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Josh Byrnes' History As Padres GM - An Objective Review

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly three months into the 2014 baseball season and us Friar hopeful find the San Diego Padres sitting 14 games behind San Francisco in the NL West cellar – all but eliminated from the playoffs. While most San Diegans have already turned their attention to the Chargers’ OTAs, those of us diehard Padres’ fans are already thinking about next year.

While "next year" is an all-too-familiar mantra among us San Diego sports fans – notwithstanding the San Diego Sockers and their 10 championships – for the Padres, next year may bring about new faces at both the general manager and manager positions. Not since 1995 – when Jim Riggleman and Randy Smith gave way to Bruce Bochy and Kevin Towers – have the Padres’ fans witnessed simultaneous turnover at arguably the two most critical positions in the organization.

Many baseball pundits believe that both Bud Black and Josh Byrnes may be on their way out after what appears to be the team’s fourth consecutive losing season, and sixth in the past seven years.

An analysis of Black’s tenure as the Padres’ manager is for another article. Whether he has maximized his time as manager motivating players and manipulating rosters to squeeze as many wins out of his teams as possible is up for debate. What is not up for debate, however, is that Black (and all other major league managers) will never be able to turn a talent-deficient team into a champion.

Believing that a manager is only as good as his roster, this article focuses on the man that is in charge of putting together the Padres’ roster – Josh Byrnes.

After his tenure as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM ended mid-season in 2010, Byrnes was hired as the Padres’ Vice President of Baseball Operations on December 3, 2010. When Jed Hoyer left for Chicago following the 2011 season, Byrnes was promoted to GM of the Padres on October 26, 2011.

Byrnes, with a new five-year contract in-hand, was tasked with the responsibility of reshaping a Padres’ team that finished the 2011 season in the NL West cellar at 71-91. The 2011 season witnessed the post-Adrian Gonzalez Padres finish worst in the NL in most offensive categories, including batting average (.237), home runs (95), strikeouts (1320), slugging percentage (.349), and second to last in runs scored (593), on base percentage (.305), and RBI’s (563). Needless to say, Byrnes had his work cut out from day one.

During the press conference in which the Padres’ announced their new GM, a reporter asked Byrnes what he planned to do to turn around the 91-loss team he just inherited. Stating the obvious, Byrnes replied, "[i]n general, we need to get better in a lot of areas. We were behind in a lot of games. We didn't score enough and our starting pitchers didn't shut them down enough." Asked how long it would take to turn this ball club around, Byrnes responded, "I also think things turn around quicker than people realize. We’re determined to make that process go as quickly as it can.

When questioned about ways he intended to improve the Padres’ offense, Byrnes answered, "I think we're open to anything. I think when you had a season like we had, you don't start to act like things are untouchable. I think we have to really look at our roster and be open to any area we can get better."

Despite the promise to "quickly" turn things around, in 2014, the Padres’ once again find themselves at the bottom of the NL West. Byrnes – now in his fourth year with the Padres and third year as the team’s GM – has arguably had sufficient time to set the organization in the right direction.

The purpose of this article is to objectively review and analyze Byrnes’ player personnel decisions as the GM of the Padres to determine whether Byrnes has, in fact, improved the Padres’ organization. In reaching a decision, this article attempts to objectively evaluate Byrnes’ player personnel decisions by separating these decisions into four principal categories – (1) trades, (2) free agent signings, (3) contract extensions, and (4) the draft.

The compilation of Byrnes’ player personnel decisions will answer to the question, whether Byrnes has improved the Padres’ roster.

TRADES

First, in evaluating Byrnes’ performance as the Padres’ GM, we will look at the trades that he has orchestrated since taking over for Hoyer at the end of 2011. While Byrnes, as the elder statesman, likely played a significant role in the transactions effectuated by Hoyer well before the end of 2011, we don’t know with certainty Byrnes’ impact on the personnel decisions before ascending to GM at the end of 2011. As such, we will only consider those transactions occurring after October 26, 2011, Byrnes’ first day as GM of the Padres.

Also, we will only consider the statistics of the players acquired by Byrnes during their time with the Padres. In other words, even though Edinson Volquez has had some success with the Pittsburg Pirates this year, his 2014 stats will not be considered in evaluating the Mat Latos trade because the stats were not generated while in a Padres’ uniform.

The trades, in chronological order, are broken down as follows:

1. Wade LeBlanc for John Baker

Within a month of his promotion, Byrnes’ first official trade was to send left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc (age 27)[1] to the Miami Marlins for backup catcher John Baker (age 31). The players’ post-trade statistics breakdown as follows:

Wade LeBlanc

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR[2]

2012

25

9

68.2

2-5

3.67

1.31

43

1.3

2013

17

7

55

1-5

5.40

1.67

33

-0.4

2014

2

0

7.1

0-0

7.36

1.50

4

-0.1

John Baker

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

63

193

0

14

2

.310

.238

0.4

2013

16

40

0

2

0

.261

.150

0.0

Going into the 2012 year, Byrnes needed to find a serviceable backup catcher to starter Nick Hundley, who was coming off his best season in the majors. LeBlanc, on the other hand, was expendable as he spent the previous four years bouncing between the Padres and AAA, and could not find a permanent home on the 25-man roster.

While nether player lasted more than two years with the team that traded for him, Baker served an important back-up role with the Padres and its young, and inexperienced, pitching staff. LeBlanc, on the other hand, was never able to stick on a 25-man roster, and has watched his numbers greatly decline over the past three years.

2. Nick Schmidt for Huston Street

On December 7, 2011, Byrnes completed a trade of a little more significance than the LeBlanc-Baker trade above. Byrnes traded minor league left-handed pitcher and former first-round draft pick, Nick Schmidt (age 26), to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for closer Huston Street (age 28) and $1 million.

