Part 2 - A Retrospective Look at the Trade History of Josh Byrnes

Here is part two of the Josh Byrnes Trade History piece:

2007 Continued:

December 3 - Diamondbacks trade LF Carlos Quentin to the Chicago White Sox for 1B/DH Chris Carter

Byrnes apparently felt a void in the system of guys named Chris Carter, and compensated for this by dealing the struggling Quentin to Chicago. As much as this deal has become a dead horse, I'm actually not here to provide another beating. Quentin exploded in 2008. Yeah, we all know it. But he also took a blowtorch to his team's playoff chances by breaking his hand punching a cooler that season, and wasn't the same in 2009 due to BABIP. Regression may mean he re-establishes himself as a marquee player in 2010.

But at the same time, Carter is also set to explode into the major leagues in 2010, and has a ton of control left and much cheaper costs. Amongst the best bats in the minor leagues right now, the only real problem with Carter is that he's no longer with Arizona, having been snatched up by Billy Beane in the Dan Haren trade.

Overall: Not nearly as devastating as has been repeated ad nauseam by fans (understandably) wishing we had gotten Quentin's production from left field in 2008 instead of Eric Byrnes's atrociousness. Losing that '08 production hurts, but Quentin alone doesn't make us compete. Here's a nice summarization of how things have unfolded since courtesy of paqs: "We had a logjam. Carter was a prospect with an unlimited ceiling but plenty of questions. If I had to pick one right now, I'd take Carter." Grade: C-

December 14 - Diamondbacks trade 2B Alberto Callaspo to Kansas City for RHP Billy Buckner:

This deal began the busiest day of Josh Byrnes' GM tenure, with three trades all taking place on the same day, and two of them being pretty high-profile deals. And while this was not one of those two high-profile deals, there's certainly some value to be found in it. Callaspo, as detailed above, was being a massive headache to the Diamondbacks off the field, and wasn't producing on the field to make it worth the hassle. So we sold him for about seventy cents on our upside dollar to get rid of him. Since the deal, Callaspo has blossomed in Kansas City, or at least has blossomed as much as anyone not named "Greinke" can blossom there. In 2009, he played in 155 games for KC and posted a 114 OPS+. His glove is horrendous, however, and he'll need to make some huge improvements in the field before being a star at second base.

And it's not like we were given nothing in exchange for Callaspo. I've gone into some detail before about how Buckner was hung out to dry by his manager in 2009, and how the bullpen didn't exactly help his cause in terms of inherited runners, either. He developed his cut fastball in the later parts of the season with some great immediate success, and appears to be a guy who could develop into a Doug Davis-type cutter/curveball specialist. Currently the frontrunner to be the #5 starter in 2009. CHONE projects a 4.58 ERA, and Bill James projects a 4.98 ERA. Anywhere in between there would be fantastic.

Overall: With Callaspo so poor defensively and such a pain to deal with, you could tell that the FO just wanted to get something for him. And if Buckner can be that dependable innings-eater we're hoping he can become, then you're getting pretty solid value for a character dump. After all, it's much easier today to find a reliable second-baseman at a cheap price from the non-tender market (totally subtle reference to Kelly Johnson) than to get a fifth/possible future fourth starter cost-efficiently. Grade: C+

December 14 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Jose Valverde to Houston for RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Juan Gutierrez, and UTIL Chris Burke:

And, continuing the frenzy that was December 14, 2007, Byrnes sent popular, but arbitration-eligible, closer Jose Valverde packing for a package of dirt-cheap players. Valverde went on to do fairly well in his two seasons as an Astro, posting a 144 ERA+ in Houston despite a massive ERA/FIP split. But the Astros are cutting cost and Valverde is a free agent, meaning his time there is likely over. He declined arbitration, much to GM Ed Wade's delight, and is now probably going to be taking a highly-discounted salary for 2010.

In return, the D-Backs wound up getting a package which included a reliever who would actually pitch slightly better than Valverde over the next two years - Qualls. Qualls has posted a 146 ERA+ over the last two years while spending most of 2009 as the closer for the Diamondbacks. We also stole Gutierrez, who broke out in 2009 in the bullpen, posting the lowest FIP of any Diamondback reliever. To top it off, he'll be just 26 next year, and, provided we don't try to stretch him out into a starter again, he could very easily end up as our next closer when Qualls becomes too expensive for us. Then there was Burke, the flier that never flew. Burke was awful, and despite Burke being awful, he played in an unfathomable 86 games. The guy had an OPS+ of 50. Ouch.

