Why was Josh Byrnes really fired?

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Matthew and Drew covered the bases on the Diamondbacks’ firings last night, but I’m still thinking about it.

I think it’s apparent that Hinch had to go. All reports I’ve read reveal that he had lost the confidence of the clubhouse. And he maybe never had it. I was a cautious fan of his hiring last year because I’m a sucker for unconventional moves, but it’s clear now that plucking a young guy from the front office who neither (a) had any coaching experience anywhere; and (b) was never a big enough deal of a player himself to at least give him a temporary pass, credibility-wise, was a big gamble.  The Diamondbacks have a lot of problems, but given how people default to blaming the manager no matter what’s happening, Hinch stuck out and his fate was sealed.

Byrnes is a more interesting case. The first take on it I read was Matthew’s. I take mild issue with some of his arguments — you’ll be shocked to learn that we don’t engage in groupthink at HBT — but there are a lot of people coming to Byrnes’ defense this morning that aren’t addressing, say, the Dan Haren trade in terms of the talent he gave up and the Dbacks’ place on the success cycle at the time or, for that matter, questioning the choice of Hinch from the point of view of risk management and self-preservation. I don’t think I would have fired Byrnes based on his transactions, but I don’t think it’s an atrocity like some people are saying this morning.  There are arguments on both sides of the equation. There almost always are.

But I think one thing we can maybe all agree on is that the Diamondbacks’ ownership is lost at sea at the moment.  The timing is what gets me mostly. We’re less than a month from the trade deadline and the Diamondbacks are poised to unload a lot of talent. Haren maybe. LaRoche. Kelly Johnson. Possibly Edwin Jackson. If the owners had questions about Byrnes’ ability before last night, they should have gotten rid of him before all these moves needed to happen.  Of course if they did have reservations earlier, they shouldn’t have let him handle the signing of a big free agent in LaRoche and run one of the bigger trades in team history over the offseason in the Scherzer/Granderson/Austin Jackson trade.

Given his very long contract you figure ownership was willing to take the long view with Byrnes. Given that he was allowed to make those moves this past winter but can’t be trusted to handle the trades that are necessary this month, that trust disappeared rather quickly. Either something notable and negative happened in the past couple of months to sour the owners on Byrnes, or else the owners are panicky and are laying the team’s bad year at his feet. 

Given how these things tend to go — people with futures like Byrnes’ rarely dish dirt — we’ll probably never know.  Something just doesn’t seem natural about this firing, however, and I bet there’s more to the story.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.