Mentoring Troubled GMs: Josh Byrnes

I recently volunteered some time to a very important cause. MLB has set up a network of mentors for at-risk GMs in inner-city neighborhoods. I drew the tough task of mentoring a troubled but talented young fellow named Josh Byrnes. It should be noted that I think the chap has potential, and has pulled off some killer trades. But some of the peripheral stuff that got him fired in Arizona may be resurfacing. In our first meeting I bought him a Happy Meal and made sure to give him some good advice.

1. Closers Are Easy to Find

If your team doesn’t have much money, don’t sign an injury-prone closer with middling stuff to a long term deal. Did you know that anyone can close? It’s true! Any league average reliever can be installed as closer and achieve success at the position. Carlos Marmol and Brian Wilson are great examples of shitty pitchers who get lots of those “Saves” everyone still thinks are so neat. $7MM a year for Huston Street? Brad Brach, Miles Mikolas, Dale Thayer; just stick one of ’em in there. It’s all about opportunity.

Here’s a related tip: It’s best to have your top setup guy be the best reliever in your pen. That way you can deploy him when you need to prevent runs most, rather than just when leading in the ninth inning. The Giants kept Sergio Romo as their 8th inning guy even after Wilson went down, instead turning to Santiago Casilla in the 9th, because Romo is more dependable.

2. Short on Cash? Save For What’s Important.

If your team doesn’t have much money, then don’t sign an injury-prone (geez this sounds familiar) leftfielder who is 20 runs below average on defense. Carlos Quentin’s WAR was worse than Jamey Carroll’s last year. Oh, did you just barf in your mouth? Me too. Yes, $30MM over three seasons for Quentin is a bargain to the market in general, but sort of irresponsible when you have a franchise player you need to re-sign.

3. It’s okay to non-tender bad players.

Why tender a bad defender (lousy at 1B and horrific in the outfield), with a terrible track record of health at a position of organizational depth? Matt Clark is already rotting at AAA. If you would have just protected Nate Frieman instead of Jaff Decker in the rule 5, you’d have had another younger, healthy option within the organization, for less money. Freiman and Clark also both carry the added benefit of having had success at baseball recently. Something neither Decker nor Blanks can claim.

4. In the Rule 5: Protect Players Other Teams Might Actually Select

Decker will never have any value at the MLB level. Did you really think another team would be so desperate for a bad bodied corner outfielder who produced an ISO of .109 last year that they would put him on their Opening Day roster? Having more than a one-step plan at any given time would help with these kinds of moves.

5. Have more than a one-step plan.

Two or even three-step plans are much more complicated, but trust me, it’s worth the extra work. Don’t just do stuff so it seems like you’re working.

6. Get the Most Out of Trading Prospects

Don’t trade a top of the line hitting prospect (Anthony Rizzo) for a fireballer (Andrew Cashner) and then not turn him into a starter. Just make sure that when Cashner comes back you put him in that rotation, Byrnes-y.

7. Don’t Overreact.

The kind of disaster that you faced last year with pitching depth is probably never going to happen again. You don’t need starting pitching depth, you need a right-fielder. Will Venable is a platoon player whose platoon partner, Chris Denorfia, is a horrible defender.

Here are your internal candidates for the rotation: Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Anthony Bass, Casey Kelly, Eric Stults, Tyson Ross and Jason Marquis. Plus, Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland and Andrew Cashner will be coming back from injury before the All-Star break to add depth as the season goes, should a string of injuries unfold.

I’m not counting Robbie Erlin becuase you don’t want to start his service-time clock just yet. But since you already had to start Casey Kelly’s I’m expecting him to be in the rotation in 2013.

8. No More Brother-Brother Shit

You’re not writing scripts for Disney movies. I know that Joe/Tyson Ross are your first set of brothers, but the organization has been doing this for years and nobody thinks it’s cute anymore. (Chris/Tony Gwynn, Edgar/Adrian Gonzalez, Marcus/Brian Giles, Scott/Jerry Hairston.) Come to think of it, the sons of former big leaguers thing needs to be shut down, too. Unless the player is actually good, this is just a sad cry for attention.

9. Don’t Extend 36 Year-Old, Replacement Level Players

Are you kidding me!? Mark Kotsay!? You have Venable, Denorfia and Guzman on this team. You could have kept Tekotte (he hits left-handed). Kotsay has been at or below replacement level for five out of the last seven seasons. You couldn’t just let him walk? Don’t say it’s because of leadership intangibles, that’s what coaches are for. Players need to contribute value on the field.

10. Get Bats

If you had non-tendered Venable and Blanks, and not extended Street ($7MM), then not signed Jason Marquis, you could have signed Brandon McCarthy or Dan Haren, and then packaged a surplus young SP for a rightfielder. For some inspiration, call up Billy Beane a call and ask him to tell you about how he stole Josh Reddick. I’m not sure what the Pirates wanted for Starling Marte last season, but it might have been worth it.

For an organization that struggles dearly to lure FA hitters, you have to develop and trade for offense. Let the pitchers flock to their paradise as they will naturally want to do.

Conclusion

All in all Josh-y, you have done a very good job at coming out ahead in trades. But the rest of the decisions need work. See, there’s a reason your job title is not “Trade Master.” You have to learn how to manage the team in general. See what I did there? Let’s talk again soon huh, Red?

[RA ROWE]

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About ra_rowe

A long suffering Padres fan who grew up in San Diego, and moved to Pasadena, Rowe works as a Junior Product Manager and writes poetry in addition to knowing everything about baseball.

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