San Diego Padres manager Jayce Tingler reminded folks about his boss, general manager A.J. Preller, on Sunday morning, saying, “He doesn’t sleep and he’s relentless,” and then a couple hours later, Preller made his third and fourth weekend trades between coffees or reboots or zombie apocalypses or whatever keeps him upright and frenetic.
As they played in Colorado, the Padres swung a deal with the sinking Los Angeles Angels for veteran catcher Jason Castro, at precisely the point where one franchise’s opportunity met another’s debacle, where the trade deadline flowers.
In the oddest of summers, at a deadline in which many contenders are measuring full commitment against the havoc of a 16-team postseason that opens with a best-of-three prayer, Preller and the Padres have chosen to embrace the chaos. First they’ll help create it, then they’ll embrace it.
The Padres were presumed to be engaged in negotiations to acquire a frontline starting pitcher, as well. Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger and Texas’ Lance Lynn are popular and available in a season that is testing pitching depth (and shoulders and elbows). Running a distant second in the NL West, and having endured 13 seasons without a postseason appearance, the past six years with Preller as their GM, the Padres seem to have identified a weird two-month season and a crowded and bubbled October as an attractive opportunity.
So, to a team that has introduced Fernando Tatis Jr. as a generational talent and personality …
That has had Manny Machado, the four-time All-Star, play some of the best ball of his career …
That has at times been propelled by rookie Jake Cronenworth and Trent Grisham, who were acquired in separate trades over about a week-and-a-half last winter …
That has hit with the most powerful teams in the league, that is thin in the starting rotation and vulnerable in the bullpen …
Preller on Saturday traded two players to the Kansas City Royals for reliever Trevor Rosenthal. On Sunday, he acquired veteran Mitch Moreland, the left handed-hitting designated hitter and first baseman, from the Boston Red Sox for two minor leaguers, then Castro, also a left-handed hitter, from the Angels. Late Sunday night, he reportedly swung a seven-player deal to acquire, among others, surging Mariners catcher Austin Nola.
By OPS, Padres designated hitters — Tommy Pham (out because of a broken hand), Ty France, Josh Naylor, Greg Garcia, among others — ranked 20th over the first five weeks of a season that has four weeks left in it. Padres catchers — Austin Hedges, Francisco Mejia and Luis Torrens — ranked 26th.
The hours leading to the deadline — Monday at 4 p.m. ET — otherwise played tentatively, as general managers operated with misgivings for the legitimacy of a short season, for whether the season will be completed, for what 2021 might look like and in a market loaded with buyers. They also have had little time to assess their own rosters, which have played about an April’s worth of baseball behind a three-week ramp up.
The Atlanta Braves on Saturday night reached a deal with the Baltimore Orioles for journeyman lefty Tommy Milone, taking a chance Milone can be effective for another month or two. Afterward, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke to the vagaries of a deadline that will arrive 33 games into his season and with contention for even the worst teams a five-game winning streak away.
“There’s not a lot of sellers,” Anthopoulos said. “So there’s not a lot of inventory out there. It’s challenging … It’s a unique year. There’s absolutely challenges.”
The Oakland A’s made a trade for infielder Tommy La Stella and within 24 hours a COVID-19 test shut them down, leading Anthopoulos to observe, “Wow, things can change fast. Those are some of the risks.”
The outlier would appear to be Clevinger, the 29-year-old right-hander with a career 3.20 ERA and 42-22 record for the Indians. Two years from free agency, he’d earned himself a demotion when he broke COVID-19 protocols, and therefore has pitched once since Aug. 5. He beat the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
Though they have played into a tie with the Chicago White Sox for first place in the AL Central, the Indians are heavy with starting pitching and among the league’s worst offensive teams, facts that have conspired to make Clevinger available. Indeed, rival general managers by Sunday evening were sure Clevinger would be moved by Monday’s deadline. The Padres, Braves, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers were said to have at least some interest. That would not be the entire list, as a proven starter on a first-place team that comes with contractual control is a rare commodity.
As for who ultimately gets him, you probably shouldn’t bet against the zombie in San Diego.
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