July 22nd, 2006
In a move that dashes the hopes of those who want to see Eric Byrnes come home, the San Francisco Giants have acquired Shea Hillenbrand from the Toronto Blue Jays. They also acquired righty reliever Vinnie Chulk in return for righty reliever Jeremy Accardo.
The Giants wanted a right-handed hitter with pop in his bat. A stats comparison between Hillenbrand and Byrnes show that they are very similar:
AB 296 302
BA .301 .291
SLG .480 .517
XBH/H 28/89 (.315) 40/88 (.455)
OBP .342 .350
K/BB 40/14 (2.86) 49/25 (1.96)
HR 12 13
2B 15 25
3B 1 2
R 40 48
RBI 39 37
In fact, in terms of power hitting, the SLG, XHB/H and 2B stats significantly favor Byrnes. But Hillenbrand was DFA’d by Toronto. There is no official indication yet that the Diamondbacks want to trade Byrnes. But the D’Backs have a lot of outfield prospects: Scott Hairston, whom they brought up in June only to see him hurt his shoulder his first day in the lineup–he’s rehabbing now–Carlos Quentin, whose first MLB hit was a 2-run homer, Chris Young, the Triple A prospect who was supposedly just one season away from the majors–the D’backs got Byrnes to patrol CF until Young was ready–and teen phenom Justin Upton, who has been converted from SS to CF. Byrnes is already the "regular" doing the most timesharing with his backup.
There doesn’t appear to be any long-range plans in Phoenix for Byrnes. If the youngsters are ready for the majors in 2007, and Quentin was deemed ready for the majors in 2006, but the Big Club had no place for him, one could see an Arizona outfield of Hairston in left (Luis Gonzalez’ $10M option not being picked up), Young in center (as planned when Byrnes was signed), and Quentin in right (possibly in 2006 if the Yankees or the Angels make a deal for Shawn Green). That would leave Byrnes on the bench with Jeff DaVanon. We know that manager Bob Melvin likes the "profile" of the switch-hitting DaVanon and that pinch-hitting is not a long suit for Byrnes.
The Diamondbacks hold the rights to Byrnes for 2007, but Byrnesie deserves a better fate than to languish on the bench of a team that might want him around as a defensive replacement and clubhouse cheerleader. He’d be a good fit for the Giants, who need to get younger in the outfield. But:
a) Right now the Giants and the D’Backs are both in the race for the NL West division title. The likelihood is slim that two teams fighting for the same divisional crown would make a mutually beneficial trade. Meanwhile, Hillenbrand was DFA’d by a team more than happy to send him out of their league.
b) The Giants wanted a first baseman. Hillenbrand can play first and third and didn’t like DH’ing. There is no DH in the National League. Byrnes is not an infielder.
c) Barry Bonds did not get indicted by the Feds and suspended by MLB. Moises Alou is back from his second stint on the DL this year and he is doing well: BA .295, OBP .365, SLG .548. So there is not an immediate need for another outfielder at "Whatever They’re Calling It This Year" Park.
My feeling right now is that the best hope for Byrnes is that Shawn Green gets traded by deadline, DaVanon and Quentin share right field, and the D’Backs stay in the thick of the race throughout the season so that the Arizona F.O. doesn’t think the most important thing it can do is check out the prospects for 2007.
Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, whose 2,000th career hit was also his 450th home run.