The success of every ball club is directly related to how each General Manager runs his team. The Padres’ 4-1 victory over the White Sox proves that this fact is not an understatement.
When Josh Byrnes was hired to be the General Manager of the Padres on October 6, 2011 (after joining the team as V.P. of Baseball Operations the previous year), he was expected to shake up the roster following a disappointing season for the club, a year in which they finished last in the NL West with 71 wins and 91 losses. Within his first two months as GM, Byrnes made four separate trades for five different players who are playing an important role on this year’s team: closer Huston Street, first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Carlos Quentin, and starter Andrew Cashner.
Before the 2014 season, to help out his All-Star closer, Byrnes decided to add more ammunition to his bullpen, trading for the Rays’ 26 year-old phenom Alex Torres and signing 36 year-old Juaquin Benoit away from the Tigers. Thanks to Byrnes, the Padres’ bullpen currently has the 3rd best ERA in the Majors while throwing the 6th most innings. In last night’s ballgame, Benoit threw a scoreless 8th inning to earn his 8th hold of the season while Street earned his 16th save of the year with a shutout 9th.
In addition to contributing to the success of one of the best bullpens in baseball, Josh Byrnes has done his part to help the Padres pitiful offense. Unfortunately for Byrnes, although he has brought in a multitude of young talent to go along with hit-savvy veterans, the Padres rank last in the Majors in runs, batting average, and on-base percentage. With key players like Alonso, Grandal, Chase Headley, Evereth Cabrera, and Jedd Gyorko not hitting (Grandal, Headley, and Gyorko are all below the Mendoza line), it’s no surprise the Padres have the most putrid offense in the big leagues. As a result of the poor hitting his team displayed last year, Byrnes attempted to right the ship by trading Luke Gregerson to the Athletics for outfielder Seth Smith. Though the trade hasn’t helped the team as a whole hit better, the talent that Byrnes brought in has certainly made a contribution. While the young players that Byrnes has counted on have not produced through the first two months of the season, the same cannot be said about the 31 year-old Smith. Smith, making an extremely modest $4.5 million, is hitting .309 for the Padres this year with 6 home runs, 20 RBIs, and a .966 OPS, 6th best in the National League.
Though Smith didn’t play in the game last night, Byrnes was able to get production from some player who haven’t delivered all season long. Yonder Alonso went 3 for 4 with his 4th home run of the season. Cameron Maybin, who received a 5 year/$25 million contract from Byrnes two years ago, hit his first home run of the year after missing time with a biceps injury. The aforementioned Carlos Quentin added two hits in just his eleventh game of the season. Quentin, who has been remarkably injury prone in his career, has had problems with his knee and his groin this year.
Many of the players that Byrnes has brought in to see significant action for the Padres have either been young players who have failed to play at the level expected of them or veterans who seem to get hurt far too often. While Byrnes’ acquisitions haven’t had a whole lot of success in the hitting department this season, the players he has brought in to pitch for his team have responded well.
Ian Kennedy, the former top prospect in the Yankees organization, threw 6 innings of one run ball while striking out 9 hitters to earn his 4th win last night. Now 29 years-old, Kennedy is far from the days when he was supposed to lead the Yankees next dynasty. While his days in Arizona were marred following his stellar 2011 campaign, Kennedy has pitched much better for the Padres since his mid-season trade last year. This season, Kennedy has a 3.42 ERA with 81 strikeouts (4th in the NL) and a 1.14 WHIP (15th in the NL). Kennedy, like Seth Smith, has been a bargain for Josh Byrnes this year, making just $6.1 million.
With the way that Josh Byrnes has run the Padres since becoming the GM two and a half years ago, the credit for the win last night must go to him. The offensive players that he brought in to hit the ball finally did just that and the bullpen he fashioned was its usual, brilliant self. If the Padres have any chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2010, they better hope that Josh Byrnes makes a few more moves before the season’s end.