Byrnes’ Downfall

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.

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  • ballybunion

    I think the change of GM is separate from what Byrnes did or didn’t do. Byrnes himself mentioned what sounds like the truth: he was the old owner’s’ guy and the new owner wanted his own guy. It took 11 months for the old owner’s CEO, Tom Garfinkel, to bite the dust, and 11 months more to deep six Josh Byrnes. Hinch and Minaya both came in under Moorad too, so stay tuned.

    Despite what Mike Dee says, I’m guessing the new GM has already been picked out, and I find it curious that Larry Beinfest is first to be interviewed, ahead of the in-house candidates. He alone of the outside candidates didn’t require permission, and could have been in contact all along.

    We’ll have to see if they go through the motions with interviews or just announce they found their man early, but my money (up to $2.47) is on Beinfest getting the job.

  • Robby Deming

    Maybe I’m naive, but I really don’t understand how we clearly lost the Rizzo trade. Frontline aces are a hell of a lot harder to find than 1B are.

    Rizzo’ bat was never going to play at Petco. Even with the shorter fences.

    • Nathan Veale

      Let us know when we get a frontline ace.

      • Tom Waits

        Agree. Front-line aces pitch 200 innings or more a season. What really worries me is the chance that Cashner’s sore elbow led to a change in mechanics that tweaked his shoulder, which has been a problem throughout his career. Cascading injuries can end careers.

        Rizzo’s bat would play just fine at Petco, we have a bunch of park-adjusted stats that prove exactly that. Byrnes may have believed the Padres didn’t have a coach who could help him adjust to the majors, but that’s not a defense.

    • greenleaf

      Ahem, excuse me? But Rizzo’s bat would have most certainly played just fine at PETCO. We brought him up too early and then gave up on him when he didn’t immediately produce. He just needed a little more seasoning in the minors. Have you seen how well he is playing these days? I’ll give you that his hitting would have been negatively affected to some extent by playing in PETCO Park, but as good as he’s playing this year, there’s no way he wouldn’t hit at least 20 home runs if he were with us and he would still be the best hitter on the team this year by far. And as for Cashner, he IS a frontline ace but he’s also a china doll.