GM Candidate: A.J. Preller

MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’ve been bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with A.J. Preller, the Rangers' senior director of player personnel. 

A.J. Preller grew up a Yankees fan in Huntington Station.  He met a fellow New York baseball fanatic named Jon Daniels while pledging Delta Chi at Cornell, but it was Preller who broke into Major League Baseball first, snagging an internship with the Phillies during college.  After graduating Preller worked under Frank Robinson for the Arizona Fall League.  Preller went on to work for MLB and then the Dodgers before landing with the Rangers seven years ago.  He advises Daniels on all player acquisitions, and works in international, amateur, and professional scouting.

I caught up with the well-traveled Preller last Tuesday, before his Rangers suffered a Game 3 ALCS loss to Detroit.  Preller had a lot of interesting stories about the Rangers, though we didn't focus much on him.

On the Colby Lewis signing:

Colby is definitely an interesting story.  We had two scouts, Joe Furukawa and Josh Boyd, who were big proponents of Colby.  They felt like he had gone over Japan and made a few adjustments and his stuff would play back here in the States.  Joe worked for the Hiroshima Carp in the past, so he got a chance to see a lot of Colby's starts in Japan.  Joe did the first bullpen Colby threw, and Colby didn't need a huge adjustment.  What you see right now from Colby is kind of what it looked like first bullpen on day one with the Carp.  The 2 big separators are legitimate fastball command and the out pitch slider that we thought would play over here.

On the Nelson Cruz trade:

He was an interesting guy, a toolsy guy.  You always want to take a chance on a guy that's got huge raw power, a big arm, and he's a tremendous person.  You want to give those guys every opportunity in the world to try to figure it out.  One of the last times Nellie went to Triple-A, [current senior director of player development] Scott Servais asked if he'd want to make an adjustment and go to an open stance. Nellie opened up the stance.  Last year in Tampa after winning the first round of the playoffs, Nellie comes up to Servais in the middle of the celebration and hugs him and says, "Hey, thank you for making my career."  That shows what kind of person Nellie is.

On C.J. Wilson's move to the rotation:

There was a lot of debate within our group whether he could make that adjustment, and J.D. [Jon Daniels] encourages everybody to speak their mind.  Mike Anderson, Nolan Ryan, and Thad Levine felt like he could make that adjustment.  The biggest reason was that C.J. was pushing it to us, he wanted to be a starter.  He really cares about his profession and making himself as good as he can be.   He has three or four pitches that are gonna play and he had the demeanor for it.  He was adamant he could do it.

Do the Rangers do something differently than other teams?

We really focus on getting good people, creative people that are passionate about the game.  It burns them to be the best in their field.  We give them a lot of room to grow in their field and trust what they're saying.  Keith Boeck, one of our pro scouts, has been in our organization the last seven or eight years and he went out during the Mark Teixeira trade discussions and was one person that identified the Braves as an organization that might be a match.  He was one of the first guys to see Neftali Feliz at 17-18 years old, he saw and really believed in Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus.  Those are three key pieces of what we've done the last few years.  J.D. finds some matches and gives our scouts the ability to go out and make good evaluations and be creative.  Those were not guys that were knocking on the door necessarily – an A ball shortstop hitting .230 at the time, a power arm  reliever, and Harrison was on the DL at the time.  That's the atmosphere J.D. fosters- if you're good, you work hard, and you're passionate what you do, you have a chance to get players.

On the difficulty of pulling off the Teixeira trade:

The most fun we've had as a group was during that process.  It was challenge – trading a great player like Mark Teixeira, you need to get value back.  The challenge is to identify the teams that have interest in acquiring the player and then identifying the players in those systems who can be impact players to set you up for a long time down the road.  It was a total group effort – from the front office to our pro scouts.  It was all hands on board – amateur scouts, pro scouts, coaches.  We identified three or four clubs that had a chance to acquire Teixeira and we wanted to acquire their players.  

On Don Welke:

Don is one of the best scouts in the game.  He was Pat Gillick's right-hand man for about 20 years with the Blue Jays and Orioles.  He's been with us for the last six years and has a lot to do with setting the philosophy on the scouting side and the player acquisition side.  He was a huge proponent of Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Neftali Feliz.  He goes after big-time impact players with plus makeup.  A guy like Don Welke is a separator.

Other unsung members of the front office:

Guys like Mike Daly, Kip Fagg and Josh Boyd help to set the direction and philosophy for all our scouting operations.  Mike Daly oversees our international scouting.  Mike started with the Indians as an area scout.  He's put together a very good group of international scouts and has developed a thorough process.  That market is a true free agent market and he's been able to recruit, develop relationships, and sign some of the better players.  His developed a tremendous relationship Jurickson Profar and his family, and Profar wanted to be a Ranger.  


