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Does A.J. Preller have ‘only child syndrome’?

Working title: the Mets got Marcus Stroman for WHAT?

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Have you ever dated an only child? For some odd reason, I’ve dated a few. And though, as the youngest of three children, I can admit that their are certain character strengths/deficiencies that come with a personality of any birth order, there are a few particular things I’ve learned about only children in my limited experience.

Now, there are a few awesome characteristics that only children often display. First off, they are often ambitious, “achievement-oriented” types. Second, they tend to be close to their parents, which is nice for someone like me, who is always looking for a set of surrogate parents from whom I can glean a free meal.

But it’s not all sunshine with this character type. Last December, I was dating an only child who forgot to buy me a Christmas present. Ever given a Christmas present to someone who empty-palmed you? Yeah, awkward.

A little forgetfulness is totally forgivable, but, after a few days had passed without much in the way of explanation or acknowledgment from her, I wrote a text calmly letting her know that I was hurt by the situation, and that I saw it as a lack of priority on our relationship—more passive-aggressively, I pointed out that she had recently purchased a new Nintendo, and that she surely could have saved a few dollars to get her beau something on an important holiday.

Needless to say, this young woman did not take well to this trespass on her autonomy, and, as it will surprise almost no one to learn, I’m single these days.

Although I’m disinclined to take one ex-girlfriend’s behavior as indicative of a whole group of people, I was annoyed at how her actions amplified the stereotype of an only child—that is, someone uneager to share resources, cagey about criticism, and not very thoughtful about the needs of others.

In other words, “Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine”.

I got to thinking about the whole “only child syndrome” thing this morning, while listening to the local radio this morning. They cogently brought up a question that, in light of experience, seems valid—does Padres GM A.J. Preller have some form of “only child syndrome” when it comes to San Diego prospects?

When looking at recent deals going on around baseball—and with the trade deadline less than 24 hours away—it seems quite curious that the San Diego organization has, to this point, been content to wait on the sidelines.

For months speculation has swirled around possible trades concerning our glut of outfielders. For months, nothing has happened.

For months, speculation has swirled around our glut of prospects. For months, nothing has happened.

In the meantime, 2019 has turned out to be another developmental year—as many roundly expected.

But when this team is connected to nearly every legit starting pitcher available, shouldn’t we start asking questions about our own internal asset valuation when nothing ever seems to come to fruition? Is A.J. Preller too content to sit and wait for the “perfect” deal, like an only child clutching the joysticks of their new Nintendo?

The Marcus Stroman Trade

There are two trades in recent memory that give me concern that Preller and his front office may be overvaluing their own talent. The most recent is the Marcus Stroman trade that went down on Sunday. In acquiring Stroman, a 28-year-old “2” starter in the midst of what will likely be his fourth season of 3+ WAR, the Mets gave up two moderately regarded pitching prospects—none of whom were in New York’s top 5 rankings, nor in any top 100 MLB prospect lists at the time of the deal.

Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson seem like nice prospects to have. However, Kay is a 24-year-old with back-end stuff who has struggled in his first exposure to higher levels. He has appeared at the tail end of top 100 lists in the past. Does that sound a bit like Logan Allen to anyone?

Woods-Richardson is a teenage pitcher lighting up A ball hitters this season. Does that sound a bit like Joey Cantillo to anyone?

I would be hard, hard pressed to believe the Jays wouldn’t have accepted an Allen/Cantillo offer over the Kay/Woods-Richardson one they ultimately settled for. If not, I’d have to imagine the inclusion of a third top-30 player, like Edward Olivares, should have been enough to get things done.

That Preller was seemingly unwilling to top that Mets offer is one serious indication of a “mine, mine, mine” mentality.

The Sonny Gray Trade

For another example of a time when Preller was unwilling to top an unimpressive package in return for a “2” starter, we don’t have to reach back far. Remember Sonny Gray? You know, that guy who was consistently rad for most of his career before having a flukily bad 2018 season with New York?

Well, that guy was acquired (and subsequently extended) by the Reds this offseason. The cost? A guy named Shed Long, a 23-year-old AA second baseman who had logged a modestly impressive 120 wRC+ in 2018—his second exposure to the penultimate level of the minors.

Did Preller feel like he couldn’t find a similar prospect in our system that he would feel comfortable letting go of in a Gray deal? Would Josh Naylor not have blown Shed Long out of the water in terms of value? Would pairing Gabe Arias and Esteury Ruiz—two guys who project to be blocked by our current 40-man players in the future—not combine to exceed that Long offer? I guess it doesn’t matter, ultimately—all Gray has done this season is rebound to a 3.45 ERA in 114.2 innings this year, while striking out more than 10/9IP while throwing in Great American Small Park.

Many have pointed out, rightly, that other organizations are probably not operating with Preller in good faith—that they want our best prospects, and won’t budge to help us clear our depth.

But getting other teams to budge is part of a GM’s job description. Even if you can’t get equal, dollar-for-dollar value compared with other organizations, it’s important to recognize opportunities where it might make sense to pay a slight premium. In these deals, that likely wouldn’t even have required surrendering anyone currently on our 40-man roster.

A Lasting Marriage Requires Compromise and Change

As you’ve probably gathered from my previous disclosures RE: my love life, I’m not exactly an expert on matters of love. But I have learned from careful observation that any successful relationship requires a willingness to change your behavior to suit the needs of your other, with a flexibility to fluid situations and life events.

The reality is, we, as Padres fans, are not dating this front office—more likely, we are married to it. This front office has received plaudits for building the best farm system the team has ever boasted. Preller’s contract runs through the 2022 season. His seat is far from hot, and if he thinks the best way to a championship is prospect hoarding, then prospect hoard we will.

But if recent events are any indication, there’s cause to question some of these strategic priorities, and, to be honest, I really wish I could have a turn on the Nintendo for just a minute.