The Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes has had a quick path to stardom as a major league baseball GM. He worked his way through the Cleveland, Colorado and Boston front offices, and was hired by the Dbacks in 2005 to be their GM. He came to the DBacks with much hype and praise for helping the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years.
He inherited a young talented team lead by the likes of Brandon Webb, Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew and Conor Jackson. He had a deep bullpen lead by closer Jose Valverde, Brandon Lyon and Tony Pena. He was also blessed with a deep, talented farm system until 2008.
Last year the DBacks won the West with a 90-72 record, swept the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS, eventually getting swept by the hot Colorado Rockies in the NLCS. For such a young team to win the division, and to make it to the NLCS, Byrnes earned praise for sticking with his youngsters and winning the NL West.
So what did Byrnes do in the offseason. He started by giving Eric "I had a career year" Byrnes to a 3 year $30 million dollar deal, even when he had not one, but two, promising outfield prospects in Carlos Quentin, who I will discuss shortly, and Carlos Gonzalez. Byrnes only managed 206 ABs before hamstring injuries put him out for the season. His stat line looked like this: 6-23-4-.209-.272-.369. Not what you'd expect for $10 million a season.
Byrnes then got a little creative and made several blockbuster trades on 12/14/2007. He decided to trade away closer Jose Valverde, he of the league leading 47 saves in 2007. In addition, he landed stud starting pitcher Dan Haren from the A's in return for a plethora of prospects....good prospects. Here's a rundown of the deals he made:
Traded OF Carlos Quentin to the White Sox in exchange for INF Chris Carter.
Acquired RHP Dan Haren and RHP Connor Robertson from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for LHP Brett Anderson, LHP Dana Eveland, LHP Greg Smith, INF Chris Carter, OF Aaron Cunningham and OF Carlos Gonzalez
Acquired RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Juan Gutierrez and OF Chris Burke from the Houston Astros in exchange for RHP Jose Valverde
Well, we all know how well the Carlos Quentin deal has gone. Quentin has broken out in a major way this year in Chicago: 36-100-.288-.394-.571. Mighty impressive!! Decision: Loser
It's too early grade the Buckner-Callaspo deal, but suffice to say, he didn't lose this one....yet.
Dan Haren deal: Decison: Winner.....for now. I have to think that down the road the A's may win this deal somehow with Carter (he hit 40+ bombs this year), Anderson, Cunningham (he hit a game winning HR on Sunday), and Gonzalez.
Jose Valverde-Chad Qualls deal: Decision: LOSER. GIven the fact that the DBacks bullpen has imploded over the last month, and Valverde saving 42 games with the Astros, Byrnes has lost this deal in a 9th round knockout.
The Quentin deal is the real question mark as Quentin was already a top hitting prospect who was injured for most of the 2007 season. The fact that he would offer power off the bench after the Byrnes signing, or even spot starts should someone get injured or strike out too much, keeping Quentin should have been a no-brainer. Byrnes thought otherwise. Once Justin Upton joined Byrnes on the DL, Byrnes was forced to play 1Bman Conor Jackson in LF, and Alex Romero in RF....that is until they traded for Reds power hitter Adam Dunn.
Adding Dunn was needed to fill the missing power in the Dbacks lineup. He also brought with him a ton of K's, something the Dbacks do ALOT. Between Dunn, Chris Young, Justin Upton, and Mark Reynolds, they have 2 who will strikeout 200+ times in Dunn and Reynolds, and 2 others who will strikeout 150+ times in Young and Upton. Adding Dunn to a lineup that struggles to score runs only compounds the problem, it doesn;t help. Dunn does walk alot, but he is a turtle on the basepaths.
Here is what Byrnes had to say, in an interview with ESPNs Jonah Keri, on the Quentin deal:
At the time, we felt like Upton would be ready to play in 2008. With Quentin the debate was, would we be better off with him and $10 million of spending room, or with Byrnes plus the trade value of Quentin? In this market it was difficult to predict, but it was at least a fair debate. Also, in a lineup that at times was struggling, Byrnes gave us a bit more certainty of performance. What he and Hudson did in the first half while the young guys struggled helped us survive.
Nethier Hudson nor Byrnes gave him anything close to certainty of performance, as they both are out for the season. I think he would have been better off keeping Quentin, and spending the $10 million on a 5th starter and a backup 2bman. In hindsight, it is very easy to make that call given Quentin's breakout year, but Byrnes had a young team ready to go on a run of division titles had he kept Valverde and Quentin. He still could have made the Haren deal substituting another prospect for Chris Carter.
Byrnes may have done too much tinkering with his roster back in December 2007, witnessed by the Dbacks going from a 4.5 game lead to a 4.5 game deficit within the span of 2 weeks or so. He sorely misses Valverde at the back end of his bullpen, and Quentin could have provided the power and OBP sorely missing from this lineup.
Coming from a Dodgers fan, I thank him for tinkering with a roster that won 90 games last season.
Is Josh Byrnes the 2nd coming of John Shuerholtz, or is he a mega-hyped GM for working under Theo Epstein?