When Josh Byrnes became the General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he brought with him a new philosophy. Players were evaluated based on rigid statistics and SABRmetrics were all the rage. Everyone in the minor league system and major league rosters were defined by a set of numbers. To some it seemed very impersonal and cold but to others it would take the guesswork out of who the Diamondbacks should retain and what kind of team they would become.
One of the first areas that Byrnes would have to address would be the outfield. In left was the face of the franchise and World Series hero Luis Gonzalez. According to Byrnes and his statistics Gonzalez was past his prime. With Jeff Moorad in tow the two had breakfast with Gonzo where they told him he was not wanted by the team regardless of the price.
Instead he would be replaced with wild man Eric Byrnes (no relation) who was always going a hundred miles an hour. The energy and personality he brought to the team were infectious and the Diamondbacks quickly capitalized on his persona to make him the next face of the franchise.
As part of that, Byrnes was given a three-year contract and would become a staple in the Diamondbacks outfield, or so they thought. Arizona also had a wave of young talented outfielders in their minor league system and there was some question whether spending on Byrnes was in the team’s best interest. Josh Byrnes felt it was the right thing to do and with Chris Young and Justin Upton knocking on the door the team suddenly had a log jam in the outfield.
In an attempt to eliminate that jam Josh Byrnes sent former first-round pick Carlos Quentin to the Chicago White Sox for first baseman Chris Carter. It was not so much who the Diamondbacks got back in the trade as they turned Carter around and included him 11 days later with Brett Anderson, Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, and Carlos Gonzalez in exchange for Dan Haren.
In Josh Byrnes eyes Haren was the missing piece that would send the Diamondbacks to the World Series. Instead that trade signified the end of the Byrnes era in Arizona. Over the next three years the team would go from being one series away from the World Series to finishing in the NL West cellar two years straight in 2009 and 2010 before being dismissed as General Manager.
The Athletics would send Carlos Gonzalez to the Colorado Rockies in a trade for Matt Holliday and Car-Go would go on to have success with the Rockies and finish in discussions for the NL Most Valuable Player.
Quentin would move over to the White Sox and have a stellar year in 2008 finishing fifth in AL MVP voting. Quentin would be named to two All-Star teams in his first four years on the Southside of Chicago.
On December 31st the White Sox would send Quentin to the San Diego Padres where he will play in the NL West. Now Diamondbacks fans will have an opportunity to see both Quentin and Gonzalez on a regular basis at hitter friendly Chase Field where we can be constantly reminded of what may have been.
Had those two trades not been made Diamondbacks fans may have seen an outfield of Upton, Young, and Quentin/Gonzalez. We wouldn’t be wondering where that middle of the order bat is that could drive in runs. Instead we would be talking about how these four young outfielders would be the cornerstone of the franchise and how even a little pitching success would carry the team into the post season.
If anything you do have to give Josh Byrnes credit. He seems to have learned from his mistakes. After all it was he who made the trade for Quentin to bring him back into the National League. He just happened to do it as General Manager of the Padres.