5 years. From the Hoyer years we know that some of his precision strikes were good. Find needs the major league roster has and address them. Seems simple enough, but Byrnes didn't seem to find it so. Nowadays those moves may require handing out bigger contracts that Hoyer was able or willing to and perhaps trading more than relief arms to get them. But, hopefully, not trading young promising or accomplished players that would significantly weaken an aspect of the team like the Latos trade did.