On Sunday the struggling San Diego Padres fired general manager Josh Byrnes. The move was abrupt and caught many in Major League Baseball by surprise but in truth, this had probably been coming for a while. Padres president and CEO Mike Dee said in a statement that the search for a new GM would begin immediately and in the interim, senior vice president for baseball operations Oman Minaya and assistant general managers A.J. Hinch and Fred Uhlman, Jr. will share Byrnes’ role.
After a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, the Padres are now 32-44 and sit 13.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants for first place in the National League West. It has not been the season the team or its fans expected after a solid finish to the 2013 season.
Dee said the following in his statement:
“This ownership group is committed to fielding a team that consistently competes for postseason play. Thus far this season the results on the field have been mixed at best and clearly have not lived up to expectations. After a lengthy evaluation of every facet of our baseball operations, we have decided to make this change today.”
Byrnes was hired as San Diego’s senior vice president for baseball operations in December 2010 after being let go as the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Within 10 months he was promoted to general manager and given a five-year contract, but that deal was given to him by the previous ownership group.
The Padres finished 76-86 in both 2012 and 2013 and, as stated, the team has struggled thus far in 2014.
Byrnes’ firing most likely came down to the big contracts he handed out to under-performing players. He signed promising lefty Cory Luebke to a $12 million deal, but the 29-year-old has only made five starts since then and hasn’t pitched in 24 months after blowing out his pitching elbow. Cameron Maybin signed a $25 million extension before the 2012 season but hasn’t lived up to it, and Carlos Quentin signed a three-year, $27 million extension in 2012 but has rarely been healthy since.
This past offseason Byrnes also gave Josh Johnson $8 million, but the big righty blew out his elbow again and won’t play this season. So that was money flushed down the toilet. Some will also point to second baseman Jedd Gyorko’s $35 million extension which was agreed to this season, but it’s far too early to tear Gyorko apart even with his .162 average so far in 2014.
The Padres new ownership group does not want to act like a small-market franchise. It wants wins and a new direction that trends towards making big moves if needed. The team’s system has a lot of talent in it (mostly young pitching) and it’s either time to use those prospects to acquire proven big leaguers, or fast-track them.
Either way, it was long past time for Byrnes to go.