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2016 Padres Season Review: One step forward, two steps back

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A.J. Preller worked to undo the damage of the 2015 season, and brought in a ton of young talent. But then also shot himself in the foot by lying to other GMs.

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

The Padres haven’t had a winning season since 2010, their only above .500 campaign in nine years. Yet this one perhaps hurt worse than the rest, given that the Padres reversed course from their disastrous attempt to compete in 2015 and used the opportunity to inject their organization with minor league talent. Though some of those efforts were undermined by GM A.J. Preller’s fraud and deception at the trade deadline.

Yet, thanks to Preller, the future for these Padres isn’t nearly as bleak as it otherwise would be, so long as other GMs are still open to dealing with them going forward.

When it was over:

The Padres finished October 4, 2015 at 74-88 in fourth place in the NL West. At the orders of their new owners, they had spent $110 million for the privilege of doing so, almost $20 million more than in any previous season. Whichever day after that A.J. Preller convinced team president Mike Dee and Owner Ron Fowler to take the leash off, their fate in 2016 was sealed…and for the better.

Preller traded his top relievers, Joaquin Benoit and Criag Kimbrel for four minor league prospects. Then he traded his disappointing first baseman and a LOOGY for Drew Pomeranz. And Jedd Gyorko went to the Cardinals for Jon Jay and salary relief. The bloodletting continued all season long, as the Padres shed themselves of James Shileds, Fernando Rodney, Pomeranz, Melvin Upton, Andrew Cashner, and Matt Kemp.

May ended with a 16-4 loss to the Mariners. They were 13 games below .500 and 12.5 games back of the Giants for the NL West lead. They managed to hold their own for June, July, and September, but their awful start doomed them to compete with the Diamondbacks for the cellar in the West again.

What went well:

Pomeranz and Rodney provided great value while they were around, with the former establishing himself as a strong number two starter and the latter reestablishing his closer bonafides. Both were dealt at the trade deadline. Ryan Butcher and Brad Hand emerged as dominant bullpen options. Wil Myers hit .260/.337/.469 with 289 homers after an injury plagued 2015. Yangervis Solarte, until the tragic death of his wife last week, continued to show that he’s one of the most underrated players in baseball (because no one bothers to rate him to begin with). Minor league veteran Ryan Schimpf came up and did a quality Mark Bellhorn impersonation.

All of those deals provided a major talent injection into a staggeringly bad minor league system. Manuel Margot alone would have made the Kimbrel trade worth it, but Preller managed to get three other good prospects as well. And Pomeranz, acquired for a song, brought back a great prospect in Anderson Espinoza. It’s a shame that so much of the luster on them is going to be lost because of Preller’s unethical behavior.

Also, their new uniforms were hella sharp.

A second opinion:

The Padres' 2016 season started with an omen - losing the Opening Day starter, Tyson Ross, to injury after one awful outing. It didn't get much better from there. There was not much worth remembering in terms of the team's play on the field, and there was a lot of stuff off the field that we wish we could forget. Controversy shrouded the Padres front office throughout the season and continues to put the organization in a bad light going into winter. But the one thing that really saved this season from being a complete failure was experiencing the All-Star festivities in our city. That's a memory Padres fans will cling to when looking back on 2016 and trying to rationalize our continued support for San Diego baseball.

-Jodes Paranal, Manager, Gaslamp Ball

What’s in the future:

So much is up in the air for the Padres right now. Will Preller be retained after breaking the trust of the other 29 clubs? Will anyone be willing to deal with them this offseason? Will Tyson Ross require shoulder surgery, and do the Padres want to risk it and offer him a contract? Is it worth it to sign Wil Myers to a long term deal as he enters his arbitration years? Can Carter Capps come back next year to give the Padres one of the most dynamic bullpens in the major leagues?

The only sure thing seems to be that the Padres will enter 2017 with the lower payroll for the second season in a row as they roll back the strategy that failed so badly in 2015. Those players, with the exception of Derek Norris, are all gone from the Padres’ roster now, though San Diego will subsidize their deals to the tune of $28 million next year, and at some level through 2019.

The team will be searching for rotation options and for more hidden gems like Schimpf and Solarte. They’ll also be working in youngsters like Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges. But, in reality, it’s going to be at least another couple years before the Padres are relevant again.