Huston Street

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

40

23

39

2-1

1.85

0.71

47

1.3

2013

58

33

56.2

2-5

2.70

1.02

46

1.0

2014

22

18

26

1-0

1.04

0.76

29

1.3

At the time of the trade, Street had three years, $21.5 million remaining on his contract with the Rockies, along with a fourth-year team option for $7 million. While the price tag was (and continues to be) high for a cost-conscious Padres team, it was cheaper than matching the contract incumbent closer Heath Bell (age 34) had just been offered by the Miami Marlins (3 years, $27 million).

In retrospect, Street’s performance has earned him the $7 million per year since arriving in San Diego. In addition to serving as the Padres’ lone all-star representative in 2012, Street has converted 63 of 66 save opportunities since joining the team. Alternatively, Schmidt has yet to appear in the major leagues, and, with a minor league ERA currently north of 5.5, it does not appear that Schmidt will be appearing in the majors any time soon.

While many have been critical of Byrnes for allocating significant payroll to what amounts to nothing more than a ninth-inning luxury on a bad team, following the departures of both Bell and Mike Adams a year earlier, the Padres’ bullpen needed help. Street provided a proven veteran presence and stellar performances.

It is also worth noting, the $7 million per year Byrnes took on with Street’s contract has gone much further for the Padres than many (if not all) of the other MLB 2011 free agent additions. For example, had Byrnes reallocated the $7 million paid to Street into free agency, he could have pursued the following players:

· Carlos Peña (age 34) – first baseman, 1 year, $7.25 million (WAR of 0.6);

· Rafael Furcal (age 34) – second baseman, 2 years, $14 million. Furcal only played one year of the contract (WAR of 1.3) before succumbing to injuries for the entire 2013 season;

· Aaron Harang (age 34) – starting pitcher, 2 years, $12 million. Harang had a solid year for the Dodgers in 2012 (WAR of 1.7) followed by a disastrous 2013 season (WAR of -0.7);

· Jason Kubel (age 30) – left fielder, 2 years, $15 million. Kubel, like Harang, followed a solid 2012 season (WAR of 1.1) with a dreadful 2013 season (WAR of -0.8);

· Ryan Madson (age 31) – relief pitcher, 1 year, $8.5 million. Madson, due to injuries, did not play in a single game during the 2012 season;

· Joe Nathan (age 37) – relief pitcher, 2 years, $14.5 million. Nathan was arguably the most successful free agent closer signing of 2011, as is reflect in his 2012 WAR of 1.9, and 2013 WAR of 3.2;

· Joe Saunders (age 30) – starting pitcher, 1 year, $6 million and a WAR of 0.7;

· Coco Crisp (age 32) – center fielder, 2 years, $14 million. Crisp earned a relatively large contract from a small-market Oakland team and did not disappoint. In 2012, Crip’s WAR of 3.2, followed by an even better 4.3 WAR in 2013;

· Heath Bell (age 34) – closer, 3 years, $27 million. As Padres’ fans know, following Bell’s departure from San Diego, his baseball career fell apart. Bell’ combined WAR after 2011 is a -1.5. Bell is currently pitching in the minor leagues where he continues to collect the remainder of his $27 million contract;

· Frank Francisco (age 32) – closer, 2 years, $12 million. Francisco strung together two disappointing years for the New York Mets (2012 WAR of -0.6 and 2013 WAR of 0.0);

· Luke Scott (age 33) – designated hitter, 1 year, $6 million (WAR of 0.3); and

· Josh Willingham (age 33) – left fielder, 3 years, $21 million. After a strong start to the 3-year contract (2012 WAR of 3.2), Willingham has slowed down significantly (2013 WAR of 0.6 and 2014 WAR of 1.3).

Review of this list suggests that Byrnes’ trade for (and investment in) Street was the right move, as it has clearly improved the Padres roster over each of the past three seasons.

3. Mat Latos for Brad Boxberger, Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso

Without a doubt, the biggest single transaction undertaken by Byrnes to reshape the Padres’ roster occurred on December 17, 2011, when he traded the Padres’ number one starter, and rising start, Mat Latos (age 24) to the Reds for starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (age 28), first baseman Yonder Alonso (age 25), minor league catcher Yasmani Grandal (age 23), and minor league relief pitcher Brad Boxberger (age 24). The players’ post-trade statistics breakdown as follows:

Mat Latos

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

33

33

209.1

14-4

3.48

1.16

185

4.3

2013

32

32

210.2

14-7

3.16

1.21

187

3.8

2014

1

1

6.0

0-0

0.00

0.33

4

0.4

Edinson Volquez

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

32

32

182.2

11-11

4.14

1.45

174

1.0

2013

33

32

170.1

9-12

5.71

1.58

142

-2.4

2014

114

13

78.2

4-5

3.89

1.18

53

0.4

Yonder Alonso

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

155

549

9

62

3

.348

.273

1.5

2013

97

334

6

45

6

.341

.281

1.3

2014

69

229

5

22

6

.250

.210

0.2

Yasmani Grandal

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

60

226

8

36

0

.394

.297

2.8

2013

28

108

1

9

0

.352

.216

0.4

2014

49

130

6

16

2

.291

.200

0.2

Brad Boxberger

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

24

0

27.2

0-0

2.60

1.44

33

0.1

2013

18

1

22.0

0-1

2.86

1.45

24

0.1

2014

23

0

23.0

0-1

2.35

1.08

34

0.6

Latos, in just two years, had a combined WAR (8.1) that dwarfs the three-year combined WAR of the four players he was traded for (6.2). In other words, Latos has secured the Reds more wins than Volquez, Alonso, Grandal and Boxberger have been able to provide the Padres, combined.

