Sometimes I see people questioning what the Padres strategy is, but in my mind there's no question. This is a franchise that is licking it's wounds from last season and rebuilding. It's not a full-on tank job rebuild where losses approach the 100s each year, but it's a rebuild nonetheless. When they received compensation for Justin Upton signing with the Tigers, that put a nice bow on their offseason goals to help the rebuild. So far they have traded pricey relievers (Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit) for prospects, let 2 free agents walk (Upton, Ian Kennedy) in exchange for 1st round draft picks and acquired a couple of players that can pretty easily be dealt at the deadline for prospects after potential bounceback seasons (John Jay, Alexei Ramirez). It's not fancy. It's a workman's effort.
I think many people have looked to the Astros and maybe the Cubs as the template for rebuilding. The Astros really took it seriously, but they had to. The team was late to the rebuilding process. From 2007-2010 they had enough of a core to keep trying to contend, but their best players were getting old and expensive and they had raided the farm years earlier so no one was on the way to supplement them. By 2011 it was too late. By accident they lost 100 games and started selling. 2012 was their first year of truly tanking, which made 2013 their first draft to benefit from the calculated rebuild. They made the playoffs last year, but still haven't seen a single player from that draft make the majors. They'll benefit from it soon enough, but by making the playoffs last year highlights how tanking isn't the most important part of a rebuild. I could paint a similar picture for the Cubs.
The most important part of a rebuild is player development. Obviously there need to be talent players to develop, and that's why the Padres acquired guys like Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra in the Craig Kimbrel trade and are excited about getting two extra 1st round picks in this draft. However, prospects aren't guaranteed to be productive major leaguers. The Padres have had talent in their farm system over the years, but currently Cory Spangenberg, Travis Jankowski, Colin Rea, a couple relievers and maybe Austin Hedges will carry the torch for the farm with this year's big league club, although Wil Myers will represent the fruits of trading a couple of highly touted prospects (Joe Ross, Trea Turner and couple others).
If you look at the Astros you see a ton of player development work that has paid off, They have Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel as guys who weren't even high draft picks who are two of the top players at their positions. Jason Castro, Carlos Correa and George Springer stand as 1st round picks that the Astros have cultivated into starters. They've also picked up guys that other teams deemed expendable like Colin McHugh, Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Valbuena and turned them into regulars.
This is what the Padres need to strive for as part of their rebuilding efforts. To turn talent into production. It doesn't necessarily require a tank job or a fire sale. It requires a skilled front office and coaches that can cultivate talent. It's hard to envision that working here because we haven't seen it before. The Padres haven taken the first couple of steps towards getting talent that can be turned into big leaguers (and will probably take some more at the trade deadline and next offseason), but only time will tell if the organization is capable of anything different than what we have seen in the past.