The Diamondbacks have taken heat over the perception that they wasted
money on outfielder Eric Byrnes, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract
extension early in September of 2007. He was designated for assignment on January 15 with $11 million remaining on his deal, and he was subsequently released.
Byrnes was a few weeks from becoming the 11th player in major league history to hit 20 home runs and steal 50 bases in the same season when he re-signed. The D-backs were in the middle of a stretch drive that would end with an NL West title, and Byrnes was the integral piece for a team built around right-hander Brandon Webb and an "anybody, anytime" offense.
Byrnes was the first player in team history with a 25-25 season -- 26 homers, 25 stolen bases -- in 2006, his first season in Arizona. He also had 37 doubles and 79 RBI that year.
While those overall numbers in 2007 were gaudy, the front office ignored the fact that Byrnes traditionally declined in the second half, tiring due to his all-out style of play. For his career, Byrnes has a .240 batting average, .302 on-base percentage, and .399 slugging after the All-Star break. 2007 was the first season in which he had played over 143 games, and the 31-year old appeared in all but two of the D-backs games in 2007.
Byrnes' troubles continued when he staged a "match race" with outfielder Chris Young in informal workouts the day before position players were to report in the spring of 2008. Young is faster. Byrnes pulled his left hamstring in that race but did not immediately tell the team. While trying to play through it, he damaged his right hamstring. He was lost for the season in late June and never got it going in 2009.
Since July 31, 2007, Byrnes has hit .226 in 647 at-bats with 19 homers, 77 RBI, 45 walks, and 92 strikeouts. The D-backs opted to eat the final year of his contract after they signed first baseman Adam LaRoche.
--RHP Chad Qualls, who had a career-high 24 saves in his first season as a closer in 2009 despite missing the final month of the season with a fractured left kneecap, agreed to a one-year, $4,185,000 contract to avoid arbitration in his final year of eligibility. Qualls, who will be a free agent after 2010, played for $2,535,000 last season. He again will enter the season as the closer.
--RHP Aaron Heilman agreed to a one-year, $2.15 million contract to avoid arbitration. Heilman is expected to be used in a setup role after being acquired from the Cubs over the winter.
--SS Stephen Drew agreed to a one-year, $3.4 million contract to avoid arbitration in his first season of eligibility. Drew earned $1.5 million last season, including a portion of the prorated signing bonus he received as part of the major league contract he signed in 2005. Drew was the D-backs' No. 1 draft pick in 2004 but did not sign until the May 2005 deadline.
--RHP Edwin Jackson, acquired from Detroit this winter, is the only remaining D-back eligible for arbitration. He played for $2.3 million in 2009. He asked for a 2010 salary of $6.25 million, while the D-backs have offered $4.6 million. The D-backs have not gone to arbitration with a player in GM Josh Byrnes' four seasons.
--OF Eric Byrnes, designated for assignment when the D-backs signed 1B Adam LaRoche on January 15, was released on the 20th. He is owed $11 million in 2010. The D-backs are liable for all but the major league minimum $400,000 if Byrnes signs elsewhere.
DIAMOND STAT: $79 million -- The D-backs' 2010 payroll, give or take, which includes the $11 million due released OF Eric Byrnes.
QUOTABLE: "Realistically, when a guy is getting MVP votes in 2007 and fighting for a job at the end of the roster three years later ... I don't think it happens too often in our game when a player reinvents himself in the same uniform and it really works out for all parties." -- GM Josh Byrnes.
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