The hiring of a new manager rarely qualifies as a “blockbuster” move in the world of Major League Baseball. But the term is appropriate for the San Diego Padres latest move — hiring veteran manager Bob Melvin away from the Oakland Athletics on a three-year deal, according to a report from MLB.com.
Melvin will take over a talented, high-priced and recently disappointing Padres roster built by a frenetic general manager, A.J. Preller, who had until this point focused largely on inexperienced managers with whom he had history. Preller fired his longtime colleague Jayce Tingler, with whom he had also worked in the Texas Rangers’ player development system, shortly after the end of the regular season.
In choosing Melvin, Preller seems to be departing from a previous strategy: finding a young manager to mold with an up-and-coming roster. Instead, after his once-favored Padres missed the 2021 playoffs amid reports that Tingler lost support in the clubhouse, Preller is pivoting to a manager who can help mold that roster from up-and-coming into a winner.
The Padres have not announced the choice and the Athletics have not acknowledged Melvin’s departure, though they had to approve it. Melvin, a Bay Area native, had managed the A’s since 2011. The Athletics exercised his 2022 contract option in June.
But according to MLB.com, Oakland will not be receiving any compensation from the Padres in exchange for allowing Melvin out of his contract. What the always stingy A’s will get, unofficially, is a chance to hire a manager who comes at a lesser annual cost than Melvin ahead of an offseason in which many around the baseball industry expect the team to cut even more payroll than usual. The Athletics began the 2021 season with a payroll of around $80 million, 10th lowest in the majors.
During his decade in Oakland, Melvin became one of the more respected managers in either league, a veteran known for a steady hand and getting the most out of an Athletics’ roster annually compiled on a shoestring budget.
His A’s teams made the postseason in six of his 11 seasons as their manager and won three division titles. Melvin also spent five seasons as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks and two leading the Seattle Mariners before establishing himself as one of the game’s steadiest hands in Oakland.
Even before the move is official, A’s starter Chris Bassitt tweeted his gratitude for Melvin’s time in Oakland, calling him “truly the best manager in the sport.” Former Mariners outfielder Adam Jones tweeted: “Dope that Bob Melvin will be Manager of the Padres. One of the best in the game. And now you add a lot more resources. Should be fun to watch!!”
Indeed, regardless of what moves may be coming for the Padres this winter, Melvin will inherit the most talented and highest paid roster of his career. San Diego began last season with a payroll of more than $190 million — third-highest in the game. He inherits franchise cornerstone shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who at times showed the strain of San Diego’s 2021 slip in his energy and demeanor. He seems likely to inherit third baseman Manny Machado, the now-veteran superstar who has slid out of the spotlight because of Tatis.
And he inherits a pitching coach, Ruben Niebla, whom the Padres hired last week before they had a manager in place. Niebla spent 21 seasons with Cleveland, most recently as assistant pitching coach, and Cleveland compiled a 3.74 ERA since he took over as pitching coordinator in 2013 — best in the American League.
The Padres starting rotation underachieved last season as proven starters like Yu Darvish and Blake Snell stumbled and the progress of promising younger pitchers like MacKenzie Gore seemed to stall. The combination left the Padres unable to keep pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, both of whom appear likely to add to their rotations this winter. Then again, the Padres likely won’t sit on their hands. Preller seems physically unable to sit quietly this time of year.
But Melvin’s departure portends a very different kind of offseason for the Athletics, who were apparently so grateful to get out from under the few million they owed him that they would let one of the best and most beloved managers in franchise history walk down the coast without receiving anything in return.
That kind of stinginess could foretell major turnover on a roster loaded with rising stars likely due large raises in arbitration. Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea and even Bassitt are among those Athletics projected to make more than $8 million each in arbitration. Melvin was making far less than that in 2022 and Oakland was so eager to shed that money that they asked for nothing in return. It would get far more than nothing for Olson, Chapman, Manaea and Bassitt. Melvin’s departure may be a sign that they are willing to test that theory.