Fans have watched as both Alonso and Grandal’s abilities have declined during their tenure in San Diego. Following an "enhanced" rookie campaign, Grandal’s bat has been mediocre at best. Alonso, on the other hand, is a first baseman with little power and a low batting average.

While Latos led the league in starts in 2012 and helped solidify the starting rotation for the first-place Reds, Volquez has led the league in categories of his own. In 2012, Volquez gave up more walks than any other pitcher in baseball (105), and in 2013, he led the league in earned runs allowed (108).

The fourth and final piece of the trade, Boxberger, was a serviceable relief pitcher during his brief time in the major leagues, and may be best known as the key piece in the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for Alex Torres, discussed below.

Less than three full seasons removed from the four-for-one blockbuster, there is really no debate. Byrnes December 17, 2011 transaction with the Reds weakened the Padres’ roster.

4. Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez for Carlos Quentin

Appreciating that the 2011 Padres’ team leader in home runs was Ryan Ludwick, with 11, Byrnes set out to find a middle-of-the-order bat that could fit within the Padres’ payroll. On December 31, 2011, Byrnes traded minor league pitchers Simon Castro (age 24) and Pedro Hernandez (age 23) to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for all-star outfielder/designated hitter Carlos Quentin (age 29).

As part of the trade, Byrnes inked Quentin to a four-year, $34.03 million contract extension through 2015, with a mutual $10 million option for 2016, or a $3 million buyout. The players’ post-trade major league statistics are broken down as follows:

Carlos Quentin

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

86

284

16

46

0

.374

.261

1.6

2013

82

276

13

44

0

.363

.275

2.1

2014

24

66

3

8

0

.312

.212

-0.1

Simon Castro

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2013

4

0

6.2

0-1

2.70

1.20

6

0.2

Pedro Hernandez

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

1

1

4.0

0-1

18.00

3.25

2

-0.3

2013

14

12

56.2

3-3

6.83

1.81

29

-0.9

Neither Hernandez nor Castro has seen significant playing time in the majors. Hernandez is currently with his fourth team in as many years, trolling around the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system. Castro, with his third team during the same period of time, has recently joined Hernandez in the Rockies minor league system after failing to secure a roster spot with the White Sox.

On the other hand, when healthy, Quentin has served as the middle-of-the-order hitter the Padres desperately needed. However, playing in less than half of the Padres’ games since the trade, the real question surrounding Byrnes’ acquisition of Quentin is not weather Castro and Hernandez were too high a price to pay for Quentin’s services, but whether Quentin has been worth the $37 million extension.

Quentin’s contract paid him $7.025 million in 2012, $9.5 million in both 2013 and 2014, and will pay him an additional $8 million in 2015, followed by the inevitable $3 million buyout in 2016. During the course of the contract, Quentin will make in excess of $9.25 million per year.

Instead of spending the $9.25 million per year on Quentin, there must have been someone else that Byrnes could have targeted in the free agent market, right? Following the 2011 season, the proven position players available on the free agent market included:

· Carlos Beltran (age 35) – right fielder, 2 years, $26 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 6.0;

· Michael Cuddyer (age 33) – right fielder, 3 years, $31.5 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 2.9;

· Prince Fielder (age 28) – first baseman, 9 years, $214 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 6.3;

· Rafael Furcal, see above, combined WAR since 2011 of 1.2;

· Jason Kubel, see above, combined WAR since 2011 of -2.1;

· Carlos Peña, see above, combined WAR since 2011 of 0.0;

· Jhonny Peralta (age 30) – shortstop, 4 years, $53 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 7.1;

· Albert Pujols (age 32) – first baseman, 10 years, $250 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 8.1;

· Aramis Ramirez (age 33) – third baseman, 3 years, $36 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 6.8;

· Jose Reyes (age 28) – shortstop, 6 years, $106 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 6.4;

· Jimmy Rollins (age 33) – shortstop, 3 years, $38 million. Combined WAR since 2011 of 3.8; and

· Josh Willingham, see above, combined WAR since 2011 of 5.1.

With a post-2011 combined WAR of 3.6, Quentin – even as a part-time player – has outperformed all of the names above but those players with contracts that make Quentin’s $9 million per-year look like a bargain – i.e., Beltran ($13 million per year), Fielder ($23.77 million per year), Perelta ($13.25 million per year), Pujols ($25 million per year), Ramirez ($12 million per year), and Reyes ($17.66 million per year) – and Willingham. It is also unlikely the Padres would never have signed any of these higher-priced players had Byrnes not pulled the trigger on Quentin.

While Quentin has been less than advertised as a result of his body breaking down, even with all of the injuries, it appears that Byrnes’ 2011 New Year’s Eve acquisition of Quentin has improved the Padres roster and was a better option than the similarly priced alternatives.

5. Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na

Even after adding seven new faces to the roster during his first two-plus months on the job, Byrnes was still not done trading. On January 6, 2012, Byrnes – under the impression that Alonso’s line-drive swing was a better fit for the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park, traded away first baseman Anthony Rizzo (age 22), one of the players acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez trade exactly 13 months earlier, and minor league pitcher Zach Cates (age 22) in exchange for young fireball pitcher Andrew Cashner (age 25) and minor league outfielder Kyung-Min Na (age 20).

While the trade included four ballplayers, it has clearly come down to Cashner vs. Rizzo. Cates, a starter in the Padres’ organization, has difficulties in the Cubs’ minor league system and has since been converted to a reliever. His future as a legitimate major league prospect is in question. Likewise, Na has struggled after the trade – batting .155 in 2012, his last with the Padres before being released following the 2012 season.

