On Sunday the Padres fired their general manager Josh Byrnes. Since his firing, a lot of important details have come to light that paint ownership in a much worse picture than Byrnes. He (like Bud) was a problem, but not the biggest problem. Still firing him was absolutely the right move.
Two and a half years usually isn’t long enough to evaluate a GM’s performance. But that doesn’t mean Byrnes’ firing was unjustified. Byrnes inherited a loaded farm system which, at the time he was hired, was rated among the best by ESPN, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Things have deteriorated quickly, as injuries and the alarming inability to develop young players have led the system toward a downward spiral (the system’s still got some pretty damn good players).
But player development has always been an issue here (how Randy Smith is still employed I’ll never know), so putting the blame solely on Byrnes isn’t fair. His drafts were generally well received both by experts and fans, so the acquisition of amateur talent wasn’t necessarily a problem.
What really sank Byrnes, though, were the two major trades he made that have backfired miserably. The Mat Latos trade has been a complete bust, and the Anthony Rizzo trade is looking worse by the day. These were the trades Byrnes made to establish himself as the new GM. These were his guys, building blocks for the next 5-7 years. If you’re going to trade your best pitcher, you better get back a fucking stud. That didn’t happen.
Two of the players acquired (Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez) for Latos are gone. Yonder Alonso, well, I wrote in my very first post for Padres Public back in December that the Padres needed to move on from the lite-hitting first baseman. Yasmani Grandal has been demoted to backup catcher in favor of journeyman Rene Rivera. In Grandal’s defense, once he started struggling he wasn’t given much of a leash (as opposed to Yonder, whom the Padres would gladly commit murder for). I still think Grandal can be an everyday catcher under a new manager who has confidence in him. What’s more likely is he’ll be traded for a reliever and become an All-Star for someone else.
And then we have the Rizzo trade. Look, I love Andrew Cashner. I’ll speed through multiple red lights if I have to in order to watch his starts from the beginning. His starts have become events, much like Peavy in his prime. But he’s on the disabled list again for the second time this year. He’s also reportedly turned down an extension from the Padres, which, I mean, sounds totally reasonable. On the other hand, MY GOD ANTHONY RIZZO. He’s become one of the best young players in baseball, and he’s signed for cheap for the next billion years. Would either of these players be as good if they hadn’t been traded? The Padres wanted no part of fixing Rizzo’s swing, and the Cubs weren’t convinced that Cashner was a starter. It’s worked out well for both clubs, but it’s definitely working out better for Chicago.
When you can’t outspend teams, you have to outsmart them. You can look at the payroll restraints and make a case that Byrnes did as well as he could. But the two major trades had nothing to do with money. It’s like when an NFL GM drafts a quarterback: If you draft the wrong one, you’re getting fired; If you draft the right one you’re sitting pretty for about ten years. Josh Byrnes drafted the wrong quarterback [insert Manziel joke here], and it cost him his job.