The year was 2014, and A.J. Preller had a plan. Hired as the San Diego Padres new general manager in August of that year, Preller noticed a jarring trend within baseball: Home runs seemed to be going extinct.
The numbers bore that out. In 2014, MLB hitters combined to crack 4,186 homers. That marked the lowest total since 1993 — when Major League Baseball had two fewer teams.
Given free rein to reshape the roster to his liking, Preller embarked on one of the most aggressive winter shopping sprees in baseball history. In a span of just a few days, he reeled in Matt Kemp , Wil Myers , Justin Upton , Derek Norris , and Will Middlebrooks . All five players came with various holes in their game, ranging from lousy defense to slow feet to holes in their swing. But one thing all five could do was hit the ball a long, long way when they connected. Moreover, all five were right-handed, underscoring Preller’s attempt to corner the market on righty sluggers, an even scarcer commodity.