Cashner and Rizzo’s post-trade stats shakeout as follows:

Andrew Cashner

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

33

5

46.1

3-4

4.27

1.31

52

-0.1

2013

31

26

175.0

10-9

3.09

1.13

128

2.4

2014

11

11

69.1

2-6

2.47

1.18

57

1.2

Anthony Rizzo

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

87

337

15

48

3

.342

.285

2.2

2013

160

606

23

80

6

.323

.233

2.8

2014

67

239

14

38

1

.401

.276

1.9

At this early juncture in their careers, both Cashner and Rizzo are rising stars in their respective organizations. While Rizzo may reach the all-star game this year in the NL, Casher, if he can stay healthy, has the look of a number one starter for years to come.

Rizzo gets the overall nod thus far in the head-to-head competition based on WAR; however, it would be difficult for anyone to conclusively state that Byrnes hurt the Padres’ roster by this trade.

6. Ernesto Frieri for Alexi Amarista and Don Roach

The Cashner/Rizzo transaction would be the last significant trade by Byrnes before the start of his first season as the Padres’ GM. Nearly five months would pass before Byrnes made his first in-season trade on May 3, 2012 – this time, trading relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri (age 26) to the Anaheim Angeles for utility infielder Alexi Amarista (age23) and minor league pitcher Don Roach (age 22).

The players’ post-trade stats are identified below:

Ernesto Frieri

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

67

23

66.0

5-2

2.32

0.98

98

1.4

2013

67

37

68.2

2-4

3.80

1.23

98

0.6

2014

30

11

28.0

0-3

5.46

1.28

36

-0.5

Don Roach

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2014

16

1

30.1

1-0

4.75

1.68

17

-0.2

Alexi Amarista

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

106

300

5

32

8

.282

.240

0.3

2013

146

368

4

32

4

.282

.236

-0.4

2014

57

120

1

9

3

.258

.192

-0.4

Amarista’s WAR numbers and defensive struggles suggest that he has not been a valuable asset to the Padres’ roster. However, at the time of the trade, the Padres had a serious lack of middle infield depth and needed someone to help offset the subpar performance of Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett and the injuries to Logan Forsythe and Everth Cabrera. The Little Ninja immediately stepped in and has served as the Padres super-utility guy ever since.

Roach, getting his first taste of the big leagues this year, may someday become a solid major league contributor – but as reflected in his recent demotion to AAA, still has some work to do.

Frieri, on the other hand, stepped into the Angels bullpen after the trade and almost immediately became their closer. While his WAR has declined each year since the trade, Frieri has accumulated 58 saves with the Halos and has helped to solidify their bullpen.

Although Amarista served an immediate need, in retrospect, Byrnes did not get value in return for Frieri.

7. Andy Parrino and Andrew Werner for Tyson Ross and A.J. Kirby-Jones

Byrnes next significant trade did not come until after the end of 2012 season, and did not have the initial look of a significant trade. On November 16, 2012, Byrnes traded utility infielder Andy Parrino (age 27) and starting pitcher Andrew Werner (age 26) for starters Tyson Ross (age 26) and A.J. Kirby-Jones (age 24).

Three of these four players, Parrino, Werner and Kirby-Jones are currently underperforming in the minors – with only Parrino receiving major league service time with his new team. Meanwhile, the fourth player, Ross, has become a stabilizing force in the Padres’ rotation.

The player’s major league stats since the trade are identified below:

Andy Parrino

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2013

14

34

0

1

0

.167

.118

-0.9

Tyson Ross

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2013

35

16

125.0

3-8

3.17

1.15

119

1.3

2014

15

15

93.2

6-6

3.27

1.32

90

0.4

Ross has taken the ball for the Padres every fifth day since the end of July 2013, and has become a solid, if not spectacular, addition to the Padres’ rotation. Byrnes addition of Ross has significantly upgraded the Padres’ roster.

8. Joe Thatcher and Matt Stites for Ian Kennedy

On the eve of the MLB 2013 trade-deadline, Byrnes surprised the baseball world when the Padres, with a record of 50-59, became a "buyer" by trading left-handed relief pitcher Joe Thatcher (age 31) and minor league pitcher Matt Stites (age 24) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for starting pitcher, and former 21-game winner, Ian Kennedy (age 28).

The players’ post-trade major league statistics are as follows:

Joe Thatcher

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2013

22

0

9.1

0-1

6.75

1.92

7

-0.3

2014

32

0

20.0

1-0

2.70

1.20

21

0.1

Ian Kennedy

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2013

10

10

57.1

4-2

4.58

1.34

55

0.0

2014

15

15

92.0

5-8

3.72

1.17

98

0.8

Less than a year after the July 31, 2013 trade, Kennedy is again pitching like a front-line starter. For Arizona, on the other hand, Thatcher continues to be a nice situational lefty while Stites, now pitching out of the bullpen for Arizona’s AAA team, has yet to crack the major league roster.

Without question, Byrnes’ 2013 deadline deal with the Diamondbacks has upgraded the Padres’ roster.

9. Luke Gregerson for Seth Smith

Following the 2013 season, Byrnes made another flurry of trades in an attempt to further upgrade the Padres’ roster. The first move entailed trading one of the Padres’ top relief pitchers, Luke Gregerson (age 30), to the Athletics for outfielder Seth Smith (age 31), on December 3, 2013. The players’ post-trade stats match up as follows:

Luke Gregerson

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2014

34

3

35.1

1-1

2.04

1.01

34

1.0

Seth Smith

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2014

59

192

6

21

1

.395

.286

2.3

This trade, unlike most, took many of the Friar faithful by surprise, as Gregerson, a fan favorite, appeared next in-line after Street to close games for the Padres. Byrnes, however, was willing to sacrifice a relief pitcher for a proven MLB bat in Smith.

Since the trade, Gregerson has been as good as advertised coming out of the bullpen for Oakland. On the other hand, Smith has been one of the few bright spots in the Padres’ lineup.

