It had been a while since the Rock Star GM went on a bender, and it seems everyone is enjoying the spectacle.
“It’s extremely motivating,” Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “We’ve been on the other side of this the last couple of years when it comes to the deadline. To add pieces, add guys that are proven, to add guys that are doing extremely well right now to this team, it just gives you that boost.”
On the day his team won for the 10th time in 13 games, beating the Colorado Rockies 13-2, Padres General Manager A.J. Preller added a designated hitter, two catchers and two relievers to a team that has the National League’s third-best record with 24 games remaining.
Sunday began with the acquisition of first baseman/DH Mitch Moreland from the Red Sox.
There was a trade for catcher Jason Castro midday.
And the evening brought a massive deal that sent four players to the Seattle Mariners and brought three to the Padres.
The Padres got catcher Austin Nola and right-handed relief pitchers Austin Adams and Dan Altavilla in exchange for outfielder Taylor Trammell, infielder Ty France, catcher Luis Torrens and reliever Andres Muñoz.
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Adams has been working out in Perioa, Ariz., recovering from ACL surgery, and the Padres’ hope is he is healthy enough to pitch for them in September. Altavilla has allowed 10 runs in 11 2/3 innings (13 games), though six of those runs came in two appearances.
While they were always seeking bullpen help and Adams is believed to have elite potential, it is Nola, whose .903 OPS and .373 on-base percentage rank second among qualifying catchers, who is the centerpiece of the trade from the Padres’ perspective.
To get him, they paid the heftiest price of the spree so far.
Trammell was their fifth-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com. He was acquired at the trade deadline last July in the deal that sent Franmil Reyes to the Indians. France and Torrens are on the major league roster. Muñoz, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, throws 100 mph and struck out 30 in 23 innings last season.
Sunday’s three moves came after the Padres traded for reliever Trevor Rosenthal on Saturday and possibly before they make a blockbuster deal for a starting pitcher before Monday’s 1 p.m. PT deadline.
Two sources said Sunday the team was intensely pursuing a frontline starter. The Padres were well into talks with the Cleveland Indians for right-hander Mike Clevinger, but several teams were still in the hunt and a source said a deal was not imminent. They are also known to have been talking with the Texas Rangers about Lance Lynn.
While the asking price for Lynn was considered prohibitive when team sources were assessing the chances of that deal happening earlier in the weekend, the sides were still talking as of Sunday night.
After four years of trading away major leaguers to acquire minor-league prospects, Preller is for the first time since before the 2015 season investing in big-league talent. It was during that spending spree at the start of his tenure that Preller was dubbed the “GM rock star” by newly acquired Matt Kemp.
The hope is this flurry of activity pays more immediate dividends than that foray.
Obviously, the Padres are all in on ending their playoff drought.
“It’s pretty clear,” manager Jayce Tingler said Sunday morning. “The players and staff are excited about it. … When you’re able to make a move, the one we did yesterday and the one this morning it does create a positive buzz in the clubhouse.”
The Padres have the prospect currency. And attempting to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006 was evidently good enough reason to start spending it.
They have so far sent away three of the 10 outfielders who were considered to be among their top 30 prospects, a corner infielder with no clear path to their major league roster and a relief pitcher on whom they had all but given up.
Acquiring Moreland meant parting with outfielder Jeisson Rosario and third baseman Hudson Potts, who has also played first base, to the Boston Red Sox. Castro cost the Padres right-hander Gerardo Reyes, who has top-shelf velocity and a solid slider but tends to go several pitches between strikes.
The Padres sent outfielder Edward Olivares and a player to be named later to the Royals for Rosenthal, who had seven saves for the Royals this season. (Rosenthal joined the team at Coors Field on Sunday morning but was not needed to pitch.)
Olivares was considered the team’s 20th-ranked prospect, Potts was 16th and Rosario 19th. Moving Trammell, Potts and Rosario served housekeeping purposes, too, as they had to be protected on the 40-man roster in the coming offseason or be subject to the Rule 5 draft.
Moreland, who is batting .328 with a .430 on-base percentage and eight home runs this season, is expected to serve as the team’s primary designated hitter.
The Padres lead the majors with an .836 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage), but they have not received consistent production from the DH spot.
The four players who have primarily served as their DH this season are hitting a combined .205 with a .574 OPS in 27 starts. Josh Naylor is 2-for-17 in six starts as DH against right-handed starting pitchers.
Moreland, 34, has a .332 OBP and .802 OPS over the past four seasons. In particular, the left-handed hitter plays against right-handed pitchers and hits them well. He is batting 1.225 OPS in 70 plate appearances against righties this season. He has three singles in eight at-bats against lefties.
The 11-year veteran has appeared in three World Series, including the one the Red Sox won in 2018. He is under team control in 2021 with a team option for $3 million. He also went to the World Series with the Texas Rangers in 2010 and ’11 and has been to the playoffs four other years.
Moreland was with the Rangers when Preller was in Texas’ front office. Tingler also was a member of that organization through Moreland’s time with the Rangers, including as a member of the major league coaching staff.
“Being able to add his makeup, character that will blend in very well in this clubhouse, it’s exciting,” Tingler said. “… Mitch is one of the toughest men I’ve been around. He’s been known to play through pain. He’s a big, lumbering man. He’s hard-nosed. He doesn’t back down. His play shows that. He’s respected among his peers and people in the game.”
Another place the Padres have lacked production is at catcher.
While it was unclear Sunday how they would sort out the position, they appeared to have made themselves better offensively.
While Castro does not provide a significant upgrade at the plate, he is a solid defender and is getting on base at a .333 clip against right-handed pitchers.
One source said Austin Hedges is part of a potential deal for Clevinger.
Hedges is hitting .158 with a .258 on-base percentage. He has a .333 on-base percentage in 55 plate appearances this month. Francisco Mejía was batting .079/.146 when he went on the injured list with a bruised thumb earlier this month.
Castro, 34, is a free agent after this season. Nola, 30, who has played more games at first base than behind the plate and has also spent time at second base and in the outfield, is not even eligible for arbitration until 2023. Adams is arbitration eligible in ’22, and Altavilla is due to be arbitration eligible after this season.
The Padres have been adamant about any starting pitcher they acquire needing at least one more year of team control. The 33-year-old Lynn is under contract at $10 million in 2021. Clevinger, 29, has two years of arbitration remaining.
Will one of those two — or someone else — be added to Preller’s deadline walkabout?
“I would say we’ll wait and see,” Tingler said. “I know A.J. very well, and I think you guys know him well. He doesn’t sleep, and he’s relentless.”