Last Friday the Padres conducted their first interview with a potential replacement for recently fired General Manager Josh Byrnes. Larry Beinfest was that first man interviewed in this search. Beinfest is a former GM of the Marlins, a post he held from 2002 through 2013. The connection to Miami should probably not be seen as a coincidence. Padres CEO Mike Dee was hired away from the Miami Dolphins last year and most likely had interactions with Beinfest when in Miami. The interview could be seen as a way for Dee to see what a familiar outsider and former GM would have to say about the club. It serves the purpose of using Beinfest as a knowledgeable sounding board for their situation as well as considering him for the position if the other candidates don't match up to his interview.
The Miami connection is not the only reason that the Padres would be interested in Beinfest. The team he was in charge of had severe payroll limitations and yet was able to win a World Series and acquire and develop a number of exciting players in that time. The Padres certainly do not have quite the payroll restrictions as the Marlins, but they are a small market team and would likely be interested in having a plan that includes acquiring and developing young players.
Looking back at the 2003 World Series champion we can assume that Beinfest had a little help along the way since he was hired in 2002. That is quite true. Players like Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Mike Lowell, Derrek Lee, Alex Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Luis Castillo, Mark Redman and Braden Looper were already in the organization when he arrived along with a new ownership group. He was able to make some moves to help elevate the team to a championship level. Dontrelle Willis, Juan Pierre and Carl Pavano were all acquired before the 2003 season. However, all come with caveats. Willis was a prospect acquired when the team needed to dump Matt Clement's growing salary. Juan Pierre was included in a deal where the Marlins took Mike Hampton (and his salary) in exchange for some good players that were getting expensive only to dump Hampton's salary on the Braves for not much in return. Carl Pavano was acquired for another productive player whose salary was too high in Cliff Floyd. The roster appeared to be a juggling act by Beinfest. He was trying to keep a core in place while dealing players that were putting pressure on the payroll and getting contributors in return. That is certainly a useful skill to have, but it also requires already have a solid core in place. Beinfest also tried to capitalize on this team by getting closer Ugeth Urbina down the stretch, but it came at the expense of trading a prospect named Adrian Gonzalez to the Rangers.
After 2003, Beinfest had to break up the team that won the World Series over the next few years. So many young, good players on the same team with a limited payroll is bound to cause an issue. The team had a window open from 2003-2005, but never repeated 2003's success. Ivan Rodriguez and Braden Looper signed for more money elsewhere, Derrek Lee had to be dealt for a younger, cheaper option which became Hee-Seop Choi and Mark Redman was traded to free up salary. After 2004 Carl Pavano also left for more money, Brad Penny was traded and the pitching depth suffered even though the offense was helped by signing Carlos Delgado to a backloaded contract. Then the team really had to be revamped. A.J. Burnett left for more money. Delgado, Beckett, Pierre, Penny, Lowell, Castillo and Gonzalez were all traded. The payroll shrunk, but Beinfest found talents in those exchanges like Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco and paired them with homegrown talents like Josh Johnson and Josh Willingham. He also snagged Dan Uggla in the Rule 5 draft. However, other young talents like Mike Jacobs, Scott Olsen, Jeremy Hermida, Jason Vargas and Sergio Mitre didn't pan out and the team struggled.
The team struggled for a couple seasons and traded superstar Miguel Cabrera and the fading Dontrelle Willis. However, the young talent that Beinfest did hit on proved to be another core to try and build around. The team was competitive with a low payroll from 2008 to arguably 2010. He picked up Jorge Cantu off the scrap heap who became a big contributor to those clubs. The bullpens were effective despite a low cost and many moving parts. The starting pitching still always had big holes, accentuated by the failure of Andrew Miller one of the big returns of the Cabrera trade as well as a string of 8 pitchers drafted in the 1st round between 2003 and 2008 that did not pan out. In fact, none of his 1st round picks from 2002-2009 achieved sustained success (although his 1st rounders from 2010-2013 do still look promising).
That competitive core was not as deep or talented as the one that was in place when the team won the World Series, so over the years some faded, some got hurt, some got traded for less-than-impressive-returns and the team was a 90 game loser in 2011 before it got its infamous cash infusion with a move to a new stadium in 2012. The team still had Ramirez, Johnson and Sanchez and had developed a young future All Star in Giancarlo/Mike Stanton. Even after buying some of the best free agents, hiring a champion manager and getting some pricey acquisitions in trades via trades the team collapsed and lost more games that year than the year before. Beinfest was forced to trim down again and got mixed returns for the expensive mess. Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez have done well. Jacob Turner has flopped. A number of others are still prospects, but with varying degrees of hope attached to them.
Technically, after the 2007 season Beinfest no longer had the title of GM. He was promoted to President of Baseball Operations, which appears on the outside to be the same role but with a better title. Before becoming the Marlins General Manager he came from a player development background with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners did indeed have a good farm system back then although many will forget since players like Shin Soo Choo, Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton and Brian Fuentes were traded away and they produced players that did not have prototypical career paths like Joel Piniero, Gil Meche and Raul Ibanez. He likely also helped in getting their great return (Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia) from the Astros in the Randy Johnson deal.
That was basically the long form essay of trying to figure out what kind of GM the Padres would be getting in Beinfest. What you come back with is a very experienced baseball executive that is accustomed to having to make a lot of moves to deal with payroll restrictions. However, you also see someone who was dropped into a very good situation in Miami in the early 2000s and his subsequent moves and contending teams were built around the returns from that initial situation. That makes you question what the best he can do with a team that is starting off with far less talent. A GM that was involved in player development more recently than Beinfest might have some more innovative ideas about how to build a club than he would.