While it is far to early to tell if Byrnes’ trade of Gregerson will ultimately reflect a good move for the Padres’ GM, at this point, considering Smith’s strong early-season performance and Byrnes’ later acquisitions of Joaquin Benoit and Alex Torres, discussed below, to fill the vacancy left by Gregerson, the trade for Smith has been a positive for the Padres’ roster.

10. Logan Forsythe, Brad Boxberger, Matt Andriese, Matt Lollis and Maxx Tissenbaum for Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn

After trading away Thatcher during the 2013 season, one of Byrnes’ top priorities during this past offseason was to find a left-handed relief pitcher. On January 22, 2014, Byrnes achieved this goal when he traded utility infielder Logan Forsythe (age 27), relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, (age 26), minor league pitchers Matt Lollis (age 23) and Matt Andriese (age 24), and minor league utility player Maxx Tissenbaum (age 22) to the Tampa Bay Ray for left-handed relief pitcher Alex Torres (age 26) and minor league pitcher Jesse Hahn (age 24).

The players’ post-trade MLB stats are as follows:

Brad Boxberger

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2014

23

0

23.0

0-1

2.35

1.08

34

0.6

Logan Forsythe

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2014

50

122

0

5

0

.241

.189

-0.1

Alex Torres

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2014

30

0

29.0

1-0

1.86

1.24

25

0.5

Jesse Hahn

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2014

2

2

9.2

1-1

3.72

1.24

12

0.1

Hahn recently followed up a rocky MLB debut with a stellar second start that may plant him in the Padres’ rotation for at least a few more starts. Andriese and Lollis are having solid seasons in the Ray’s minor league system and also appear on their way to a major league roster sooner rather than later. Tissenbaum is currently batting around .270 in A ball.

After just a few months after the trade, only Boxberger, Forsythe and Torres have had significant time on their respective teams’ major league rosters. Forsythe has struggled badly coming off the bench for the Rays. On the other hand, both Boxberger and Torres have been dominant so far this year.

Because the trade was one of need (i.e. a left-handed relief pitcher), and Byrnes felt that the Padres had a surplus of quality right-handed relievers making Boxberger expandable, the Torres trade was a solid move by the Padres’ GM.

While the players in the minors may ultimately shift the balance of this trade, as of right now, trading for Torres upgraded the Padres’ roster.

11. Other Trades

Other notable trades by Byrnes that have had little or no impact, positive or negative, on the Padres’ major league roster include the trades of: RHP Anthony Bass to the Houston Astros for player to be named later (LHP Patrick Schuster); RF Aaron Cunningham to the Cleveland Indians for RHP Corey Burns; later, Burns to the Texas Rangers for RHP Wilfredo Boscan; CF Blake Tekotte to the Chicago White Sox for RHP Brandon Kloess; cash to the Boston Red Sox for SS Pedro Ciriaco; LHP Colt Hynes to the Cleveland Indians for cash; LF Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RF/1B Alex Dickerson; RHP Brad Brach to the Baltimore Orioles for RHP Devin Jones; and OF Jesus Guzman to the Houston Astros for 3B Ryan Jackson

Byrnes has also made a couple of trades in recent weeks. These trades include (1) first-baseman Kyle Blanks to Oakland for minor league outfielder Jake Goebbert and minor league pitcher Ronald Herrera, and (2) catcher Nick Hundley to the Baltimore Orioles for left-handed relief pitcher Troy Patton. It is too soon to tell what type of impact these trades will have on the Padres’ major league roster. Stay tuned.

In all, Byrnes has been very active attempting to rebuild the Padres’ roster through trades ever since taking over as the Padres’ GM. Based on the objective criteria set forth above, it appears that Byrnes’ trades have: (1) negatively impacted the Padres’ roster on two occasions – i.e., when trading away Latos and Frieri; (2) had a neutral impact on the roster on two occasions – i.e., Rizzo for Cashner and LeBlanc for Baker; and (3) improved the roster on six occasions – i.e., the additions of Ross, Kennedy, Torres, Smith, Quentin and Street.

While many fear that the trade of Latos will haunt the Padres’ for years, Byrnes subsequent additions of Cashner, Ross and Kennedy have more than replaced Latos in the rotation. Overall, Byrnes has done an admirable job on the trade-front. Based on the above objective criteria, it is save to conclude that Byrnes’ trades have thus far improved the Padres’ roster.

FREE AGENCY

We now turn our attention to Byrnes’ notable free agent signings. In analyzing these transactions, we will look at the players post-signing performance and whether the monetary investment could have been spent more wisely on someone else.

From the onset of his promotion to GM, Byrnes quickly appreciated the Padres’ payroll shortcomings and focused the majority of his attention turning over the Padres’ roster through trades rather than free agency. In his two-plus years as the GM, Byrnes has only signed a handful of major league players to contracts. Let’s look at each of these transactions, and the notable minor-league free agent signings, to see how Byrnes has done thus far.

In 2011, during his first offseason as GM, Byrnes only signed two major league free agents – outfielder/pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay (age 36) and starting pitcher/former outfielder Micah Owing (age 29). The players’ post-signing stats are detailed below:

Micah Owing

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

6

0

9.2

0-2

2.79

1.34

7

0.1

Mark Kotsay

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

82

156

2

14

0

.314

.259

-0.1

2013

104

171

1

12

0

.253

.194

-1.8

As is reflected in their numbers, neither player had a significant impact on the field for the Padres. After singing a 1-year, $1 million contract, Owing lasted just over nine innings before succumbing to a season-ending injury. He has not returned to the major leagues ever since.

Kotsay, meanwhile, holder of a new 1-year, $1.25 million contract, served as the Padres’ primary pinch-hitter for the 2012 year. While Kotsay’s overall numbers left something to be desired, his success as a pinch-hitter and veteran clubhouse presence were applauded by teammates and the staff, earning Kotsay another 1-year contract in 2013 – this time for $1.3 million.

