D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes fielded questions from fans during the club's January Web chat. Byrnes commented on topics like acquiring another starting pitcher, the club's offseason report card and signing core players to long-term contracts.
1k5v3l: Hi Josh, since the team won't get Draft picks for Dunn, and might not even get first round picks for Cruz or Hudson, would you go for more expensive/signability questions guys in the supplemental/second rounds to maximize the Draft's potential?
Josh Byrnes: First of all, sorry for the technical glitches and subsequent delay. We obviously made the Dunn deal with Draft picks in mind as a long-term benefit. Unfortunately, we felt the risk of him accepting outweighed the reward. Players like Worrell, Batista, Counsell, Livan, Cruz, Lyon, and Hudson have afforded us extra picks in the Draft. In the aggregate, we are happy with the results. To specifically answer your question, we always assess the value of every player against the slot and cost. So, we might be a bit more aggressive in this Draft because it appears we will not have nine of the first 70 picks, which may have been possible a few months ago.
bbptap: Josh, in June 2007 you mentioned that the AZ farm system was well stocked so you had the luxury of looking at high-ceiling high school picks. What are your objectives going into the 2009 Draft, and how does affordability stack up as a priority?
Byrnes: Since June 2007, we have promoted a few of our prospects and traded several (most notably in the Dan Haren deal). We now have a very young Major League roster with many players at the front end of their careers and less depth in our Minor Leagues. Our 2008 Draft and the extra picks associated with the 2009 Draft should improve our depth and quality if we were to project 18 months into the future.
baxfan20: Do you think there will be any "good deals" when it comes to getting a fourth starter as Spring Training nears? And are the D-backs interested in picking up another starting pitcher?
Byrnes: We are still pursuing a variety of options in the marketplace. Hopefully, there will be good values either in trade or free agency. We have considered a few starting pitchers, but we will not necessarily acquire one. With Webb, Haren, Davis, Scherzer, Petit, Buckner, Gutierrez, Blackley, Valdez, etc., our starting candidates are pretty strong.
dbackslove: Hello Mr. Byrnes. Can you explain the key reasons why the D-backs were not able to re-sign Randy Johnson?
Byrnes: Randy had many of the best years of a Hall of Fame career as a Diamondback. Over the last two years, he received more in salary than any other player on our roster. To his credit, he was willing to take a pay cut, but we could not make the finances work. We certainly respect everything he has done here and made an honest effort to keep him. In 2009, we will view him as a competitor. In the longer view, he will wear a Diamondbacks hat in Cooperstown.
Jorge235: How will our offseason compare to that of the Dodgers and the rest of the West and get us to a point this season where we will be able to overtake the rest of the division and make it to the playoffs?
Byrnes: We'll see. The offseason report cards are not yet complete. That being said, the offseason is important, but not always illustrative of success in the coming year. As an example, we worked very hard to complete the Dan Haren trade last offseason. We have subsequently signed him to a long-term deal. In that respect, our efforts last year provided us more stability through this offseason.
tony5150: Hey Josh. I know that the organization is trying to be fiscally responsible but is there any progress to make sure that key players like Drew, Upton, Jackson and Webb are locked in long-term?
Byrnes: Retaining core players is very important to us. In the last few years, we have signed several player to long-term deals and bought approximately 15 years of free agency in those contracts. Many of our players are very good and have many productive years ahead of them. We will continue to assess our best risk/reward scenarios as we develop contractual strategy.
HavasuFan: Will there be any emphasis on patience behind the plate this season? With the exception of Connor Jackson, it seems many of our hitters have never met a first pitch they didn't like. That results in players breaking strike out records.
Byrnes: Good question. Actually, our BB totals were very strong. Unfortunately, our SO totals were too high. In a perfect world, there is a relationship between BB/SO/HR output in players. For practical purposes, many of our hitters are learning at-bat management and balancing aggressiveness with patience.
edbaby: Mr. Byrnes, what is the status on Eric Byrnes?
Byrnes: Eric has worked hard all offseason to prepare himself for the 2009 season. He was clearly instrumental in establishing our identity in recent years. He was one of seven players to exceed 45 HR and 50 SB over 2006-07. Last year did not go according to plan for Eric, and Conor Jackson showed that he could play LF well. Our roster dynamics have changed to some degree. Competition for playing time is more prominent on our roster than it was at the same time last year.
TwizzleMac: It seems that we keep counting on these kids (who I love by the way) but none of them seem to be our No. 3 or 4 guy. Who are you foreseeing as our big run producer this year?
Byrnes: Our personnel has led to imperfect lineup construction in recent years. Bob Melvin has done a great job at finding the right combinations, and he has been very creative at times. Until a few of our younger players make the 3/4 slots more obvious, we will continue to emphasize a 1-8 lineup mindset. When we have clicked offensively in recent years, we have been able to score from any spot in the lineup.
JoshByrnesWhenIPee: The Diamondbacks recently expanded their operations in Asia. What progress has been made on this front?
Byrnes: We hired Mack Hayashi to be our Director of Pacific Rim Operations. Jim Marshall continues to serve an instrumental role. Jerry Dipoto and Peter Woodfork have participated in several scouting trips with a variety of scouting personnel. In general, our relationships are stronger and our knowledge of Japanese players is better. Ironically, our most tangible result thus far is signing a teenage Korean catcher this fall named Jae Yun Kim. Chad MacDonald and Mack did a fine job signing Kim.
angrytick: Hello Mr. Byrnes. I think the No. 1 priority in all D-back fans' minds is to lock up Brandon Webb long term.
Byrnes: We have two more years of contractual control on Webby. Fortunately, that is a fair amount of time to make the best decision for both parties. Three years ago, we signed Webby to a five-year contract, and he has performed at an extraordinarily high level throughout this contract. We will certainly take great care to make the best decision for him and our team construction heading into the next decade.Byrnes: My time is up for now. Thanks very much for the variety of questions. Also, thank you for your passion and commitment to the D-backs. See you at the ballpark.