While I spent the off-season drinking beer in North Park, Padres GM Josh Byrnes was aggressively reshaping his team’s roster. Thanks to a depth not seen in these parts for some time, he engineered several small trades that increased the club’s talent level.
In separate deals with the Orioles, Pirates, A’s, Astros (twice), and Rays, Byrnes did this:
|Matt Andriese, RHP||Alex Dickerson, 1B|
|Anthony Bass, RHP||Jesse Hahn, RHP|
|Brad Boxberger, RHP||Ryan Jackson, SS|
|Brad Brach, RHP||Devin Jones, RHP|
|Jaff Decker, OF||Patrick Schuster, LHP|
|Logan Forsythe, 2B/3B||Seth Smith, OF|
|Luke Gregerson, RHP||Alex Torres, LHP|
|Jesús Guzmán, 1B|
|Matt Lollis, RHP|
|Miles Mikolas, RHP|
|Maxx Tissenbaum, 2B|
Byrnes also signed right-handers Josh Johnson and Joaquin Benoit. He was a busy guy.
Look at the left column. Who will the Padres miss this year? Probably Gregerson, although he is replaced by Benoit. Maybe Boxberger and Forsythe if they find command and health, respectively.
Long-term? Andriese, although his upside is that of a fourth starter. I like him, but I’m not pulling my hair out over losing the next Corey Kluber. The most interesting guy is Lollis, whose persistent mechanical issues make him a long shot. He could be a late-inning reliever, he could be nothing.
Bass, Brach, and Mikolas are essentially the same pitcher–well, Bass can start, but you get the idea. Decker is a corner guy with patience and not as much power as you’d like. He could be a good lefty bat off the bench. Guzman is a decent righty bat. Tissenbaum has an awesome name and is Canadian.
Now look at the right column. Dickerson ranked ninth on the Baseball Prospectus top 10 Padres prospect list ($). This is largely because the team has graduated so many of its best young players, but it still means something. He elicits comparisons to Garrett Jones–functional, but not exciting.
Hahn has upside and could be a mid-rotation starter if (and it’s a big “if”) he stays healthy. Jackson is a glove-first shortstop who presumably fills the Ronny Cedeño role. Even in El Paso, he’ll be more useful to the Padres than Guzmán would have been.
Jones may or may not be anything. The price to acquire him was Brach, a Quadruple-A pitcher.
Schuster is a Rule 5 guy who has to stick with the big club all year or be returned to the Diamondbacks. I’m less excited about him than the Padres apparently are (Byrnes drafted him in 2009), but whatever. You bring a young, hungry kid into camp and see what happens. Worst case, it cost you Bass, who had no role in San Diego. I’m not sweating over whether Schuster makes the team. He’s an intriguing option who creates competition.
Smith, as I’ve mentioned, is a solid fourth outfielder. He can’t hit lefties, but that isn’t his job. His job is to hit righties, spell the regulars occasionally, and step in when Carlos Quentin gets hurt again. Smith replaces the retired Mark Kotsay and helps ensure that Alexi Amarista stays away from the outfield. Sure, he cost Gregerson, but given the club’s surplus of right-handed relievers and dearth of left-handed bats, that’s not an unreasonable price to pay.
As for Torres, he posted shiny numbers in Tampa Bay last year. As a fastball/changeup guy who lives up in the zone and has spotty command, he’ll slip some, but he can start or relieve and has minimal platoon splits. In other words, he’s more interesting than your average lefty reliever.
There’s only one question that matters: Have the Padres improved as a result of these moves? We won’t know for sure until actual games are played, but on paper, the answer is yes.
They turned a high-mileage setup man, four right-handed middle relievers who haven’t established themselves in the big leagues, a back-of-the-rotation prospect, a giant with an arm and no clue how to use it, a left-handed pinch-hitter, a right-handed pinch-hitter, an infielder who can’t stay healthy, and an organizational soldier into a fourth outfielder they can use now, a lefty power bat they might be able to use later, two lefty relievers (at least one of whom will help immediately), a right-hander with upside, a right-hander without upside, and a good defensive shortstop.
Short version: The Padres will miss Gregerson, although Benoit figures to be as good if not better. They’ve upgraded from Kotsay to Smith, found a replacement for Joe Thatcher, and added two intriguing prospects in Dickerson and Hahn.
Absent a huge splash in the free-agent pool (and even then, you risk being stuck with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton long after their primes), this is the kind of off-season you want your team’s GM to have. Will good process translate into more Padres wins in 2014? Outcomes are fickle, but at least there is reason to hope, which beats the opposite.