In addition to the major league signings, Byrnes added a plethora of minor league free agent and invited them to Spring Training. Those noteworthy signings included relief pitchers Dale Thayer (age 31) and Alex Hinshaw (age 29), and veteran starter Jeff Suppan (age 37). All three were signed at or near the major league minimum.

Suppan lasted 6 starts – sporting an ERA over 5 – before he was sent packing. Hinshaw was equally as bad, but managed to stick on the roster until August when he was outrighted to the minor leagues and moving on to the Chicago Cubs. Neither pitcher has since made it back on a major league roster.

Thayer, on the other hand, has carved out a nice little career for himself as one of Bud Black’s go-to relief pitchers. Thayer’s numbers with the Padres look like this:

Dale Thayer

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

64

7

57.2

2-2

3.43

1.12

47

0.3

2013

69

1

65.0

3-5

3.32

1.24

64

0.5

2014

32

0

29.1

2-2

2.15

1.19

29

0.5

While the 2011 free agent market did include some intriguing names (see Quentin and Street trades above), Byrnes was constrained by the stingy Padres’ payroll. Although there were no impact players in the Padres’ pay range, Byrnes’ first free agent additions as Padres’ GM were unspectacular at best.

Just one month into 2012 season, the Padres’ rotation was decimated by injuries. Byrnes scoured the free agent market in search of any remaining veteran starters that could help stop the bleeding. His search resulted in the free agent signings of journeyman pitchers Kip Wells (age 35), Jason Marquis (age 33), Ross Ohlendorf (age 29), and Eric Stultz (age 32).

Much like Suppan, above, Wells lasted only 7 games – sporting an ERA over 4.5 – before his short time in San Diego was over. Ohlendorf lasted a little longer (13 games), with less success (ERA of 7.77), before he was jettisoned from the team. Marquis and Stultz, on the other hand, ended up sticking in the Padres’ rotation a little longer. Marquis for two seasons – serving as both a veteran presence and a reliable pitcher capable of taking the mound every fifth-day for a decimated rotation - and Stutz continues to toe the rubber today.

Marquis and Stultz's stats with the Padres looked like this:

Jason Marquis

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

15

15

93.2

6-7

4.04

1.32

79

-0.3

2013

20

20

117.2

9-5

4.05

1.52

72

-0.1

Eric Stultz

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

18

14

92.1

8-3

2.92

1.18

51

1.5

2013

33

33

203.2

11-13

3.93

1.27

131

0.8

2014

15

15

75.0

2-9

5.76

1.56

41

-1.3

After a solid, if unspectacular, performance in 2012, Byrnes offered Marques a contract for 2013, in which the parties ultimately agree to a 1-year, $3 million deal. To the dismay of Padres’ fans, Byrnes re-signing of Marquis before the 2013 season turned out to be the Padres’ biggest free agent acquisition that year.

The starting pitchers that were inked to new contracts following the 2012 season had mixed results. Considering those pitchers that signed 1-year deals in the same range as that accepted by Marquis, we see that Bartolo Colon (1-year, $3 million deal with the Oakland Athletics) turned out to be the class of the signees. Colon turned in an 18-win, all-star performance for the 2013 Athletics team. Francisco Liriano (1-year, $1 million –161 IP, 3.02 ERA) also proved to be a bargain for the Pittsburg Pirates.

However, the other available starting pitchers inked to new deals similar to that of Marquis turned in less than stellar 2013 seasons – see Freddy Garcia (1-year, $4 million, 80.1 IP, 4.37 ERA) Scott Baker (1-year, $5.5 million – 15 IP), Jeff Karstens (1-year, $2.5 million – missed entire year with injuries), and Mike Pelfrey (1-year, $4 million – 152.2 IP, 5.19 ERA). Even though Marquis only starting 20 games in 2013 before succumbing to injuries, the small $3 million was better invested in Marquis than most of the 2012 free agent starters.

On May 17, 2012, Byrnes added Stultz to the roster after he was placed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox. During his time with the Padres, Stultz proved to be more than capable to start every fifth game for the Padres in 2012 and 2013, eating up valuable innings in the process. This year, however, is a different story as Stultz is among the league leaders in both losses and ERA.

While Byrnes certainly has not displayed the type of nose former Padre GM Kevin Towers had at finding talent at the bottom rungs of the free agent market, Byrnes’ discovery of Thayer and Stultz, addition of Kotsay and revival of Marquis were all quality moves that improved the 2012 Padres’ roster at little expense to the ownership.

Following the 2012 season, Padres’ fans hoped desperately that the Padres would make a much larger splash in the free agent market than they had the year earlier. However, it was more of the same from the conservative Byrnes and frugal ownership group. Outside of the re-signing of Marquis, Byrnes’ only notable additions were minor league catcher Rene Rivera (age 29) and the re-singing of Tim Stauffer (age 31) to a minor league contract.

Rivera and Stauffer’s post-signing statists are detailed below:

Rene Rivera

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2013

23

71

0

7

0

.268

.254

0.6

2014

39

99

4

15

0

.287

.222

0.6

Tim Stauffer

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2013

43

0

69.2

3-1

3.75

1.13

64

0.3

2014

18

0

32.1

2-2

3.90

1.42

36

0.1

Rivera, unimpressive at the plate, has received great praise from the pitching staff for the way that he calls a game and frames a pitch. He is now the personal catcher for Padres-ace, Cashner, and is the favorite target of most of the starters. Rivera’s receiving stills ultimately made veteran Nick Hundley expendable, as was reflected in the recent trade with the Orioles.

Re-signing Stauffer, the fourth overall pick by the Padres in the 2003 draft, proved to be another solid, if not unspectacular, move by Byrnes. Stauffer has filled the "long-reliever" role nicely, and with less success, has given the Padres a handful of spot starts when necessary.

