Minaya joins Padres in time for closer hunt

Part of Josh Byrnes downfall as Arizona's general manager in 2010 can be traced to the failure of the Diamondbacks bullpen.

Now Byrnes is being asked to rebuild the Padres bullpen for 2012, starting with replacing closer Heath Bell, as one of his first major tasks in his new role as the Padres general manager.


At least Byrnes will have another set of eyes joining the search.

"We've discussed at least nine names as potential closers," Byrnes said Friday in the wake of free agent Bell agreeing to a three-year contract with the Miami Marlins.


In other news of the day, the Padres signed former Montreal and New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya as senior vice president of baseball operations – the same position held by Byrnes before he succeeded Jed Hoyer as the general manager six weeks ago.

"Omar's role is going to be similar to what I did for Jed, helping put ideas together, scouting a bunch of stuff," said Byrnes.

Among Minaya's first jobs with the Padres will be to assist Byrnes in rebuilding a bullpen that has lost both its closer and eighth-inning setup reliever (Mike Adams) since the end of last July.

"We're going to need at least one more late-inning reliever in addition to getting a closer," said Byrnes as he prepared to leave for Dallas and Monday's start of baseball's annual Winter Meetings.


Even before Bell's contract with the Marlins became official, rumors were circulating that the Padres were in trade talks with the Oakland A's regarding right-handed closer Andrew Bailey as well as having interest in such free agents as Matt Capps, Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, Joel Zumaya and even Francisco Rodriguez, who once worked under then pitching coach Bud Black with the Angels.

Of course, Byrnes was neither confirming nor denying any of the rumors.

"We certainly have work to do," said Byrnes. "There are plenty of options."

And considerable need.

Since the end of the 2010 season, when the Padres bullpen paced the major leagues in earned run average, the Padres have lost six members of the major league bullpen plus a top prospect via trade or free agency.

The bullpen surplus last winter was used to bring center fielder Cameron Maybin and shortstop Jason Bartlett to San Diego. Adams was traded to Texas on July 31 for starting pitcher prospects Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland.

Now Bell has fled for the three-year contract he coveted.

With Chad Qualls also expected to depart via free agency, the "veterans" in the Padre bullpen right now are Luke Gregerson, Ernesto Frieri and Joe Thatcher. And Thatcher missed most of the 2011 season following shoulder surgery.


Bailey, 27, has 75 saves and a 2.07 earned run average over three seasons with the A's, although he was 0-4 with a 3.24 ERA and 24 saves in only 42 appearances for Oakland in 2011. The two-time All-Star was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2009.

Since Trevor Hoffman's second season with the Padres in 1994, the Padres have been set at closer each season except for 2003 when Hoffman was injured.

Minaya fills void

After both Jason McLeod and Chris Gwynn departed the Padres, Byrnes commented that the Padres had lost "a lot of eyes we used on scouting."

The Padres got some of those eyes back Friday with the addition of Minaya.

Before he was a general manager, Minaya was considered an excellent scout.

Byrnes last year saw minor league players as well as possible draftees while holding the baseball ops position.

"Omar's job will be similar to what I did last year," said Byrnes. "I'll be traveling a lot," added Minaya, who was the general manager of Montreal from 2002-2004 and the Mets from 2004-2010.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Minaya was the first Hispanic general manager in the major leagues. He picked the Padres over a half dozen other offers.