SAN DIEGO (AP) — Just a year removed from a stirring run to the NL Championship Series that captivated a championship-starved fan base, general manager A.J. Preller of the big-spending San Diego Padres has to hire a new manager yet again.
Bob Melvin’s departure to his hometown Giants — with a year left on his Padres contract — ends a fractured two-season relationship with Preller, although both men said they could have moved forward together if the NL West-rival Giants hadn’t come calling.
With Melvin gone following the Padres’ flop this season despite a $258 million opening-day payroll, the third-highest in baseball, Preller must hire what will be his third manager in four seasons and his fifth since mid-2015. That’s a pretty substantial churn rate for a general manager with no 90-win seasons, no division titles and no pennants since he was hired in August 2014.
“You want to find talented people that are here for a long time,” Preller said Wednesday. “You look at any kind of partnership. It takes two. I’ll constantly look back and say, ‘How can we do this different and what does it look like if you want to hire a really talented person and hopefully they’re here for a decade?’”
Preller will start by interviewing internal candidates Mike Shildt, who was fired by St. Louis in 2021, days after leading the team to its third straight postseason berth, and Ryan Flaherty, the bench coach/offensive coordinator who was teammates with Padres slugger Manny Machado with Baltimore.
Shildt, voted NL Manager of the Year in 2019, has been a senior advisor to the major league staff and player development department since 2022. With some top prospects coming through the minor leagues, his work in player development could be an added bonus if he is given charge of the big league roster led by stars Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Machado and Xander Bogaerts.
Preller also said “some people that are very accomplished” have expressed interest.
Preller inherited Bud Black and fired him on June 15, 2015. He then went with three straight hires who had no previous big league managing experience. Pat Murphy finished that season on an interim basis, Andy Green managed the next four seasons and Jayce Tingler managed two seasons. Green and Tingler both presided over late-season collapses that cost them their jobs.
Then came Melvin, and there goes Melvin, who at the very least gave Preller his only two winning records in a full season.
Preller hinted at things he needs to do better and also at some things that apparently opened a rift in his relationship with Melvin, a three-time Manager of the Year, including in both leagues.
“Our environment, at least the way I work, it’s very open, it’s very collaborative,” Preller said. “We feel like we have a lot of really talented people in the organization and for myself trying to get everybody on the same page. Obviously the last couple of years we didn’t quite get that right. We’ve had different periods over the last years where we have.”
Preller said he was the most active with the big league team during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when the Padres eliminated Shildt’s Cardinals in a wild-card series before being swept in the NL Division Series by the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I feel like our group played well and the biggest thing was because there was communication constantly, between players-staff, staff and myself, the training staff, R&D, et cetera,” Preller said. “In ‘21 I probably felt like a little bit where I thought we had it, and I probably didn’t communicate as well in the last two years, kind of out of respect for Bob and different things.
“I think that constant communication is something we’ll make sure that we get right here this year.”
Before coming to San Diego, Melvin spent 10 seasons with low-budget Oakland, and Preller said the veteran manager found things different in San Diego and maybe didn’t rely on them.
“We’ve got different departments here that contribute to winning and making sure everybody’s on the same page and communicating,” Preller said. “That’s probably my biggest job. As we go forward to the next manager, we’ve got to make sure we have somebody that like from that standpoint, wanting the best information, wanting to use our resources as an organization and myself kind of over the top trying to coordinate it all.
“I’ve got to really focus on that to make sure we nail that. … I think we need to find a manager that fits our group and organization right now.”