When the Rangers acquired Lee near the Trade Deadline in 2010, it helped fuel the team's run to an American League pennant.
Now, Preller is nearing his first Trade Deadline as a general manager in San Diego, and he'll be applying some of the lessons he learned in the years working his way up the Rangers' front-office ladder.
Becoming a Major League GM was never a goal Preller set in stone. But after 10 years in the Texas organization, that's the way it worked out.
"Honestly, really once I first got involved in baseball, the biggest thing was just hoping to be productive in your job and be part of an atmosphere and a work environment that was fun," Preller said Saturday. "I think that was really the focus of the 10 years I was with the Rangers."
Preller has known Rangers general manager Jon Daniels since they were fraternity brothers at Cornell, but that doesn't mean they always have the same mentality. Daniels is often known for a pragmatic caution, but Preller brought an aggressive mentality to his position in his first offseason with the Padres, acquiring players such as James Shields, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Craig Kimbrel and Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr. He wasted no time in making a splash as a general manager, and philosophies aside, his time in Texas is a big reason.
"I think it's a very valuable experience," Preller said. "I was able to work with good people, and I think we were able to learn from some early mistakes. I think being a part of managing some departments and being in the Draft and the international world and the player world on a grassroots level, I think it definitely helps you prepare for an opportunity in baseball, for this job."
The Padres entered Saturday's game against the Rangers with a 39-49 record, so the high-profile moves haven't worked out according to plan as of yet. That has the Padres being talked about as potential buyers and sellers at this year's Trade Deadline.
Preller said no particular year in Texas compares to this, or any other.
"To me, it's not like you can look at it and be like, 'I remember '06,'" Preller said. "Every situation is its own year and its own deal."
But Preller will lean on experience from Trade Deadlines with the Rangers if the Padres do indeed become serious players later this month, just as he uses those types of lessons every day.
"I don't think it was like any one specific thing," Preller said. "Just going through the preparation, the meetings, the good and the bad, and then learning a lot from them."