Offseason In Review: San Diego Padres

New Padres GM Josh Byrnes transformed the team with a series of bold trades.

Major League Signings

Draft Picks Received: #33 and #70 for modified Type A free agent Heath Bell, #44 for Type B Aaron Harang

International Signings

  • OF Franmil Reyes ($700K)

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

In two years' time as Padres GM, Jed Hoyer built one of baseball's best farm systems.  But back in '09, Josh Byrnes would have been owner-in-progress Jeff Moorad's first choice for GM, had Byrnes not been under an eight-year contract issued by Moorad when both were with the Diamondbacks.  Byrnes was fired as D'Backs GM in July 2010, and when Moorad brought him and former manager A.J. Hinch to the Padres' front office a few months later, Hoyer must have felt concern about his job security.  New Cubs president Theo Epstein came calling about Byrnes this offseason, but eventually found Moorad willing to let Hoyer leave.  Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod went to Chicago, and Byrnes took over as Padres GM and promoted Hinch.

Moorad considered the front office changes a net win, but now Byrnes may lose his biggest supporter.  This month, Moorad resigned as CEO, withdrawing his application for complete control of the Padres.  Moorad lacked full support from MLB owners, partly due to years spent as an agent.  There's an expectation that John Moores will go back to the drawing board to try to sell the team.  If new ownership comes aboard, Byrnes' tenure as Padres GM might be short.

Even if Byrnes only had one offseason, he made his mark on the franchise through trades and extensions.  24-year-old starter Mat Latos was the Padres' greatest asset, under team control through 2015.   Teams often build around players like Latos, but Byrnes shipped him to Cincinnati in a four-for-one blockbuster trade.  The Reds were one of few teams with the talent and willingness to pull off a deal of this magnitude.  The Padres may have received their first baseman of the future (Alonso), catcher of the future (Grandal), closer of the future (Boxberger), and two years of an intriguing starter with upside (Volquez).  The Padres took a short-term hit with this trade, but it's an easy long-term win and diversifies their assets.

The Padres already had a first baseman of the future in Rizzo, and sure enough, Hoyer and Theo Epstein came calling for their former Red Sox draft pick.  I agree with the idea of the Padres converting one of the first basemen into a top starting pitching prospect, though I'm not sure Cashner was the right choice.  The 25-year-old began the 2011 season in the Cubs' rotation but missed most of the year with a shoulder injury.  The hard-throwing righty will be used as a reliever in 2012.  Should Cashner remain in that role, anything short of a dominant closer will be a light return if Rizzo lives up to his billing.  Certainly, though, the Padres did their due diligence in determining Cashner has a long-term future as a starter.

Byrnes mostly avoided the free agent market, instead finding a few short-term fixes via trade.  Street was a salary dump for the Rockies, and the trade is similar to Byrnes signing the closer to a one-year, $7MM free agent contract.  Perhaps Byrnes wanted some name value to replace the departed Heath Bell, but Bell himself was once a no-name reliever who blossomed at Petco Park.  Spending $7MM on any closer is an unnecessary luxury for the 2012 Padres.

The Quentin acquisition was confusing as well.  In the Padres' favor, the prospect price for a year of Quentin wasn't ridiculous, and it's easier for them to trade for offense than to find willing free agents on one-year deals.  Still, Byrnes did give up useful prospects for Quentin.  Much like Cashner, Castro had a lost 2011 but still retains plenty of upside.  Pedro Hernandez seems to have a big league future as well.  Perhaps Castro wasn't particularly high on the Padres' stacked prospect depth chart, and they wanted to make some short-term efforts.  

Byrnes also authored extensions for Maybin and Hundley.  The Maybin extension cost more than I thought it would, especially for the arbitration years.  There's still value for the Padres in the chance that Maybin breaks out and especially in what would have been the center fielder's first two free agent years.  Still, Maybin's agent Brian Goldberg drove a hard bargain for a player whose best season to date included a .264 batting average, nine home runs, and 40 RBI.  Snagging Hundley's three arbitration years for $9MM, plus a club option, is more of a clear win for the team.

This much is clear about Byrnes: he's not a timid GM.  He evaluated key players in the Padres organization and made significant bets on some and against others, in an offseason that should affect the team long after Byrnes is gone.


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