Thursday, December 10, 2009
Byrnes defends the Megadeal
Well, that didn't take long. Nick Piecoro tracked down Josh Byrnes, who didn't pull his punches when asked to explain why he made a deal that everyone seems to think he flubbed ...
"In general, the immediate reaction of the trade is not often a predictor of the outcome," Byrnes said shortly after the finalization of his acquisition of right-handers Edwin Jackson [via Detroit] and Ian Kennedy [via New York] on Wednesday afternoon.
"We're always balancing short term and long term. I think this was pretty clear in the short term that it strengthened us, and long term we realized there was some degree of risk."
In a deal that included the Tigers and Yankees, the Diamondbacks sent two power arms in Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to the Detroit. Scherzer has been called by some the most valuable chip in the deal, a young starting pitcher with five years to go before free agency.
But the Diamondbacks had concerns about Scherzer's ability to remain healthy and develop into a perennial 200-inning workhorse, questions that stem from a violent, jerky pitching motion that many believe could lead to injury. They also considered Jackson, acquired from Detroit, not only a more-effective pitcher - he posted a combined 3.99 ERA over the past two seasons while facing consistently tough lineups in the American League - but a safer bet to rack up innings.
Jackson, though, has only two more years of club control - at which point, as a Scott Boras client, he is likely to depart as a free agent - making Kennedy's performance down the road a key to whether it's a sink or swim deal for the Diamondbacks.
Many people in the game seem to consider Kennedy a low-ceiling, run-of-the-mill right-hander, a view the Diamondbacks do not share.
"He's 89-93 [mph]," Byrnes said. "He has four pitches. He has a sub-2.00 ERA in the minors. He was a Friday night starter at USC. His first stint in the big leagues was dominant. He pitched well in the [Arizona] Fall League.
"If that's a generic talent," he concluded, "there's more pitching out there than I realized."
As such, the Diamondbacks viewed the trade in the context of eight years of starting pitching vs. five. That is, two years of Jackson and six of Kennedy vs. five years of Scherzer.
It's all there, friends.
An organizational concern about Scherzer's durability? Check.
An acknowledgment that Jackson's been pitching in a tougher league than Scherzer? Check.
A belief that Kennedy's excellent performance in the minors is predictive? Check.
It will be at least three years before we'll know who "won" this trade. If Scherzer stays healthy and pitches well for the Tigers, Kennedy will have to pitch exceptionally well for this trade to look good for the Diamondbacks, because Jackson won't be around long enough to contribute a great deal. If Scherzer breaks down, or just doesn't develop like he's supposed to? The deal looks pretty good for the Diamondbacks if Kennedy or Jackson pitches well.
I'm still stuck on the conventional wisdom. I have to disagree with Byrnes, mildly. In general, the immediate reaction to a trade is an accurate predictor more often than not. But as I said yesterday, Josh Byrnes is neither stupid nor ignorant. He's looking at the same numbers the rest of us (including the Yankees and the Tigers) are looking at.
You can bet against the Diamondbacks if you like. But I will recommend that you don't bet much.
(H/T: BTF's Newsstand)