Whenever the Chicago Cubs finalize and announce their acquisition of Theo Epstein, current Boston Red Sox GM and future Cubs President of Baseball Operations, they are expected to move quickly to add current San Diego Padres GM Jed Hoyer to the fold as their own GM. Hoyer is young, but already very accomplished, having worked under Epstein in Boston (specializing in sabermetric analysis) and put in two full years as Padres top dog.
During that time, despite very limited resources, Hoyer has marked himself as one of theleague's shrewdest and savviest executives. If Andrew Friedman had not had the tremendous farm system he did when he took over the Tampa Bay Rays, he would have done everything just the way Hoyer has done it in San Diego.
Hoyer and Epstein will combine on most baseball decisions, and should make good ones. Here are 10 gold stars on Hoyer's resume—great moves he made during his brief Padres tenure.
Hoyer found Torrealba on the scrap heap in February 2010, coming off a season in which even Coors Field could not lend punch to Torrealba's bat. Hoyer gave the catcher $0.75 million plus a mutual option for 2011.
Torrealba played more games for San Diego than he had in either of the two previous years with the Rockies, posted an OPS three percent better than league average after park adjustments, and cashed in with a much more lucrative two-year deal in Texas last winter. In the meantime, the Padres patiently developed Nick Hundley, who pumped up his own OPS almost a hundred points in 2011.
This deal drew a large collective scoff from many, but in July 2010, the Padres were still atop the NL West and badly needed shortstop help. Unable to find room in the budget or talent enough in the farm system to reel in any big fish, Hoyer dealt a forgettable reliever for Tejada and plugged him into a position he had not played regularly to that point in the 2010 seasons.
Tejada responded by finding his fountain of youth for two months. He fielded shortstop much more capably than anyone had thought he still could, swatted eight home runs in 59 games and ultimately added 1.7 WAR to the Padres' playoff chase in roughly a third of a season.
Hoyer is breathing evidence that the best way for an MLB general manager to save money is to make good deals. With Garland, as with Torrealba, Hoyer had to include a mutual option in order to get a deal done. That meant risking a buyout payment to those players even if they were so awful San Diego had no interest in bringing them back.
With Garland, though, as with Torrealba, it never came into play. Garland attained 200 effective innings, posted his lowest seasonal ERA ever at 3.47, and declined his side of the option in order to get a better deal after the season. Incidentally, that turned into a terrible decision, and probably cost Garland $1.75 million. Executives around baseball saw, though Garland could not, that Hoyer had artificially inflated Garland's value. That 3.47 ERA actually rated six percent worse than league average after accounting for the effect of PETCO Park.
If Torrealba was on the scrap heap, Guzman was buried beneath it. He had 20 big-league plate appearances under his belt with the 2009 Giants but was a minor-league free agent with little hope of finding a break until Hoyer snatched him up.
Brad Hawpe's injury problems and Anthony Rizzo's rookie bends gave Guzman an opening, and he took it. In 271 plate appearances, the first baseman hit .312/.369/.478, or 39 percent better than an average hitter playing his home games in San Diego.
Too limited by cash-flow problems to retain his superstar offensive asset, Hoyer worked with his past and future boss to send Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox last winter.
In return, he landed the Padres a future stud at first base in Anthony Rizzo, an ultra-athletic pitcher in Casey Kelly and a solid center-field prospect in Reymond Fuentes. The former two have a very real chance to make an impact for the 2012 Padres, even in Hoyer's absence.
Hoyer oversaw two amateur drafts during his San Diego tenure, and they had to have been difficult processes for him. One part of the stat-savvy paradigm these days is a dedication to scouting and the efficiency of the draft, where an elite prospect can be had for $3 million or less and kept for a decade. The problem is that owners see paying those players that kind of money, given the rate of failure and the lack of a meaningful track record, as absurd. The Padres owners are notoriously stingy in this regard, and do not allow much in the way of draft spending.
Hoyer adjusted to that constriction, though, and made some heady moves in his time running the operation. In 2010, the Padres lost out on first-round pick Karsten Whitson for reasons rather beyond the control of either party. However, they got 10 of their top 12 picks signed and made some forward progress with a farm system that had been wanting for years.
In 2011, Hoyer did even better. San Diego drafted for signability with Cory Spangenberg as their top pick in the first round, but got five total picks within the top 60 and signed four of them. They achieved a nice blend of high-ceiling talents and low-cost college players of whom ownership more heartily approved. Spangenberg posted a .419 OBP, stole 25 bases and continued to look like a solid future second baseman while playing at two levels after signing.
Harang was not quite a scrap-heap scoop, but he was certainly a reclamation project. Hoyer got Harang to commit to a deal much like Garland's 2009 pact, only smaller. Harang got $3.5 million in 2011, and has a mutual option for 2012 he is likely to decline. In the interim, he threw over 170 innings for the first time since 2008, won 14 games and—you guessed it—posted the best ERA of his career (3.64).
Hoyer grabbed Denorfia just as the outfielder's career seemed to be near its conclusion. In parts of four seasons over five years with two different teams, Denorfia had amassed just 237 plate appearances, and the Padres got him on a minor-league deal.
They called him up on May 17, 2010, when Scott Hairston hit the DL, and Denorfia has been earning his spot ever since. In 657 plate appearances the past two seasons, Denorfia racked up a .742 OPS—nine percent better than average given his home park—hit 14 home runs and stole 19 bases.
Many expected Hoyer to deal Heath Bell around the trade deadline this July, but instead, he flipped Adams. A much more valuable asset owing to his similarly dominant skill set and an extra year of team control, Adams netted the Padres a pair of very good pitching prospects from the Rangers.
Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin combined to strike out 304 batters and walk 37 this season across two levels and two organizations. Either or both could pitch in San Diego's rotation in 2012, and will certainly be there by Opening Day 2013. This deal was a coup for Hoyer.
This was less coup than highway robbery—a scam on par with trading two small mules for a thoroughbred. The Padres sent a pair of passable but uninspiring relief pitchers (Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb) to Florida to get Maybin, who proceeded to post 2.9 WAR and steal 40 bases as the everyday center fielder in San Diego. He will be just 25 in 2012. Hoyer robbed the Marlins blind on this one.