Josh Byrnes' track record warranted dismissal from Diamondbacks

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According to AOL Fanhouse’s Ed Price, it was his refusal to fire manager A.J. Hinch that cost Josh Byrnes his job as Arizona’s general manager on Thursday. In truth, he deserved to lose it regardless and it probably would have happened earlier if the Diamondbacks hadn’t had him under contract through 2015.
Yes, 2015. Byrnes, who was pretty successful initially after taking over the Diamondbacks in 2005, even had a small stake in ownership under the terms of an eight-year deal he was given in 2008.
How poor of a job Byrnes had done since a strong first two years can’t truly be judged without some inside knowledge. It largely hinges on whether Byrnes was the driving force behind the three-year, $30 million extension to Eric Byrnes in 2007 or if he was forced to stand aside as ownership spent to lock perhaps the franchise’s most popular player. The common belief is that the latter version is the truth.
The move was obviously bad at the time, though it took some dreadful luck for it to work out as poorly as it did. Eric Byrnes went from being an above average corner outfielder to an injury-prone liability in record time. And his return resulted in Carlos Quentin being traded away for first base prospect Chris Carter over the following winter.
Those weren’t the only poor moves, though. A couple of dirt-cheap potential regulars, Scott Hairston and Alberto Callaspo, were given away for middle-relief fodder in 2007.
Prior to the 2008 season, Byrnes surrendered Carter, Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham and more to Oakland for Dan Haren. If Haren was the final piece, it might have been justified. However, the Diamondbacks finished the season just 82-80 and their farm system, which had been one of the strongest in the game during the middle of the decade, was suddenly barren.
Byrnes’ big moves going into the 2009 season were to sign Jon Garland and Felipe Lopez. After a poor start, he made the very surprising call to replace manager Bob Melvin with Hinch. Hinch, who had been working in the front office, never appeared to prove himself in the clubhouse and the team went just 58-75 under him.
The Diamondbacks were 31-48 to open this year. Byrnes actually appeared to have his best offseason in years, having snatched up Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche at very modest prices. The jury is definitely still out on whether it was worth giving up Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, but the move hadn’t really had any negative ramifications so far.
One does have to admire Byrnes’ guts. His contract and apparent job security probably had something to do with it, but Byrnes took more risks than any GM in the league during his tenure. Hinch was the big one that backfired. Not only the did the Haren trade involve a huge amount of talent, but Byrnes traded his sure-thing closer, Jose Valverde, on the same day just to create the budget room to pull it off. The Scherzer-Schlereth deal was largely panned, but Byrnes essentially made the bet that Scherzer would never manage to stay healthy and fulfill his potential.
I don’t doubt that Byrnes will have a job again quickly. He’s probably an ideal No. 2 man in a major league front office, and there’s a better than even chance that he’ll return to the GM role someday. Still, the Diamondbacks were right to move on. Byrnes’ teams had underachieved, and he hadn’t put the franchise in a great position going forward. It was time to wipe the slate clean.

Diamondbacks working on a deal with Tyler Clippard

at Citi Field on July 28, 2015 in Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
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Last week Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart revealed that he was interested in signing free agent reliever Tyler Clippard and now Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the two sides have “made progress toward a deal.”

Piecoro notes that by trading Aaron Hill and his remaining contract to the Brewers the Diamondbacks created a bit of payroll flexibility that they could use to sign Clippard.

Clippard has a long history of excellent work as both a setup man and closer, but his raw stuff and secondary numbers have declined even though his ERA remained very good at 2.92 last season for the A’s and Mets. His strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 8.1 per nine innings, which is drop of about 25 percent from 2009-2014.

Two elite Cuban players defect

cuba hat
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Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com just reported that Yulieski Gurriel & Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who are brothers, reportedly defected and will be seeking MLB deals. There aren’t any details yet, but Sanchez will be updating with a full story that we’ll link here when he has it. UPDATE: Here it is.

Yulieski is a 31-year old third baseman and, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler he was the No. 1 player remaining in Cuba. He was one of the Cuban players who was permitted to play in Japan recently, and he just put up a .305/.349/.536 season with 11 homers in 62 games for the Yokohama Bay Stars and has continued to rake in Cuba. He is likely major league ready right this instant. He’d be an unrestricted free agent given his age and team’s signing him would not be subject to international bonus pool limits.

Lourdes is only 22 years old. He’s hit .269/.355/.414 in 1036 Serie Nacional plate appearances and Badler thinks he has 20-homer potential in the majors one day. He’s currently a shortstop, but is probably destined for a corner. He is young enough to where he would be subject to bonus pool limits. Several teams have already exceeded those limits for the current signing period, limiting the number of teams who could sign him. If, however, it takes MLB a long time to clear him as a free agent — and with immigration issues and the like, that’s very possible — he may not be eligible to be signed until next year, which could bring some other teams into the fold.

 

Indians close to signing ex-Nationals reliever Craig Stammen

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Right-hander Craig Stammen, who spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Nationals, is expected to sign with the Indians.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Indians “hope to finalize a deal” with Stammen today, adding veteran depth to the bullpen. It’ll likely be a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Stammen missed nearly all of last season following elbow surgery and the Nationals non-tendered him, but he’s scheduled to be ready for spring training. After struggling as a starter early in his career he’s posted a 3.02 ERA in 280 innings out of the bullpen, so if healthy it’d be a nice addition for Cleveland.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Cuba won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.