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A.J. Preller Discusses Padres’ Offseason, Tatis, Lamet

Padres general manager A.J. Preller spoke with reporters (including’s Maria Guardado and The Athletic’s Dennis Lin) Monday about a variety of topics related to the team’s offseason business, including a continued search for pitching.  However, an in-house star was also discussed, as Preller said that working out a multi-year extension for Fernando Tatis Jr. is “a priority” for the organization.

I think his situation is a priority and I think we’re in a position to try to line up on a deal,” Preller said.  “I think we’ll see what happens here over the course of the rest of the offseason, to see if we can do that.”

Tatis has quickly become one of baseball’s biggest young talents over his two MLB seasons, hitting .301/.374/.582 with 39 homers over 629 career plate appearances.  He doesn’t even turn 22 years old until January, putting him on pace to receive a potential record-setting free agent contract if he reaches the open market following his age-25 season.  Tatis’ price tag will already begin to rise significantly next offseason, as he will reach the first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

The Padres therefore have lots of incentive to ink Tatis to a long-term deal, and some common ground could be reached given that Tatis has also reportedly expressed interest in an extension.  Locking in a life-changing fortune so early in his career would naturally have appeal to Tatis, and because he is so young, he has plenty of time to land at least one more major deal later in his career.  Signing even a seven-year extension now would allow Tatis to still reach free agency before his age-29 season.

With both the COVID-19 pandemic and potential labor strife next winter hanging over the sport, Tatis could also prefer to get some guaranteed financial security sooner rather than later.  On the flip side, Lin wonders if Tatis and his representatives would perhaps prefer to wait another year before seriously diving into extension talks, since by then there will be more clarity about both the state of public health and how baseball’s financial structure will be altered by a new collective bargaining agreement.

Since most extension negotiations usually don’t take place until later in the offseason, Preller’s more immediate attention will be focused on adding new pieces to the roster.  The GM said the club is continuing to explore pitching options, and has “looked at it both ways,” in terms of adding either front-of-the-rotation ace type or perhaps more of a mid-rotation type.

I think it’s just kind of going to depend on the individual pitcher that’s involved, and then obviously, what potentially we’d have to do from a money standpoint or from a trade standpoint,” Preller said.  “Weighing that in versus what we see the impactability of our own talent and when that will happen.”

Dinelson Lamet’s status will also surely factor into San Diego’s plans, as the right-hander missed the end of the season (and the playoffs) due to biceps tightness, and was undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy on his throwing elbow.  While Preller noted that the Padres won’t fully know how ready Lamet is until Spring Training, “in terms of the tests that he’s passing right now — all his workouts, picking up a baseball, beginning his throwing program to start the offseason — he’s reporting that he’s in a very similar spot to where he was last year, which is a good place,” Preller said.

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