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December 9, 2019

A.J. Preller

San Diego, California

Q. What's the status of Tommy Pham (indiscernible)?
A.J. PRELLER: When we made the deal with the Rays, we put a couple different contingencies in. We're still working through final details. Hope to have some clarity within the next 24 hours.

Q. Different players could be involved?
A.J. PRELLER: I don't know. When we made the trade, we made the trade with the players that were involved. I don't expect anything to change between now and when we move forward. We've got to just finish the process and go from there.

Q. How troubling is it that it's not official, that the exams didn't clear him totally, that you have concern? How troubling is it?
A.J. PRELLER: I think from our standpoint, that everything for us, just want to make sure everything is straightforward. I think any final questions that our medical group has to learn how to look at that I'm looking at, and we'll communicate with the Rays here and move forward.

Q. A.J., what is your reaction to the Stephen Strasburg deal? At any point was he a target for you guys?
A.J. PRELLER: I think, obviously, a phenomenal pitcher. With the local ties. I think every team would be excited to have Stephen Strasburg in the rotation. Obviously, a very large deal and what he did for the Nats over the last 10 years or so. Played in the postseason, well deserved.

I think from our standpoint, our focus, we've been looking to try to expand and spread out our resources throughout the off-season overall.

Q. What are you looking to do with your catcher situation going into 2020?
A.J. PRELLER: I think it's been an area that -- I think it's been an area we've had a lot of interest from other clubs. We feel we have two really good young catchers in Franky Mejía and Austin Hedges. Hedgy, one of the best defensive catchers in the game; Franky, a guy we feel brings a lot to the table offensively and defensively.

We made a deal with Austin Allen. We have catching depth. Luis Torrens had a great year last year at AA. He'll be a guy with a year of experience as a Rule 5 pick in the Big Leagues, and he'll be knocking on the door again for us and depth throughout the system.

You can never have enough catching. We always look at that. We'll see how it plays out here in the next few weeks.

Q. A.J., how does the addition of 26-man roster spot affect how you approach the off-season?
A.J. PRELLER: I'm not 100 percent sure. We've kind of talked about it obviously. We have some players like Jake Cronenworth, Javy Guerra that can go both ways, pitch and get on the field. We talked about specialists, pinch-hit, something like that. It just depends how your roster ends up being finalized when you get to the end of Spring Training.

I think for us we looked at as many good options as possible for Jayce and for his staff, but in terms of how we're going to use that spot, what it looks like, I don't think we'll really know until we get to Spring Training to see how the roster starts to shake up.

Q. Did the 26-man change how you approach the Rule 5 preparation and those decisions?
A.J. PRELLER: Not really for us. Honestly, I think we're going to be interested to see how it plays out on Thursday, if other teams feel like they have the ability to take more chances with the extra player on the roster. We kind of looked at it from a value standpoint, talent standpoint and let the pro scouting group do their thing, and we'll huddle up in the next couple of days to see if there's anyone we want to take.

Q. Have you looked at any of the Japanese or Korean players who have posted through MLB?
A.J. PRELLER: Yeah, I don't want to get into any detail. Our pro scouts do a great job in Japan and Korea. We're well aware of the group that's out there. We've been scouting these guys for years. Again, it's tough to line up for free agent, so we'll see. I think in general the biggest thing I've asked is be prepared for players, where they make decisions.

Q. Do you have concerns about (indiscernible)?
A.J. PRELLER: I think it's something we talked about already. I think it's going to be an area for us that we adjust. He's talked to us. It's a physical thing, it's a mental thing. I think as we get into January and more baseball activity, we'll have our coaching staff start spending more time with Jurickson. Jurickson can do a lot of things. It seems like he can play the left side of the outfield, play the infield, gives you a good quality at-bat. With the issues over at second base next year, we're going to do our best to work with him and see if we can get him into a spot. He's a quality defender, and I think we feel like it's something we can address and have him play all over the field and play second base.

Q. Talking about the consistency, it's more of a mental issue than a physical issue?
A.J. PRELLER: I think for us it was honestly a phone call post trade and just asking about him. He says it's a little combination of both, and we'll get into it when we get into Spring Training.

I think we have some people on the baseball side that feel there's some physical things we can help him with, and that will be a conversation between us and him.

Q. How do you view the rotation options you have versus the desire to add more starting pitching?
A.J. PRELLER: We feel good about the pitchers we have in house right now. I think for us we've talked about having depth and quality, and we're getting closer to that point. I think, when we started on this process three or four years ago, we talked about being an organization that has a lot of homegrown options, developed starting pitchers.