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22 Comments on "GM Candidate: A.J. Preller"


Triple Hawpes Brewed
3 years 10 months ago

I am a Braves fan. Yes, I am still bitter about the Tex trade. NEVER FORGET

MadmanTX
3 years 10 months ago

Because of the haul we got or because you guys were unable to keep Teixiera on the roster? Both?

chico65
3 years 10 months ago

For a moment I thought this was another epic poem by notsureifsrs

Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Tim, You made me have to like the Rangers. Nice to read about the structure within this organization and just really how together they are. I can respect that from a business standpoint. Can’t argue that the Rangers have made some really good moves in recent years. Makes the Red Sox management situation look like lunch recess for a bunch of 8 year olds.

chico65
3 years 10 months ago

I wouldn’t expect anything less from you Century, thanks for not disappointing

Guest
3 years 10 months ago

I only speak the truth. Come over to the dark side and join me on my crusade against anything Red Sox. 

chico65
3 years 10 months ago

“Chico, I am your father”

stl_cards16
3 years 10 months ago

Kind of like how you having to include something against the Red Sox in every post is like an eight year old?

3 years 10 months ago

They were excited about trading Mark Teixeira? Even after they saw him traded to the Angels? I wonder if they were as equally excited about trading Adrian Gonzalez. How about Alfonso Soriano? I wonder how that would’ve gone had they faced the Red Sox in the playoffs this October, and Boston won. The Rangers have made some really good decisions in recent years, but the fact that so many prospects from that deal panned out probably has more to do with luck. IMO

seanb1223
3 years 10 months ago

You’re right. The Rangers success is all pure f’n luck.

laxtonto
3 years 10 months ago

Texas was ecstatic to get rid of Texiera at the time. He had just turned down an extension and was at that point becoming toxic in the clubhouse. It was time for both sides to part ways. The problem was that the Braves were desperate and Texas took them to the cleaners for it.

I am glad Texas traded Soriano after seeing his career path. To bad the main piece of that deal blew his shoulder out immediately on making it to Texas. He was essentially done after that.

3 years 10 months ago

It’s dumb to hate the Rangers just because Bush is a fan. I’m sure there’s an Oakland fan that many people could hate too…maybe not, idk. What could you possibly have against Nolan Ryan?

The Rangers success is attributed to a great staff that knows what they’re doing. If other teams didn’t see something in a player and the Rangers did, how is that bad?

Toadkiller
3 years 10 months ago

That, my friend, might be the most ridiculous post i have read.  Shortsightedness?  The Rangers traded a huge known talent for some prospects.  Just like what is done every year.  Prospects rarely pan out which is why so many had to be given.  The reds got a promising young pitcher for a guy who had one half of a good season to go along with 5 or so disappointing years since his draft. Cruz was a failure for years in the majors and was on waivers so that any team in the league could have claimed him.  No one did.  My point to all this is that it’s asinine to say that is was other teams shortsightedness and/or outright stupidity.  This team was put together with the skill of a great front office.  They worked hard and earned this team.  It was not given to them.  They didn’t luck into it.
In your defense though I don’t expect a whole lot out of someone that dislikes George Bush.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

Again you take the one word you didnt like and built a massive argument around it. Look, the Rangers simply are not a home grown team. You cant argue this. The Braves gave the Rangers an absurd bounty for Teixeira, everyone knew that deal was ridiculous from the moment it was announced, Andrus&Feliz alone were/are cant-miss and then everyone else was just gravy. The Braves were massively short-sighted in making that deal, unless you are absolutely certain an elite talent is going to get you over the line, you need to just sit on your hands. AZ did the same thing with getting Haren, and the A’s did it with Holliday. In all 3 examples, all 3 teams would have been better off holding steady with what they had. “Prospects rarely pan out” uh, 1st rounders generally do.

The Reds traded a masher who has the highest ceiling in baseball who mashed for them, for a pitcher, one for one. I can’t off the top of my head think of a team who ever traded a pitcher for a hitter straight up and came out on top. Stupid move by the Reds. Just bad. Might as well trade Jay Bruce for Rich Harden or something similar. Its that dumb.

Cruz was a failure over his first 145 games in the bigs, but, as I wrote, the Rangers internal staff was really great in figuring out how to change him from struggling to a beast.

I can’t even fathom a response to your last line. Nah, I won’t touch that.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

Again you take the one word you didnt like and built a massive argument around it. Look, the Rangers simply are not a home grown team. You cant argue this. The Braves gave the Rangers an absurd bounty for Teixeira, everyone knew that deal was ridiculous from the moment it was announced, Andrus&Feliz alone were/are cant-miss and then everyone else was just gravy. The Braves were massively short-sighted in making that deal, unless you are absolutely certain an elite talent is going to get you over the line, you need to just sit on your hands. AZ did the same thing with getting Haren, and the A’s did it with Holliday. In all 3 examples, all 3 teams would have been better off holding steady with what they had. “Prospects rarely pan out” uh, 1st rounders generally do.

