The Padres gained more at the dizzying trade deadline than simply adding the front-line stuff of Mike Clevinger, the back-end stuff of Trevor Rosenthal, the postseason-chops stuff of Mitch Moreland and the behind-the-plate stuff of Austin Nola and Jason Castro.
They caused the NL West to cram for a test, without warning. They caused them to run first-half scouting reports through a band saw.
The Padres not only filled holes and boosted talent, they injected uncertainty and fueled a scarcity of familiarity that reshuffles the deck in ways no one's seen so close to baseball's finish line.
"A.J.'s got a creative mind," said Rockies manager Bud Black, who was with the Padres in late 2014 when General Manager A.J. Preller put two dozen players in motion, including Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Yasmani Grandal and Max Fried. "... He's not afraid to go out there and be creative and make deals.
"That's something I think is in his DNA."
Preller did more than reshape the Padres. He sparked midpoint mayhem, in his own clubhouse and across baseball's western outposts. This time, he went even further than 2014 with six deals in three days that involved 26 players — orchestrating the busiest deadline sprint in history.
Everyone talked about how Clevinger reimagined the rotation, how Rosenthal buoyed the bullpen, how Moreland infused grit and experience, how Nola delivered a catcher who actually could hit. No one talked about how the sheer volume of it left opponents scratching heads and rushing to web browsers.
This is Moreland's first stop outside the American League in 11 seasons. This is Clevinger's first stop outside Cleveland in five. Rosenthal spent six seasons with St. Louis but has pitched just 32 big-league innings since 2017.
Nola, the least known Nola for most, was hidden away in Seattle — one of MLB's witness protection program stash houses. Castro, formerly of the Angels, is another AL refugee.
Think of it like a pitcher, going through a strange lineup for the first time in a game ... and multiply it across an entire clubhouse ... with, coming into Tuesday, 17 games to play.
Now batting ... Aaron ... . Anarchy.
Pedro Gomez, one of ESPN's baseball gurus, started to dissect Preller's version of chaos theory from the top.
"The NL West guys, they don't know Clevinger," Gomez said. "That's a huge plus for any pitcher. When it's new versus new, the pitcher has the advantage. As you look at the landscape of the National League, other than the Dodgers, there's no clear-cut favorite.
"If you land a guy to go against a Walker Buehler or a Dustin May in Game 1 and sneak out a victory, it's a race to three games (in the Division Series)."
The Dodgers reset expectations and added unease for opponents when they locked down Mookie Betts, a Fenway Park superstar who shook up the West.
The Padres did some of the same in the rotation, the bullpen, behind the plate and in the dugout. The Ringer, quoting Dan Hirsch of Baseball-Reference, reported no GM other than Preller has moved more than 20 players in any three-day span. And Preller's now done it twice.
Preller followed a seven-player-deal day with nine the next.
Former pitcher Charles Nagy, a three-time All Star with the Indians who lives in Solana Beach, said the Padres — these new-look Padres — can go far in the postseason. All the way?
"I don't see why not," he said. "They've got enough talent. Their lineup's built do it. They have power. They're patient at the plate. Now they have pitching that matches up with almost anyone. They've got speed, too. They run the bases.
"Sometimes they run into some outs, but they're aggressive on the bases and pitchers have to worry about that. That hasn't been a priority (in baseball) for a while."
As the Rockies, Giants and yes, even the Dodgers, try to sort out the Padres, October creeps closer by the pitch. There's no Cliff's Notes version to fully figure out how the Padres reinvented themselves so much, so late. Heck, they're still trying to get a pulse on "that Cronenworth guy."
"Those are really good players," Black said. "Clevinger is a legit front-end starter. Rosenthal this season is having a big year and looks as though he's rebounded and is throwing the ball great. The two catchers are pros. I've seen Castro for a number of years. He's a solid, veteran presence behind the plate with a little bit of a bat. I like the way Nola plays. He can swing the bat. He's got a good head on his shoulders.
"Those four guys are very competent, capable major league players. So from my chair, the Padres got better. Those are great additions."
The Padres, of course, still need to prove they can do something with all this self-engineered pandemonium when it matters most.
The benefits, though, extend beyond simple player upgrades.
"What I think it does more than anything, it injects enthusiasm into the clubhouse," Gomez said. "(Players are like) 'Wow, the front office really believes we have a chance to win it all this year. If they believe that, maybe we do have a chance.' "
Torching standard operating procedure poses risks, as well.
"It's not just a spreadsheet," Gomez said of such wholesale change. "Players have heartbeats, feelings and emotions. That has a role."
The Padres didn't just get better. They got wildly different.
Chaos, grab a bat. You're on deck.
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