We've seen, whether it's Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer come up a couple seasons ago and take the ball and make starts for us. Obviously, Chris Paddack last year had a solid rookie year, Dinelson Lamet over the course of the last couple seasons, with a T.J. in between, and Garrett Richards coming back. We feel like we have some real options. I think the exciting part is we have a lot of options coming through the system that we're going to rely on, that we're going to count on.

We're always open to talking about trade free agents on the starting pitching front, but honestly, I think I feel really confident with the group we have and expect a lot of that group, and I think a lot of the success for us over the next year is going to be dependent on how well we do developing those starters that we feel good about over the last few years.

Q. How do the guys like Gore and Perdomo affect your strategy over the next year knowing they might be coming soon?
A.J. PRELLER: Again, I think they have to force their way onto the Big League roster. You never look to hand over a Major League job or a Major League opportunity. They're talented. We know they have real ability, front rotation type ability. They're going to have to show us when they're ready. I think the nice thing about both of those pitchers, with Luis and with MacKenzie, they're competitors and hard workers.

We'll put challenges in front of them for the off-season, things they're ready to go, pitch in AA or AAA, and we'll do the same if they think they're going to get to the Big League level. We'll have them in the back of our mind, but they'll have to force their way onto the Big League club if it's in the 2020 season.

Q. A.J., as you look at this group here, do you feel a sense of pressure to try to get something done at the Winter Meetings?
A.J. PRELLER: No. Honestly, we've been active so far and made three trades and the free agent signing with Drew Pomeranz. We've been pretty targeted on guys we wanted to line up on. I think you come to Winter Meetings, some years we've been aggressive here and been able to line up on trades. Some years we've had a lot of conversation here, I think in 2015, and made a ton of moves after that. Last year we didn't sign Machado until February.

I think you focus on being prepared, looking at things that line up for us. Also in the Winter Meetings things change pretty quickly. Free agent signing, someone goes off the board, all of a sudden you get a phone call about one of your players, and that leads to a conversation that you haven't even looked at over the last few weeks.

So I think for us, we're prepared. It's fun to be around. Our baseball operations group and team have everybody in one spot. It's fun seeing people from other clubs, but we'll see how the week plays out. If we get something done, great. If not, we'll keep tweaking the roster.

Q. From your perspective, how quickly is (indiscernible) getting up to speed, and what have you learned about him in the last month that you didn't know about him?
A.J. PRELLER: Yeah, it's been fun. Like I think Jayce mentioned in the press conference, we had some history from when he first started over with the Texas Rangers, and then for the last five years really haven't had that day-to-day conversation and communication.

It's been fun to pick up from our relationship, kind of pick up where we left off. I think it's been a good experience for him getting to know our people, our scouts, our coaches and getting out with the players. I think things that we thought he was going to be good at, things of his nature, his way, his ability to connect, his baseball knowledge -- it's only been a month, we haven't played a game yet, but he's fit right in.

Q. What do you like most about Tom Pham?
A.J. PRELLER: Tommy, a few things our scouting group talked about with Tommy -- on the field, competitive at-bats, the ability to impact the game in multiple ways. A guy that can steal a base. Obviously, the ability to get on base through walks. We've struggled with that the last few years.

I think off the field, the competitive nature. He has the fire. The fact that he went to a Rays team that at the time was playing .500 ball, and the next year and a half they played championship baseball, playoff baseball. I think all those things were really attractive to us and why we targeted him in the conversation.

Q. How much better do your catchers need to be offensively? How much more production, whoever they are?
A.J. PRELLER: It's a spot in the game right now there's not a ton of production in the game. For us, I think we had this conversation with Hedgy at the end of the season. He's going to work really hard going into next year. We know he's better as a player than he showed this season.

Again, I think for us what that ends up being, what that number is, we feel like we have a chance with the two catchers to have a plus combination, both offensively and defensively. It's hard to say does that mean certain on base, certain plug. Internally we'll talk about those things. I think it's just seeing productive, winning at-bats.

On the defensive end, from the catching end, that's the most important part to us. The ability to connect with the pitchers, the ability field to their position, handle the staff, handle the baseball, block the baseball, and control the running game. We'll focus on that and expect more offense from them this year.

Q. Going back to the 26th man, specialists, all those guys are able to play. Would you envision that 26th spot being used (indiscernible)?
A.J. PRELLER: I don't think so. I think every team is going to have their own dynamic. Again, with Guerra and Cronenworth, we think they can do it in a productive way for our Big League club. For us, we have two options that are attractive to two-way players. I think more teams are open to it, but I don't think a lot of teams are going to go that route this year.

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