Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 10/28/11
PHOENIX What most remember is the messy parting. General manager Josh Byrnes and his hand-picked manager, A.J. Hinch, were dismissed in Arizona in July 2010 as the Diamondbacks sputtered toward a second consecutive 90-loss season. The end is never gentle. But the final days blurred the impact of Byrnes 4-year tenure with the Diamondbacks. Foremost is that Byrnes won on a budget. A teeny budget. It is something every general manager outside the BostonNew YorkChicagoLos Angeles gold belt has been trying to do for years. It took Byrnes two seasons in Arizona. If that is not a selling point, what is? In fact, an argument can be made that the worst thing that happened to Byrnes in Arizona was beyond his control that being the serious shoulder injury suffered by former Cy Young winning right-hander Brandon Webb in spring training of 2009. The loss of an ace is never easily overcome, no matter how deep a farm system, and it was the biggest contributing factor in the D-backs spiral from an NL West division title in 2007 to the malaise of 2009-10. Now, Byrnes is being reunited with a man who believes in him San Diego president Jeff Moorad. Moorad knows what he is getting. It was Moorad who pushed the D-backs to hire Byrnes away from Boston in the winter of 2005, and it was Moorad who OKd an eight-year, eight-figure contract extension after the D-backs won the NL West in 2007 despite a 52 million on-field payroll. The D-backs were stressed financially when Byrnes joined them in 2005 because of large deferred payments remaining on contracts signed early in the decade, but he found a way to put a competitive team on the field while management paid down the deferments that are almost off the books now. Byrnes signed free agent Eric Byrnes, who had fallen so far that he was non-tendered by Baltimore that winter but became a huge contributor. He made savvy trades for controllable young players while undoing some of the expensive deals Moorad made in his one offseason in charge of player procurement. Byrnes acquired Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista from Toronto for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos, a trade that not only balanced the roster but also enabled the D-backs to rid themselves of the final 32 million on Glauss four-year, 40-million deal. Byrnes also turned a potential negative into a positive when he traded Javier Vazquez to the Chicago White Sox for a package that included Chris Young and Orlando Hernandez. Young has become a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder and one of the D-backs core players. So fortified, the surprising D-backs won the NL West in 2007 with the lowest payroll in the franchises 14-year history, spending about half of what it cost to win the 2002 division title. Until market factors change, it also is the way it will have to be done in San Diego. Hoyer got the Padres within one game of the NL playoffs in 2010 on a 38 million shoestring, and the Padres spent about 46 million on contracts in 2011 last season despite trading away Adrian Gonzalez in the offseason. Moorad has said the payroll will be in the low 50 millions in 2012, territory that Byrnes knows well. The Padres got a start in adding controllable young talent by acquiring first baseman Anthony Rizzo and right-hander Casey Kelly in a package from Boston for Gonzalez, and also got prime pitching prospects left-hander Robbie Erlin and right-hander Joe Weiland from Texas for Mike Adams at the 2011 trade deadline. If Byrnes learned anything in Arizona, the Padres will keep closer Heath Bell, likely hoping to negotiate a two-year deal. The lack of bullpen arms hurt the D-backs dearly in 2008-10 and was a focal point of Kevin Towers retooling effort last offseason while returning the team to the top of the NL West. The 2007 division title was built around Webb, closer Jose Valverde and a host of young position players who benefited from the veteran guidance of players such as Tony Clark. It was a nice mix, and it boded well going forward, even as the D-backs became the first team in major league history to win 90 games and a division title by scoring fewer runs than they gave up. Friction was generated when the D-backs did not acquire a bat to help the offense, instead acquiring Dan Haren the following winter for a package that included Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson while counting on the young group of hitters to take the next step forward. Arbitration-eligible Valverde was traded to Houston as a money-saving maneuver. Webb and Haren kept the D-backs in front for five months in 2008, but the bullpen faltered down the stretch, and the offense did not improve. When the team started slowly in 2009, Byrnes lost confidence in Bob Melvin and replaced him with Hinch, who had no coaching or managerial experience. Pitching coach Bryan Price quit when Melvin was fired, and players never responded to the cerebral Hinch. When the play on the field suffered, Byrnes and Hinch were the natural scapegoats. It was a bad end to what had been a good marriage between Byrnes and the D-backs. Byrnes deserved another chance, and now he has it.
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