Overall: We got the best overall player of this deal, the best young player of this deal, the greater quantity of players from this deal, and all while saving a boatload of money. If this isn't a grade trade, I have no idea what one is. Brilliant way to turn an overvalued stat like saves into a big-time return. Grade: A

December 14 - Diamondbacks trade CF Carlos Gonzalez, OF Aaron Cunningham, LHP Dana Eveland, 1B/DH Chris Carter, LHP Brett Anderson, and LHP Greg Smith for RHP Dan Haren and RHP Connor Robertson:

Let me get this out of the way. Dan Haren is great. He's paid far less than his talent should merit him earning. He's a legitimate #1 ace and has produced as well as we could ever have imagined him to. But we acquired Haren after the NLCS run because we thought he was the one piece we needed to get over the hump. We got Haren to get back into the playoffs, and he hasn't gotten us there. From that standpoint, this deal has to be immediately viewed as not living up to its expectations in the short-term.

And if you're not too happy with this one in the short-term, don't bother looking at what this one is going to look like long-term. Gonzalez is already established in Colorado's outfield after being traded there in the Matt Holliday deal. Smith had a solid 2008 season with Oakland, pitching near league-average as a starter, although since also being included in the Holliday deal, Smith has imploded in the minor-leagues. Eveland had his fluke-y year in Oakland, but you can't discount that. Carter appears to be one of the top-5 bats in all of the minor leagues. Cunningham is still young and is an intriguing prospect. And Anderson had a 108 ERA+ for Oakland last year at age 21, and figures to only get better in the next few years, and should establish himself as a front-of-the-rotation ace.

Overall: You love what Haren gives you every fifth day. But this deal was made to get this team into the playoffs, so it simply has to be viewed in that light, especially since the "future" that we gave away so much of to get Haren is coming on like a freight train. It was definitely a move that made sense at the time, but it's hard to say that is hasn't backfired, despite the dazzling production we've seen from Haren. Grade: D+


April 7 - Diamondbacks trade LF Daniel Perales to Cincinnati for LHP Jon Coutlangus:

This one is a pretty irrelevant deal. Perales just spent 2009 repeating Hi-A and regressing mightily to the tune of a .555 OPS at 24 years old. In other words, he's nothing. Unfortunately, so is Coutlangus. Despite our dearth of left-handed arms in AAA, we've made no attempt to re-sign the lefty who pitched at Reno in '09. That pretty much tells you what you need to know. It's a bit depressing, as well, since he had a solid 2007 season in the Reds' bullpen before throwing just 5.2 innings in 2008.

Overall: Trade nothing, got nothing, a wash. Grade: C

June 13 - Diamondbacks trade OF Trot Nixon to the New York Mets for cash:

The D-Backs sold a guy who couldn't beat out Alex Romero in spring training to give him a chance at playing in the majors one last time. Nixon was put in eleven games for the Mets, and had a 54 OPS+ in those games. It was sad to see his career end that way, but any money we got from this deal was a plus.

Overall: More money for us, dumped a useless player, and did the job we wanted it to do. Can't complain about signing a free agent and gaining money money for your troubles. Grade: C+

July 17 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Evan Scribner to San Diego for 1B Tony Clark:

Uh-oh... Byrnes decided to try to re-create some of that '07 magic by re-acquiring Mr. Anywhere, Anytime, Tony Clark himself, despite not having a spot for him on the roster the previous off-season. Unfortunately, Clark wound up being nowhere at all times (needlessly stretching that line far beyond its limits) in his second stint with the D-Backs. He posted an OPS+ in parts of the next two seasons that was well below 100. Further, his "veteran leadership" resulted in missing the playoffs in '08 and a big heaping helping of fail in '09.

