The sky fell Wednesday on some Texas Rangers followers, the ones who believe they have insight on the club’s inner workings, when the San Diego Padres lured away assistant general manager A.J. Preller with the keys to their small-market, short-on-talent franchise.
The loss, one such fan said, could have more of a lasting negative impact than any of the losses the Rangers have suffered this season, forgetting the career-threatening back surgery Matt Harrison had in June, and the May cervical fusion surgery Prince Fielder had on his neck.
There was also the no-guarantees-attached Tommy John surgery left-hander Martin Perez underwent in May, and the unexplained disappearance of Alexi Ogando after what in June was supposed to be three weeks of rest for his tender elbow.
Nevertheless, another forgetful fan said that the loss of Preller to the Padres’ vacant GM post was just “bad,” without fully knowing exactly what it was that Preller did or exactly how he did it.
If they were completely honest, some Rangers officials would admit that they didn’t know every detail of what Preller did, though they know that some it ran afoul of the relatively few rules there are in MLB’s least-regulated realm.
(The Padres knew, too, and asked for MLB’s blessing to hire him.)
But it’s hard to buy into the notion that losing Preller to a National League bottom-feeder that throws out GMs like day-old bread is going to sink the Rangers for years and years to come.
Granted, the media doesn’t know much more about Preller, who preferred to work behind the scenes, than what others in the Rangers’ front office have said about him.
He is a tireless worker, a genius, a master communicator, a terrific talent evaluator and a hoarder of American Airlines miles and Marriott points.
And he had his fingerprints on just about every player.
To that end, whenever the media saw him, he either had a phone stuck to his ear or was headed into a meeting or was about to leave for the airport or was watching the players signed under his watch.
If nothing else, take it from Jon Daniels on how much Preller’s departure will impact the organization. Daniels is the Rangers’ GM and was Preller’s boss. If anyone knows Preller, it’s his former Cornell frat brother Daniels.
A loss? Sure. But Preller was so good at his job, Daniels said, that he made those who reported to him as amateur scouting pooh-bah, at home and in Latin America, better at their jobs.
Most of what many of them know, like farm director Mike Daly and director of Latin American operations Gil Kim, is what they learned from Preller. Both have a line into the same endless energy reserve that fuels Preller.
The Rangers also have taken strides to ensure that Preller doesn’t pry anyone away from the Rangers’ scouting staffs. A source said a two-year hiring ban is in place.
So, why all the worry?
While officials talk about the impact Preller’s scouting and the influence his words had on the acquisition of notable players via trades and free agency, including his assistance on signing Yu Darvish, he was part of the misses, too.
In Latin America, above all else money is what talks the loudest. As long as the Rangers have it, they are going to continue to sign players no matter how strong Preller’s relationships are with the buscones in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere.
And he wasn’t the only Rangers official with strong ties there.
Perez was scouted and signed by Rafic Saab and Don Welke, and Saab and Daly combined on Rougned Odor. Daly was the point man on Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara, and Jorge Alfaro was discovered by Welke at a tryout camp.
Preller offered guidance, signed off on the scouts’ evaluations and had a hand in getting players to the dotted line. He deflected credit to others.
But he didn’t do everything in Latin America singlehandedly — the same goes for the prep work for the June draft — and the scores of scouts and officials he leaves behind won’t be helpless lumps without him.
Someone is going to pick up the reins and capably steer the Rangers’ amateur scouting operation. If Preller was as good at leading and developing his staff as everyone says he was, someone probably already has.
That alone should make the crushed diehards feel better about life without Preller.
The sky might have fallen on them Wednesday, but it didn’t and won’t fall on the Rangers.
The Rangers created a roster spot Thursday by designating catcher Chris Gimenez for assignment after removing him from the paternity list.
The move comes as no surprise. The Rangers need a roster spot for catcher Geovany Soto to come off the disabled list Friday, and Gimenez would have given the Rangers three catchers along with Robinson Chirinos.
The Rangers have 10 days to trade, release or outright Gimenez to the minor leagues.