The next free agent addition – and Byrnes’ first big splash into the free agent market as the Padres’ GM – came after the 2012 season and with the additions of starting pitcher Josh Johnson (age 30) and veteran relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit (age 36).

Byrnes, along with the rest of the Friar faithful, hoped that the $8 million investment in Johnson would pay off and he would anchor a young but dynamic rotation during the 2014 season. Similarly, Byrnes invested 2 years and $15.5 million into Benoit in anticipation the he could fill-in for jettisoned eighth inning specialist, Luke Gregerson. As it turns out, only one of Byrnes’ two plans have worked out.

Johnson’s season (and likely career) as a Padre would end without even throwing a single regular season pitch. Benoit, on the other hand, has been as advertised and has served as a reliable set-up man for closer Huston Street. See Beniot’s numbers below:

Joaquin Benoit

Year

G

SV

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2014

29

1

292

2-0

1.52

0.77

35

1.1

In addition to the major and minor league free agent signings identified above, Byrnes has also signed several interesting international players that may find their ways to the Padres’ 25-man roster soon. However, as of today, they are all still in the minor leagues. As such, they have yet to impact the Padres’ roster.

In total, Byrnes has spent in excess of $26.75 million on free agents since his promotion to GM. In return for this investment, the Padres’ have gotten a return of Thayer, Stultz, Benoit, Kotsay, Marquis and Rivera. Two solid relief pitchers, a pinch-hitter, a backup catcher, and two back-of-the-rotation starters is not what I consider good use of the funds.

By not making the most out of the Padres’ limited free agent budget, Byrnes’ work on the free agent market can easily be viewed as weakening the Padres’ roster.

3. CONTRACT EXTENSIONS

Although Byrnes has historically been passive in the free agent market, he has been overzealous in locking up existing Padres to long-term deals. The extensions include:

· Carlos Quentin (age 29) – 4 years, $34.03 million with a mutual $10 million option for 2016, or a $3 million buyout;

· Corey Luebke (age 27), SP – 4 years, $12 million with $7.5 million club option for 2016 or $1.75 million buyout, and $10 million club option for 2017 or $250k buyout;

· Cameron Maybin (age 25), CF – 5 years, $25 million with $9 million club option for 2017 or a $1 million buyout;

· Nick Hundley (age 28), C – 3 years, $9 million; and

· Jedd Gyorko (age 25), 2b – 5 years, $35 million with a $13 million club option or $1 million buyout.

We addressed Quentin’s contract above, and will not revisit it here. With respect to the extensions handed to the other players listed above, Byrnes essentially "bought out" the arbitration years of Luebke, Maybin, Hundley and Gyorko. In doing this, Byrnes’ goal was to pay now for players that he hoped would eventually outperform the extensions, while simultaneously creating some assurance as to future payrolls without leaving the figure up to an overzealous agent and liberal arbitrator.

Unfortunately for Byrnes, none of the players, thus far, have outperformed their extensions. The players’ post-contract stats are as follows:

Corey Luebke

Year

G

GS

IP

W-L

ERA

WHIP

SO

WAR

2012

5

5

31.0

3-1

2.61

1.16

23

0.8

Cameron Maybin

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

147

507

8

45

26

.306

.243

1.9

2013

14

51

1

5

4

.232

.157

-0.2

2014

38

116

1

3

2

.317

.276

0.4

Nick Hundley

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2012

58

204

3

22

0

.219

.157

-1.2

2013

114

373

13

44

1

.290

.233

1.7

2014

43

93

1

7

0

.184

.226

-0.8

Jedd Gyorko

Year

G

AB

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

BA

WAR

2014

56

204

5

24

2

.213

.162

-1.5

While a small market team like the Padres may need to roll the dice on a budding young player and lock him up early to keep the contract at a figure the team can afford, Byrnes has rolled snake eyes every time.

Just five games after signing what amounts to a $14 million dollar contract, Luebke underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012. While working his way back to the mound this past-off season, he re-injured the elbow requiring a second surgery. At this point, Luebke’s baseball future is in doubt.

Maybin has undergone a rash of injuries of his own. After a healthy, but disappointing 2012 year, in 2013 Maybin appeared in just 14 games due to a wrist impingement and a torn posterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee. Maybin then missed the first month of the 2014 season with a ruptured left bicep tendon. While Maybin’s stellar, but aggressive defense has leant to many of his injuries, his inability to stay on the field will render the $26 million investment a poor decision by Byrnes.

Hundley, the recipient of the most reasonable contract of the group, has also been hit with the injury bug. After an extended offensive slump to start the 2012 season, Hundley was sent down to AAA to work on his hitting mechanics. Three games after being recalled, Hundley tore the meniscus in his right knee and missed the rest of the season.

After the disappointing 2012 campaign, Hundley rebounded some in 2013 to become the Padres’ primary catcher – not so much for his efforts, but mostly because starter Yasmani Grandal was suspended for PED use. During the 2013 season, Hundley set career highs in at bats, hits, doubles and home runs, all while throwing out an impressive 26% of base stealers.

In 2014, Hundley was losing playing time to the reinstated Grandal and Rene Rivera and became expendable. On May 24, 2014, Hundley was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Of the four contract extensions inked by Byrnes, Hundley’s was likely the closest to what the player would have made through arbitration, making the extension easier to swallow than some of the others.

Finally, while far too early to judge, Gyorko’s post-contract performance has given "sophomore slump" a new meaning. At the time Gyorko hit the disabled list earlier this month with plantar fasciitis, he had the lowest batting average in the majors along players with qualifying at bats.

In short, Byrnes has directed more of the Padres’ limited revenues to players on the disabled list than players on the active roster. Bad luck or not, Byrnes’ attempts to "lock-up" young players to team-friendly contracts has not panned out. At this point, it is clear that the contracts Byrnes’ has offered existing players have backfired, and could have been used more wisely somewhere (and on someone) else.