What doesn't help matters is the fact that Scribner has thoroughly dominated in his time in the Padres' system. He wound up with a 2.00 ERA split between Arizona and San Diego's Mid-A and Hi-A teams in '08, and a 3.07 ERA in 70.1 AA innings last year with 21 saves. Losing a quality relief arm prospect who's bound for AAA in 2010 is a pretty steep price to pay for the performance we received in Tony Clark's return to Arizona.

Overall: A straight-up awful deal. It was basically a panic move to try to re-capture the magic of (a) seasons past, worsened by the fact that we could have had the player without the prospect cost a year before. When it didn't pan out and the D-Backs missed the playoffs, the team was dismantled as the organization collected draft picks to re-stock the system in the '09 draft, which needed re-stocking because we dismantled it for a failed attempt at the '08 playoffs. Grade: F

July 22 - Diamondbacks trade 2B/3B Emilio Bonifacio to Washington for RHP Jon Rauch:

This was another deal that was made in the 2008 playoff run. The goal here was to try to improve the one area that was missing that year but great the year before, the bullpen. Rauch had posted a 144 ERA+ with 17 saves in 48 appearances with the Nationals prior to the trade. However, after the deal, that number was cut in half, to 71 in 26 appearances out of the D-Backs bullpen. He didn't adjust to Chase Field until midway through 2009, when he saved his season (and trade value) in time for the D-Backs to ship him off to Minnesota. Didn't help the team make the postseason in '08, and only had a couple of goods months in the desert.

Bonifacio, meanwhile, hasn't posted an OPS+ above 75 in a season in his career. He's still young, as he'll be 25 for 2010, and could still improve, but has done nothing so far to suggest that we will wind up missing him in the long-run. He can steal a base, but has a career .303 OBP, so he can't take advantage of that speed of his.

Overall: Rauch didn't help us in '08, but he did give us some decent innings in '09, and we also were able to turn him into Kevin Mulvey, who has a chance to help us both next year and in the next few seasons, whether as a fifth starter or reliever. But Bonifacio, despite his high-profile prospect status, has turned into pretty much nothing of value, as both his bat and glove are poor, so we can't be all that disappointed. If Mulvey turns out to be a solid major-leaguer, this winds up being more than a win than one would think based on Rauch's performance. Grade: C+

August 11 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Dallas Buck, RHP Micah Owings, and C Wilkin Castillo to Cincinnati for 1B/RF Adam Dunn and cash:

This was a mother of a package sent to Cincinnati for a couple of months of a guy with his salary pre-paid who evaluators are really torn on. We got pretty much what we expected from Dunn: a lot of homers, a lot of walks, a lot of strikeouts, and not a lot of anything else. Problem was that we didn't make the '08 playoffs. Then, to top it off, we made the king of all blunders when we chose not to offer Dunn salary arbitration the following offseason, even though it was almost guaranteed that he was not going to accept since he wanted a long-term deal. That cost us a second-round pick from the Nationals and yet another compensatory sandwich-round pick that would have made our '09 class even better.

And in return for our 44 games of Dunn, we gave up three good players, one of whom was already a major-league contributor. That was Micah Owings, who had a 95 OPS+ in his one-and-a-half seasons as a Diamondbacks' starter. To top it off, he had a 122 OPS+ in 122 plate appearances in the desert. Since arriving in Cincinnati, his ERA+ has slipped to 80, and his OPS+ is 117, but he's still a viable fifth starter who can help himself with the stick, and we could use that next year as our fifth starter (or even as a first baseman...). Buck couldn't stay healthy this year, and didn't throw all that well in the eight starts he made at AA in '09, and is already 24 years old. Castillo was considered to be a good prospect at the time of the trade, but has since regressed offensively and has done poorly in his time in the majors.

Overall: Dunn was pretty useless for us, and we didn't get the prospect return that we should have gotten because of the arbitration. Heck, if we'd have gotten that arbitration pick return, I'd say the second-rounder and sandwich-rounder would have been of greater value to us than Owings. But, the way things are, the short-term return was far inferior to what we had in the control we had over Owings. Not an F because Dunn did moderately well, but without the playoff appearance, it certainly wasn't a success. Grade: D-

August 31 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Chad Beck to Toronto for 2B David Eckstein:

One last rental for Byrnes in the '08 season, this time acquiring Eckstein, who had accumulated a 92 OPS+ in 78 games with Toronto. Unfortunately, the post-deal numbers didn't quite add up. Eckstein posted a pathetic 57 OPS+ with Arizona, and, like the three players acquired previously, didn't help the team make the '08 playoffs. What else needs to be said? He was bad.

