If it wasn't obvious before, it certainly is now: The San Diego Padres are going for it in 2015. Like, really going for it, so much so that they have acquired an entirely new starting outfield made up of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and now Justin Upton—just in the past week.
The man behind all the manic maneuvers? New general manager A.J. Preller, who was hired only four months ago, in August, to try to revitalize a franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 2010 and hasn't made the playoffs since 2006.
"A month and a half into his first offseason as general manager, A.J. Preller has already introduced himself as one of the more aggressive front-office types in the game," writes AJ Cassavell for Sports on Earth. "And one thing is very clear: He wants to win now."
The Padres, suddenly and undoubtedly, are relevant again, thanks to all of these new big-name additions—Preller also traded for All-Star catcher Derek Norris from the Oakland Athletics on Thursday evening—but is this avalanche of activity going to work out?
Or could so much turnover in such a short period of time backfire on Preller and the Padres?
While there are questions to be answered and likely still more moves to be made, of this we can be sure: The Padres offense will be better in 2015. It almost has to be just by default, but now it's going to be way, waaay better.
After all, San Diego scored just 535 runs last year—dead last in MLB by a wide margin—and the club's aggregate triple-slash line was look-away hideous: .226/.292/.342.
To put that in context: Those first two triple-slash numbers rank among the very worst in baseball history since the end of the dead-ball era in 1920. That .226 batting average was 14th-worst in that span, and the .292 on-base percentage was 21st-worst.
All three of Kemp, Myers and Upton are right-handed power-hitters, which should provide a huge—and much-needed—boost.
But that doesn't necessarily guarantee offensive success. Remember: The Padres still have to try to make contact with the baseball at hitter-hell Petco Park, which is death to righty swingers in particular. And all of the players Preller has brought aboard in the past week happen to hit from the right side.
"If you have an imbalance...you don’t want to flip it too far the other way," Preller said recently via Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego. "I think ideal world is you leave [manager] Buddy (Black) with enough pitching and try to find a way to get a few more bats."
Maybe San Diego's lineup is too righty-heavy?
There's also the fact that the club's outfield defense could be a concern, as none of Kemp, Myers or Upton is more than an average defender, and they'll have to cover an extremely spacious outfield, to boot.
Can Kemp's reportedly arthritic hips handle center field? Or will the Padres play the younger, fresher Myers there? Or maybe San Diego will put Cameron Maybin to use by letting him patrol center with his athleticism and range, thus perhaps shifting Myers to first base?
It certainly could help if Myers, who has experience as a catcher and third baseman in the minors, could handle that position. Otherwise, the Padres appear for now to be stuck at first with injury-prone Yonder Alonso and his 27 career homers in 405 games.
While it seems that third base also could present a problem, madman Preller already has addressed that potential Yangervis Solarte-sized hole by swapping one of his recently acquired catchers for yet another righty slugger, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:
That said, despite his power, Will Middlebrooks is far from a sure thing, having endured injuries and struggles at the plate the past two years, hitting just .213/.265/.364 in that time for the Boston Red Sox.
Then there's the issue of what San Diego does at shortstop, currently manned by glove-only Clint Barmes.
In other words, despite the additions of Kemp, Myers, Norris and now Upton and Middlebrooks, Preller, it seems, isn't finished. He can't be.
After all, why stop now, when the roster is overstocked with excess outfielders who have to become bait for even more trades? Lookin' at you, Rymer Liriano, Seth Smith, Will Venable and Carlos Quentin!
With Kemp and Myers both under team control through 2019, there's no way the Padres can carry so many outfielders.
Look for Preller to spin at least a couple of those names above to obtain either a shortstop and/or some rotation depth after Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and the ever-injured duo of Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow.
A former top prospect, Liriano could command a nice little return, and Smith's team-friendly contract has drawn interest, according to Lin. Then again, Smith looks like the only capable lefty bat on the roster at the moment.
As for the Upton deal, it represents both a bigger push for 2015 and a bigger risk, because he is a free agent this time next year. The Padres could try to sign him long term, of course, but if not, at least they'll get a compensation draft pick out of it in 2016.
Thanks to Preller, the Padres now have overtaken the Dodgers, Red Sox and Chicago White Sox as the most active team so far this offseason. And there's almost certainly more to come out of—and more into—San Diego.
There still are holes to be filled and problems to be answered. Preller has work to do, trades to make and players to sign.
But the Padres are better now than they were a week ago, maybe even better enough to matter in the NL West—home to the presumptive favorite Dodgers and World Series defending San Francisco Giants—for the first time in years.
Before that judgment can be made, though, let's see what else Preller has up his sleeves, which are firmly rolled up.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.