4. THE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DRAFT

Most baseball pundits agree that it takes around three to four years before you can expect a draft to impact a major league roster. With this in mind, it would be unfair to attempt to grade Byrnes on drafts that just started in 2012. This said, no GM analysis is complete without at least considering the man’s draft history.

Below, is a list of the first ten picks – along with limited analysis – made by Byrnes in both the 2012 and 2013 drafts.

2012 Draft

Name

Pos

Round

Pick #

Level

2014 Stat Line

Max Fried

LHP

1

7

Injured

N/A

Zach Eflin

RHP

CA

33

High A

5-3 W-L/3.91 ERA/76.0 IP

Travis Jankowski

OF

CA

44

AA

.254 AVG/.324 OBP/6 SB

Walker Weickel

RHP

CA

55

Low A

1-8 W-L/5.98 ERA/64.2 IP

Jeremy Baltz

LF

2

68

High A

.225 AVG/20 RBI/.322 OBP

Dane Phillips

C

2

70

High A

.289 AVG/4 HR/35 RBI

Fernando Perez

SS

3

102

Low A

.293 AVG/6 HR/48 RBI

Andrew Lockett

RHP

4

135

Injured

2 G/7.1 IP/4 ER

Mallex Smith

CF

5

165

Low A

.295 AVG/48 SB/.393 OBP

Jalen Goree

2B

6

195

AZL

.250 AVG/12 PA/2 2B

The 2012 Amateur Draft created quite a buzz in San Diego as the Padres possessed six picks in the draft’s first two rounds. While it is too early to grade the effect these picks will ultimately have on the Padres’ MLB roster, the early returns are not promising.

Coming into the 2012 season, Byrnes’ first as GM, the Padres’ had just finished last in the NL West and were in desperate need of an immediate infusion of young talent. Thus far, only a handful of 2012 draftees have graduated to the show – included in that group are St. Louis Cardinals’ RHP Michael Wacha (19th pick, 3.0 WAR), Los Angeles Dodgers’ LHP Paco Rodriguez (82nd Pick, 1.7 WAR), and Atlanta Braves’ LHP Alex Wood (85th pick, 1.7 WAR). Each of these draftees, along with several others, would have made an almost immediate impact on the Padres’ roster. Instead, Byrnes focused on high school pitchers that are at least several years away from contributing on a major league roster.

In fact, only one of Byrnes’ top-10 picks in 2012, Jankowski, is playing above A ball – and he is currently on the disabled list with a broken hand. The rest of the draftees still appear at least a couple of years away from providing any support to a struggling Padres’ team.

Perhaps most telling of Byrnes’ immediate returns from the 2012 draft are the rankings his picks have been assigned by industry professionals. For example, MLB.com maintains a running list of top-100 minor league prospects. The current list includes 19 players selected in the 2012 draft. Only 1 of those 19 players (Fried at #35) is a Padre farmhand. Baseball America treats Byrnes’ picks more or less the same. For its list of top-100 prospects, only Fried (#52) makes the list from the Padres 2012 draft.

While there is still plenty of time for the young players the Padres drafted to work their way into becoming serious prospects, the early returns from what appeared to be a bountiful draft are disappointing at best.

2013 Draft

Name

Pos

Round

Pick #

Level

2014 Stat Line

Hunter Renfroe

RF

1

13

High A

.295 AVG/16 HR/52 RBI

Dustin Peterson

SS

2

50

Low A

.267 AVG/6 HR/55 RBI

Jordan Paroubeck

CF

CBB

69

Injured

N/A

Bryan Verbitsky

RHP

3

86

Low A

0-2 W-L/9.45 ERA/13.1 IP

Mason Smith

CF

4

118

AZL

.209 AVG/11 RBI/3 SB

Josh VanMeter

SS

5

148

Low A

.229 AVG/17 RBI/6 SB

Trevor Gott

RHP

6

178

High A

2-4 W-L/3.16 ERA/31.1 IP

Jake Bauers

1B

7

208

Low A

.362 AVG/5 HR/28 RBI

Adrian De Horta

RHP

8

238

Low A

0-2 W-L/5.32 ERA/47.1 IP

Adam Cimber

RHP

9

268

High A

4-0 W-L/2.55 ERA/35.1 IP

Only one year removed from their amateur careers, not surprisingly, none of Byrnes’ 2013 draftees have reached the majors. Once again, however, Byrnes’ 2013 draft is not getting much praise around the league. In its list of top-100 prospects, MLB.com includes 16 players from the 2013 draft - none of which are with the Padres. Renfroe, on the other hand, has been included in Baseball America’s top-100 prospects at number 80.

Conclusion

Our review of Byrnes’ player personnel decisions suggests that his trades have slightly benefitted the Padres; however, Byrnes’ free agent acquisitions and contract extensions have resulted in one bad decision after another. The draft results are still up for debate.

Unless the Padres turn around their season in a hurry, Byrnes’ track record should not compel the Padres’ brass to keep him at the helm. In other words, 2015 should usher in a new GM to guide the San Diego organization.

[1] The age reflects the player’s age at the time of the transaction, not his current age.

[2] WAR is also explained by www.baseball-reference.com as a sore of 8+ = MVP, a sore of 5+ is equivalent to an all-star year, a sore of 2+ is a bona fide major league starter, a score of 0 to 2 is a bench player, and a score below 0 is a replacement player (or, a player that should be replaced by his current team).

About the author: Kevin Adams

San Diego born and raised, now living in Orange County. Waiting impatiently for that first San Diego World Series,Super Bowl, no-hitter, cycle, etc.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Gaslamp Ball community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gaslamp Ball managers or SB Nation.

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