Thankfully, Beck hasn't been much better in the Jays' system. His ERA was close to 6 in 2009 in Mid-A, and he's going to be 25 years old next year. Call it a hunch, but I don't think he'll be a major-leaguer.

Overall: Mehhhhh. So in the span of one season, the D-Backs acquired Tony Clark, Jon Rauch, Adam Dunn, and David Eckstein all on rentals to try to score a spot in the '08 postseason. Unfortunately, all of them underperformed. And all of them cost us prospects. Thankfully, most of them were horrible, including the one we gave up in this deal. We got horrible production for a future of no production, so I'll leave it up to you to decide what's worse... Grade: C

December 11 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Connor Robertson to the New York Mets for LHP Scott Schoeneweis:

Overall: It's not even right trying to analyze this one because of the horrible circumstances surrounding Schoeneweis's season. And for the record, Robertson is awful, he split '09 between AA and AAA, and will be 28 next season. Grade: None

2009: Note - The grades on the remainder of the trades are with less than one season of games played since. So at this point, the grades shift from being retrospective to looking more towards the future.

July 7 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Tony Pena to the Chicago White Sox for 1B Brandon Allen:

After Pena's 25-inning hot streak to begin the season had ended and he had begun his exhausted collapse, the D-Backs shipped him off for a 23-year-old first-baseman with a 30-HR power ceiling. Pena pulled himself together over the remainder of the season to bring his ERA+ back up to 116, but anybody with Pena's refusal to strike batters out (fewer than seven per nine innings both in career and in '09) is going to rely on the tricky game of limiting home runs, which is why Pena's performance tends to heavily fluctuate, even from month to month.

We all saw what Allen did in both the minors and the majors in 2009. Whether or not you say it's because of the help provided by Aces Ballpark, that Allen simply found his swing at the right moment (and subsequently lost it at the wrong moment), or what have you, he absolutely dominated AAA. He's still young, and has time to develop into the kind of power threat that we've been missing at first base for a long time.

Overall: Pena was always considered to be a closer-in-waiting, but his lack of ability to consistently miss bats scares me in that role (see: Brandon Lyon). So we basically traded a good set-up man who was already 28 and on a team that has since re-built its bullpen depth in a matter of months for a guy who could be the everyday first-baseman of the future. Another trade you can't argue with. Grade: B+

July 19 - Diamondbacks trade 2B Felipe Lopez to Milwaukee for RHP Roque Mercedes and OF Cole Gillespie:

The Diamondbacks were wallowing through 2009 with very little going right, and a few tradeable assets to try to being rebuilding. The first to go was Lopez, who had been signed in the offseason and was enjoying a career resurrection as the leadoff hitter in Arizona. The D-Backs knew they would get nothing for him when he left in free agency in the offseason, so they got what they could by shipping him off to a contender.

And the haul we got wasn't half-bad either. Mercedes had struggled to get out of A-ball and was 22 years old, but had video game numbers in Hi-A in Milwaukee's system prior to the trade, so we sent him to AA after the deal. He performed marvellously there, accumulating a 3.32 ERA in 15 appearances. Over the past two years, Mercedes has maintained K-Rates of 8.8 in Mid-A in '08 and 10.4 split between Hi-A and AA in '09, has one of the highest ceilings of our system's relief arms. Gillespie proved to be a great pickup as well, exploding upon his arrival in Reno, and following that with a good performance in the AFL. The stats suggest that he's ready for the show, and he could take Eric Byrnes's spot on the roster in Spring Training.

