From the moment the Padres traded popular and effective relief pitcher Luke Gregerson to the A's for left-handed hitting outfielder Seth Smith, a multitude of San Diego baseball fans questioned the sanity of General Manager Josh Byrnes.
Why send off your 8th inning specialist for a guy who has never driven in more than 59 runs in any of his seven MLB seasons? Well, I can't confirm this, but I believe the answer is ... Mark Kotsay.
In 2012 and 2013 Kotsay was the main left-handed bat off the Padres bench. While a tremendous clubhouse guy who helped the development of guys like Will Venable, time had worn down Kotsay's effectiveness on the field.
Byrnes saw several spots where a lefty pinch-hitting specialist would have won the Padres a game. So, he found the best left-handed pinch-hitter in baseball.
Smith has a career .574 slugging percentage as a pinch-hitter the highest in MLB history among players with at least 200 pinch-hit at-bats. Smith has a career .320 batting average as a pinch-hitter, with seven of his 74 career home runs coming in a pinch.
Seth made a difference in his very first San Diego at-bat, ripping a pinch-hit homer in the 8th inning off Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson to pull the Padres in to a 1-1 tie and sparking a game-winning, 3-run rally.
Gregerson will be missed, but he was replaced with veteran Joaquin Benoit, one of the very few players in the game today that qualify as an upgrade. With as many close games as the Padres play, having a stick like Smith in the arsenal might be that "missing piece" we've been hearing about.