Byrnes actively reshaped Padres this offseason
First-year general manager made seven trades, key signings
PEORIA, Ariz. -- If you squint hard enough, and if you peer through the chain-link fence, you can almost track the action on Field 2 from Field 1 at the Peoria Sports Complex.
And if you plan your path smartly, you can maneuver from one field here to another, passing though a half-field, where infielders work on their double-play pivots and catchers practice smothering pitches in the dirt.
On the other side of the Padres' Spring Training facility, you can watch a bullpen session with one of the 29 pitchers in camp while you're walking to the covered hitting area, where position players get blisters taking swing after swing after swing.
Josh Byrnes is no stranger to these paths, as he's walked all of them over and over again during the first two-plus weeks of camp. The first-year general manager of the Padres assembled this roster following a busy offseason, one that hasn't slowed since he's arrived here, as he moves from field to field, trying to take in as much action as he can.
After a busy offseason -- Byrnes made seven trades and signed two free agents -- it makes perfect sense that he wants to see as many of the new faces as he can. This typically makes for a busy day for Byrnes, who has essentially reshaped the 40-man roster since he was hired on Oct. 26.
"It's hard to see everything that's going on," Byrnes said the other day, standing on Field 1. "We've got a [prospect] minicamp, so you try to go over there first and see those guys before coming back over. Then we all sit down after lunch and go over our notes.
"But it's a great time of year. It's fun when the organization is all here together. We're optimistic, as I'm sure other teams are."
The Padres, looking to improve on a 71-91 finish a year ago, underwent a roster upheaval this winter, as Byrnes made a flurry of moves with designs on improving the roster -- not just in 2012 but beyond.
Gone from last season are pitchers Aaron Harang, Heath Bell and Mat Latos, the latter of whom was dealt to the Reds in December for four players. The same week that Bell inked a free-agent deal with the Marlins, Byrnes traded for closer Huston Street. Projected eighth-inning specialist Andrew Cashner was acquired from the Cubs, while Byrnes also traded for left fielder Carlos Quentin to give one of the worst offenses in baseball in 2011 some punch.
"I do think we're a better team," Byrnes said recently.
Getting there certainly took some work, starting after the season, when GM Jed Hoyer was still in place and the members of the organization gathered in Arizona for meetings -- meetings they would actually hold two times, once with Hoyer presiding and later with Byrnes.
"We had one set of meetings when Jed was here and a few after I took over, and we did kind of lay out what we wanted to do with the club, in some cases fairly specifically," Byrnes said. "As the offseason went on, we for the most part were able to do what we were trying to do."
Byrnes signed outfielder Mark Kotsay in November, a move made for chemistry as much as it was the production Kotsay could offer. He upgraded the catching position by acquiring John Baker that month from the Marlins.
The month of December was considerably busier, as Byrnes added Street, then shipped Latos off to the Reds for four players, including first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal, two of the highest-regarded pieces in the deal. Then on the final day of 2011, Byrnes traded for Quentin, a player he once traded when he was GM of the D-backs.
"Josh's experience as an executive and a general manager in Arizona, with him being with four different organizations, he came here with a strong framework of experience from what he saw from our team looking at it for a year and had some things in mind," Padres manager Bud Black said.
"When the change happened, he immediately acted on it and didn't look back. All of the good general managers make moves that are decisive and don't look back."
There were plenty more changes in January, as Byrnes traded first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo for Cashner, who has been the talk of camp with his 100-mph fastball.
Even the spring has been busy for Byrnes, who reached a deal on Saturday on a contract extension for center fielder Cameron Maybin, a deal that could keep the 24-year-old in San Diego though 2017. The extension for a player low on service time was a nod to his time in Cleveland in the 1990s when GM John Hart gave out several club-friendly deals to younger players.
Did Byrnes get to everything on the to-do list he compiled before the offseason heated up? Probably not and by no means does he consider this Padres team a finished product. Byrnes has, though, made a handful of moves to address glaring needs while also building depth and helping add inventory to a Minor League system that's the talk of baseball.
"You're never satisfied and there's always ways you think the club can get better," Byrnes said "I think that's on-going. I think the good thing is there are a lot of things we can address internally. If there are injuries or guys who aren't performing, we think there's a lot of depth in our system."