The Reds traded a masher who has the highest ceiling in baseball who mashed for them, for a pitcher, one for one. I can’t off the top of my head think of a team who ever traded a pitcher for a hitter straight up and came out on top. Stupid move by the Reds. Just bad. Might as well trade Jay Bruce for Rich Harden or something similar. Its that dumb.

Cruz was a failure over his first 145 games in the bigs, but, as I wrote, the Rangers internal staff was really great in figuring out how to change him from struggling to a beast.

I can’t even fathom a response to your last line. Nah, I won’t touch that.

Toadkiller
3 years 10 months ago

Your statement was “Their success can be attributed entirely to other teams shortsightedness and/or outright stupidity.” That was the point of your comment so that is what was responded too.  So, i am not sure where you are going with your opening line. 
You can make a case either way for it being “home grown.”  The majority of the talent the Rangers recvd from Atlanta was very young.  In their teens young. Most came up through AAA. For all intents and purposes that is home grown but for Symantec’s sake I’ll say that I can see your point.  None were cant miss.  They were highly thought of but not cant miss. As i stated before, prospects rarely pan out.  Including 1st rounders.  The only legitimate point you can make about shortsightedness would be to say all trades involving prospects for rent-a-players like Tex are shortsighted.  Sometimes you have to take a chance.  It worked for the Rangers and not for the Braves.
Hamilton was drafted in 1999 and made it to the majors in 2007.  He had a total of 297 at bats.  He wasn’t a “masher.”  He had potential.  The ceiling you are referring to was back in 1999.  Not 2007.  With his background and only half a season to go on that was big chance the Rangers took.  A big one.  Volquez was very highly thought of.  He was an allstar his first year with the reds.  And if I’m not mistaken he was the opening day starter for the reds this year.  Not saying that the Trade hasn’t come up lopsided in the Rangers favor I am merely saying that Volquez was i big time prospect as well.

The point to all of this is simple.  The Rangers front office deserves an incredible amount of recognition for what they have put together.  They have repeatedly pulled off great signings and trades.  Not just the ones mentioned, but the  likes of Napoli and Beltre. David Murphy. All great acquisitions. They have consistently made great choices that have made them a contender for years to come.  It’s not fluke or lucky if they do it over and over again.  Maybe the teams you were talking about were shortsighted or plain stupid.  Or maybe the Rangers front office is so good they just make them appear that way.

Take a look at the world today and you will see that it was a much better place under W.

oz10
3 years 10 months ago

You’re just pissed that the only A’s you got to see in October were on the big screen and that Obama is cutting off your dispensaries.

But on a baseball note, we used home grown talent to facilitate all of those trades. It is what you do when you get to this level. When you stack your farm as well as we have, you trade for top notch players. Volquez to the Reds: Reds weren’t fond of Hamilton and the Rangers had lost faith in Volquez who was home grown. This trade looked like a win win the first year and a half until Volquez was busted for PED’s.  Texeira was home grown but unhappy so you trade him for as much talent as possible (we did fleece them though but that was a perfect storm of a GM on his way out trying to win one more). You only have 25 spots on a roster and we have more talent than spots available so you trade. Our currency is good prospects, the Yankees and Red Sox use real money. We have also lost on this front as well (ie. Adrian Gonzalez).

And maybe if you had more republicans in CA you would have a new stadium and nothing to gripe about.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

God I hate Rangers fans so much. MLB decides to focus on blowing up your region, a bunch of teams give you gifts for nothing and now you think youre the best because of other teams making mistakes. Fake good.

oz10
3 years 10 months ago

MLB doesn’t blow up winners. It just moves crappy teams playing in a triple a park. Say good bye to your A’s. Sorry your trades just suck because your management sucks. Trade Carlos Gonazalez, Huston Street for Holliday and then flip him for nothing. Sorry, we trade the right way and sorry that bunches your panties.

oz10
3 years 10 months ago

Sports is a way to get away from life and politics and everything. Simmer down on the political rant. Wrong chat room for that. Bush owned the team before he was ever in office and sold his portion when he became governor.

Toadkiller
3 years 10 months ago

Congratulations.  The 2 most ridiculous posts I’ve come across and both by you.  And on different topics no less.
None of what you have said is true. If all you got is “America’s downfall is 100% Bush’s fault” then you need to keep trying.  Try starting with some facts.  Based on your prior posts that is not your strong suit but it might make you come off as something other than a 12 yr old throwing a tantrum.

3 years 10 months ago

Talk home grown talent, what have the A’s done lately?  The farm system is down, and all your trades of vets for prospects has netted you… Scott Sizemore?  Well done.  Who is one of the top young outfielders in the NL?  Carlos Gonzalez?  What do you have for him, Michael Taylor?  Well done.

If the Rangers win the World Series is that “fake good”?  Last I check, the best team in baseball every year wins the World Series.

God bless you man, you are an angry and bitter person, I hope you find happiness.  No one should live their life this way.