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Padres not throwing in the towel, but throwing money around

The Sports Xchange

Last Monday, the Padres were officially sold ... we think.

The sale to a group that headed by the heirs to the O'Malley family of Dodger fame, professional golfer Phil Mickelson and San Diego businessman/civic leader Ron Fowler is final pending the approval of the other major league owners, a vote that could come as early as next Thursday.

But the new Padres' ownership has had a not-so-subtle hand in some surprising decisions made by the team over the last month.

As the trading deadline approached last month, most observers believed the Padres would follow their recent form and trade away their most attractive parts, including right-handed closer Huston Street, left fielder Carlos Quentin and third baseman Chase Headley, for prospects.

Certainly, the general managers of other teams believed that it was business as usual with the Padres. Offers for the three flooded the desk of Padres' general manager Josh Byrnes at PetcoPark.

Then came the stunning reversal of form.

The Padres, who were supposed to be in an ownership limbo, extended the contract of Quentin on July 21. Not only did Quentin get a three-year, $27 million guaranty from the Padres, the year-round San Diego resident got a no-trade provision.

Hard to trade a player who has a no-trade clause for prospects. And if the Padres pick up Quentin's option for 2016, the contract tops out at $37 million.

Exactly a week later, the Padres extended Street for the next two seasons at $7 million per year, with an option for 2015 at $7 million.

Certainly, it wasn't business as usual.

Someone gave Byrnes the go-ahead to make those deals. And it is highly doubtful that it was then majority owner John Moores, who slashed the Padres' payroll over the winter of 2008-2009 as he prepared to sell the Padres for the first time.

Byrnes himself strongly hinted that changes were in the air.

"We're looking toward the future," Byrnes said after the Quentin signing. "We do not think we need to tear down what we have. We are looking to build for the future and become a contender as soon as we can."

Not exactly the words of a general manager looking down the road on a five-year plan.

And even the soft-spoken Quentin gave indications that the Padres were headed in a new direction.

"I think they want to get better and build a strong group of players to build around," said Quentin.

Who was they?

Certainly not Moores, who had wanted to rid himself of the Padres since late in 2008.

Certainly not Jeff Moorad, whose bid to buy the Padres on a lay-away plan met resistance from other owners last March when it came up for approval. Moorad's idea was to keep the payroll low and build for the future, even if the future might never come.

Clearly, someone was spending on the Padres.

And that became even more evident when Headley wasn't moved at the trading deadline. The Padres already had a young, low-budget prospect in Jedd Gyorko ready to play third.

Swapping arbitration-eligible Headley for prospects was a Moorad-style deal (see Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, circa 2010 for more details).

So who gets credit for the Padres' new direction?

Much of the credit must go to owners who can't even take credit yet.

The extensions for Quentin and Street and the non-trade of Headley weren't done in a leadership vacuum.

The strong hands of the pending owners, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, sons Brian and Kevin, nephews Peter and Tom Seidler, Fowler and possibly even Mickelson, were all over those moves.

Peter Seidler admitted as much last Monday night after the final papers were signed by Moores and the remaining minority owners from the failed Moorad purchase, who owned 49.32 percent of the club.

"We are looking to build," Seidler said. "We know what the Padres have done in the past. We have our own plan. We think the fans will like it when we are able to show what we want to do."

They are already getting the message.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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