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GM Preller says Melvin will be back as manager of the underwhelming Padres

Bob Melvin Yu Darvish San Diego Padres Bob Melvin Yu Darvish - The Canadian Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Bob Melvin will be back as manager of the big-spending San Diego Padres following the most disappointing season in franchise history, general manager A.J. Preller said Wednesday.

The GM also downplayed reports of a fractured relationship with Melvin, who has guided the Padres to the only two winning records in a full season under Preller and has a year left on his contract.

“Bob is our manager and is going to be our manager going forward," Preller said during a video news conference. "A lot's been said in the last few weeks, obviously, but both he and I are very excited about the challenge of getting this group back to the postseason next year.”

The announcement came three days after the star-laden Padres finished 82-80. They were eliminated from playoff contention on Friday night, a bitter result for a team that entered the season with World Series aspirations after making a stirring run to the NL Championship Series last fall and then increasing their payroll to around $258 million on opening day, the third-highest in baseball.

Melvin finished his second season with San Diego and 20th overall as a major league manager. Preller, on his fifth manager since getting hired in August 2014, minimized discord.

“From my standpoint, a lot's been overblown," Preller said. "There have been reports that hey, we don't speak. We're talking four or five times a day. Personally, we have a friendship. I don't put a lot of stock into the unnamed reports and sources and stories that are out of context.”

Preller declined comment when asked if there had been extension talks with Melvin or if he would be allowed to explore any managerial opportunities that came up with other teams.

Melvin didn't respond to a text seeking comment and the team didn't make him available. He's been voted Manger of the Year three times, including in both leagues.

Preller said that after meetings earlier this week, “both he and I are very excited about the challenge of getting this group back to the postseason next year. With Bob and myself, I think even in the last couple of days you get a chance to recap and look at some different things. Both of us feel really good about where things are going forward.”

Preller called it a "frustrating and disappointing season. We never really fired on all cylinders. We didn't play the baseball that we thought we were capable of from the starting point of the season.

“Personally, for myself, it feels like a lost and missed opportunity," he added. "It's not every year as a general manager that you can honestly look up at the start of the season and feel like, hey if we got a few breaks, that we could hoist the World Series trophy, and I felt like that at the start of this year.”

One of the biggest focuses for the Padres moving forward is what to do with slugger Juan Soto, who can become a free agent after the 2024 season. Preller said the Padres plan to speak with Soto and his agent, Scott Boras, “kind of seeing where his head is at, figuring out if there's some common ground” regarding a multiyear deal for the 24-year-old star. Soto turned down a $440 million, 15-year offer from Washington in 2022 before being traded to the Padres.

Asked if the Padres would consider trading Soto in the offseason, Preller said, “We've never been a group that says no to anything," but added that “as we get into the offseason, our first line with Juan is trying to see what this looks like with him being part of the Padres going forward.”

Soto was an All-Star and played all 162 games, hitting .275 with a career-high 35 homers and 109 RBIs. He walked 132 times, most in the majors.

Preller called Soto “a dynamic offensive force. His ability to get on base and do damage is, if not one of the best, maybe one of the best in baseball. ... We've got some really core, key pieces that are in place going into next year and Juan's a huge part of that in the middle of the order.”

The Padres reportedly will cut payroll next year. They already have three massive deals on the books: Manny Machado's $350 million, 11-year deal; Fernando Tatis Jr.'s $345 million, 10-year contract; and Xander Bogaerts' $280 million, 11-year pact.