Overall: If you're going to trade a guy who you're not going to get draft pick compensation for, you could do a lot worse than a major-league ready outfielder and a high-upside relief arm. Lopez didn't get the Brewers to the playoffs, but he played well for Milwaukee. A good way to replenish the system, and it's already looking like a nice return for a couple months of a rental free agent. Grade: B-

August 28 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Jon Rauch to Minnesota for RHP Kevin Mulvey:

Byrnes continued unloading the team's trade-able assets by next dealing the guy who he had given up Bonifacio a year earlier to acquire, Jon Rauch. Rauch had managed to completely turn around his season, starting off as the "Whirling Tattooed Vortex of Suck" (paraphrasing multiple titles given to Rauch) and becoming a reliable set-up man as his velocity returned a couple of months into the season. In doing so, he also salvaged his trade value. After the trade, he had a great finish to his '09 season and helped the Twins reach the playoffs, barely fending off the Tigers in the AL Central.

Mulvey was given his first significant portion of innings in the majors at the end of the season as Arizona, and posted just a 65 ERA+ in four starts and two relief appearances spanning 23 innings. In other words, a pretty bad debut for a guy who was supposed to be major-league ready. You have to believe that some of that is the fault of a small sample size and that he would put up a much better line in a full season of starting. Nonetheless, most people don't believe that he will beat Billy Buckner for a starting job next season. And, since Mulvey is going to be 25 years old next year, he's running out of time to make it to the majors as a starter.

Overall: We can't say that we miss Rauch, given how easily (and cheaply) we've re-constructed our bullpen since Rauch's departure to make up for the next couple of years he was signed for. But Mulvey certainly hasn't impressed us, either. If Mulvey can become something, this deal might be able to be viewed as a positive, but for now, all you can say is that we lost the benefit of Rauch's production from the rest of 2009 and 2010. Grade: C-

August 31 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Jon Garland to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B/IF Tony Abreu:

Byrnes made his second post-waiver deadline trade of 2009 by sending Jon Garland to the other locker room during a D-Backs/Dodgers series, flipping yet another guy signed the previous off-season as a one-year rental. Garland was certainly serviceable for us, with a 107 ERA+ in 27 starts, but was pricey and we have since rebuilt our rotation cheaper. For perspective's sake, if we'd picked up Garland's $10M option, we wouldn't have been able to afford only two of the following three moves: 1) The three-team trade, 2) Adam LaRoche's $5M, or 3) Kelly Johnson's $2M & Bob Howry's $3M in 2010. If we keep Garland, we have a lot of holes on the roster and a stretched budget. In other words, we weren't going to keep Garland.

In return, we got Abreu, who the Dodgers probably really wish they still had right now (Jamey Carroll, anybody?) Hard to say what we have in Abreu, but he's going to be one of our backup infielders for 2010, so he's going to have utility next year at a cheap cost, rather than dumping Garland for nothing.

Overall: Obviously, time will tell what we got for Garland, but Abreu has a chance to be our starting second baseman starting either in 2011 or 2012 (if we take advantage of our second year of control of Kelly Johnson). Getting that for no cost of utility beyond '09 is a pretty sweet deal. Grade: B-

November 19 - Diamondbacks trade 1B Ryne White and LHP Scott Maine to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Aaron Heilman:

Byrnes began reconstructing his bullpen by first acquiring the workhorse Heilman from the Cubs for a couple of fringe prospects. White was completely unnecessary to keep; a first baseman with a big body and no power, who was blocking newly drafted studs like Ryan Wheeler, Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Davidson, and, if he moves to first base, Bobby Borchering. It does hurt a little to lose Maine though. His funky arm angle means that he'll be difficult for left-handed batters to handle in the major leagues, and the Diamondbacks have so options to get tough lefties out.

It's pretty easy to know what you're going to get from Heilman - a lot of innings and consistency in the 4.5 ERA range. Whether or not that's an upgrade for us, especially when having both Heilman and Bob Howry on board may mean the end of Leo Rosales in Arizona, is questionable. Relievers are valuable, but we seem to have a plethora of good right-handed relief options, so giving up a young left-handed arm for yet another righty was short-sighted when Howry, a better player, was going to sign on the cheap a couple of months later.

