Padres GM A.J. Preller has a lot riding on his hand-picked roster, particularly with the team now having made a huge commitment to Manny Machado, and he laid out his belief in the club not long after announcing the Machado deal. As Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, the top San Diego baseball decisionmaker turned in a fiery locker-room speech that seems to have made quite an impression on the players. It was a rare address for Preller, who sent the message that this group was compiled with winning intentions. There’s no shortage of interesting storylines to watch in San Diego — Machado’s impact, remaining roster needs, camp battles, prospect timelines — some of which may well carry into the regular season.
More from out west …
- It’d be a convenient narrative to see the Dodgers’ late-breaking pursuit of Bryce Harper as something of a response to their division rivals to the south, but there’s really no reason to believe that’s much of a factor. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times examines what might actually be driving the Los Angeles powerhouse, suggesting that the foray into the superstar’s market may just be an attempt to see if Harper “is open to striking a deal on their terms — and their terms only.” Hernandez argues that the Dodgers should be willing “to create exceptions to their analytically dictated rules” in situations like these, but casts ample doubt as to whether the organization will in fact do so.
- Elsewhere in the greater Los Angeles region, the city of Long Beach, California appears to be making a play to woo the Angels, according to a report from Jason Ruiz of the Long Beach Post. Details are scant at the moment, but it seems the pitch involves a waterfront ballpark lot. Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia acknowledged having “approached the Angels” to open a dialogue on a possible move. Long Beach has a history with the Halos, including some serious dalliances in the past. For the time being, the club is still under contract to remain in Anaheim through at least 2020. Long-term talks to stay in Angels Stadium are ongoing, with some recent warming of relations but plenty of uncertainty overall.
- While a spring outing won’t be mistaken for the real thing, it was nevertheless fascinating to observe how MLB newcomer Yusei Kikuchi fared in his first game appearance in Mariners duds. As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports, the initial showing was fairly impressive. Kikuchi managed to induce a ghastly swinging strikeout from none other than Joey Votto, who afterward praised the “potential” (and relative rarity) of Kikuchi’s “very good” and “very surprising” curve. Seattle manager Scott Servais felt his new workhorse “was outstanding for the first time out there.” The M’s committed at least four years and $56MM to Kikuchi, a significant outlay for a club that spent the winter focusing on the near-future (2020 and beyond) rather than the immediate future (the coming season). His ability to translate his success in Japan’s top league to the majors will factor heavily into the Seattle organization’s ability to rebound quickly into full competitiveness.