Overall: It's hard to analyze this deal yet, since there haven't been any games played since the move. Still, the view of it now is that we acquired a player who isn't going to any value over who we could replace him with aside from bulk innings. And we already have a rotation that is going to give us those innings - Haren, Webb, and Jackson are all expected to be workhorses. So if your rotation gives you innings, wouldn't you want your bullpen to be great in small workloads, rather than efficient in large workloads? Also, we gave up a guy in Maine who could give Zach Kroenke some competition for the second left-handed arm in our 'pen. The organization loves Heilman, but I'm not buying the necessity of spending that $2M. We gave up young pieces that could fill a need for an old piece who doesn't now that we brought in Howry. So it was either a bad move, or a short-sighted move. Either way, it's a disaster. Grade: F

December 9 - Diamondbacks trade RHP Max Scherzer and LHP Daniel Schlereth to Detroit as part of a three-team trade, receiving RHP Edwin Jackson from Detroit, and RHP Ian Kennedy from the New York Yankees:

This is probably the move that will make or break Josh Byrnes's career as a GM, and there are certainly mixed feelings about it. We gave up a promising young power arm in Scherzer who posted a 111 ERA+ in 30 starts in 2009, and a first-round pick from 2008 in Schlereth. To top it off, Scherzer is under control for five years, and Schlereth is under control for six years. And even though Schlereth cannot stay healthy, when he is on the mound he has the stuff to succeed in the late innings.

In return, we got Edwin Jackson, who had a great '09 season with a 127 ERA+ (in the American League!), but whose 4.28 FIP suggests it may have been partially attributable to luck. Regardless, he's an above-average starter moving to the easier league who can dominate a game if he has his control working. Also, the organization is incredibly high on Kennedy. He missed most of '09 with a freak injury - an aneurysm - but is ready for 2010 and pitched very well in his limited '09 time at AAA. We also have six years of control of Kennedy, so we can expect him to be a mainstay in our rotation for the next six years.

Overall: We certainly gave up a lot of control and a lot of value in this deal, so people who believe we gave up way too much of our future for Ian Kennedy and two years of Edwin Jackson have a valid argument. But I look at this trade another way. Scherzer is a guy who I, and the front office, believe is destined for the bullpen. He'll be a good reliever, but even great relievers generally have lower value than starters. Scherzer has a ton of red flags: his throwing motion, the approximately 40-inning workload jump from '08 to '09, and his decorative injury history. All of these suggest his future is in the bullpen. We believe Kennedy is a solid fourth starter and Jackson can be a durable third starter for us for the next two years. Getting two starters for two relievers? Always nice. And the biggest benefit is how it helps us financially. The net cost of this trade is around $4M for 2009 (Jackson will make approx. $5M in arbitration, Scherzer makes approx $1.1M, Schlereth and Kennedy each make $400k). And with the D-Backs in win-now mode and looking like they have a legitimate shot at the pennant, the money they saved by making this trade instead of giving $7.5-8M to a Jason Marquis-type as a fourth starter allowed for them to go sign Adam LaRoche, who will likely be worth around a two-win improvement for the 2010 D-Backs. Grade: B

That covers all 34 trades made during the Josh Byrnes Era in the desert. If you've managed to read the entirety of this, congratulations. Generally, I'm satisfied with the job Mr. Byrnes has done with the D-Backs, both in terms of the grades on these trades and the other aspects of his GM duties. Most of the poorer grades here came during the '08 pennant race as we tried to add pieces to hold off the Dodgers once they had acquired Manny Ramirez. Even those trades were hard to argue with at the time, as the division was weak and we were in first place, hence controlling our own destiny.

This leads me to my final thought, a reminder that this article is (mostly) a retrospective look, and that how a trade works out in retrospect is not an adequate tool for determining a good GM from a bad GM. There are many factors that go into being a good GM: knowing when is the time to buy pieces for a playoff run and when is the time to sell and rebuild, evaluation of talent, building a farm system, and, just as important as any of those other qualities, a good helping of luck. We could trade the unsettling contracts of Chris Snyder and Eric Byrnes to St. Louis for Albert Pujols tomorrow, but if Pujols suffered a season-ending injury on Opening Day and left during free agency while the Cardinals won the 2010 World Series, it would look bad in retrospect. Nonetheless, nobody in their right mind would say that the GM made a poor decision. Similarly, we were in the middle of a playoff hunt in 2008, and made some well thought out deals to try to make a run at the playoffs, but simply fell short. So simply take this with the grain of salt it was meant to be taken with.