Padres introduce Josh Byrnes as GM
SAN DIEGO -- Josh Byrnes is a general manager again under Jeff Moorad, this time in San Diego instead of Arizona, and with a five-year contract rather than one for eight years.
The Padres introduced Byrnes on Monday, five days after it was announced that Jed Hoyer was leaving San Diego to become GM of the Chicago Cubs under Theo Epstein.
The teams had to wait until after the World Series to hold news conferences. The Cubs have yet to introduce Hoyer, who was San Diego's GM for two seasons.
With that, the Padres' front office resembles the Arizona Diamondbacks' executive suite from a few years ago.
"This is without question the best job for me in terms of the competitive challenge, the people I work with, the family side," said Byrnes, who joined the Padres' front office in December as senior vice president of baseball operations and whose wife, Charity, is a San Diego native. "I can't wait to get started."
Among the first things he did was confirm that former big leaguer Phil Plantier has been hired as hitting coach, the sixth person to hold that job since the Padres moved into spacious Petco Park in 2004.
When Hoyer and assistant Jason McLeod were hired away by the Cubs, it opened the way for Byrnes and A.J. Hinch to be promoted by the Padres.
"As I told Tom Ricketts when he first called, if we didn't have Josh Byrnes in town, you wouldn't even be having a discussion with Jed Hoyer," Moorad said, referring to the Cubs owner. "But because of the relationships that exist among all involved, Jason, Jed, Theo, Josh, this is in my view a feel-good result that allows people to continue achieving their dream in the great game that we are part of, baseball in America."
Byrnes was given a five-year contract, with a club option, to try to turn around a team that finished last in the NL West at 71-91 and has struggled offensively at Petco Park.
Moorad, the Padres' CEO who's buying the team on an installment plan, capped his first season in San Diego, 2009, by firing GM Kevin Towers. Moorad would have replaced Towers with Byrnes, but he was working under the eight-year contract extension Moorad gave him in Arizona in February 2008.
So Moorad hired Hoyer from the Boston Red Sox, where Byrnes had also been an assistant GM under Epstein.
"In fact, that's the first discussion I ever had with Jed. I told him that," Moorad said. "He said, 'Hey, I get it. I'd hire Josh, too.' Truth be told, Josh is the one who recommended Jed. It's a small world in that regard and it's been an interesting thing watching all those relationships cross over over the years."
Moorad hired Byrnes as GM in Arizona in 2005. Moorad moved to the Padres in early 2009. Byrnes was fired by the Diamondbacks in July 2010, along with Hinch, who was Arizona's manager.
"He's a terrific leader," Moorad said of Byrnes. "He brings a confidence of having been with a number of organizations, served as an assistant GM in two and now in his second stint as a general manager. Has a great baseball pedigree, played the game back at Haverford College, understands the game well as a scout. He brings a great scouting and player development approach, which I think will be a great fit for the Padres. Lastly, he's got some boldness in him. He's a leader who's not afraid to act and take risk. Often, I think that's what needs to happen in any market, but especially in a market like ours."
Like his predecessors, Byrnes will be hamstrung by one of the lowest player payrolls in the majors as the team tries to rebuild through the farm system.
Byrnes knows he has a lot of work to do.
A year after getting rid of their best hitter, three-time All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres declined their mutual option for their best pitcher from 2011, Aaron Harang, and they could lose All-Star closer Heath Bell to free agency.
"We do have to look at how good we are," Byrnes said. "I think there's a question of how aggressive we need to be right now as opposed to sort of maintaining a building process. Our biggest holes are going to be in the eighth and ninth innings as it sits right now. We lost (Mike) Adams and Bell's a free agent; obviously two of the best. We have to answer that question."
Byrnes said the Padres will at least offer Bell arbitration. About the only likely scenario under which Bell would return would be a one-year, arbitration-driven deal.
"In general, we need to get better in a lot of areas," Byrnes said. "We were behind in a lot of games. We didn't score enough and our starting pitchers didn't shut them down enough. Obviously the type of style we want to execute, to win one-run games, we need to play better in that area. So, in my view, on the one hand we've got a lot to do to expect to go into spring training and be that kind of team, but I also think things turn around quicker than people realize. We're determined to make that process go as quickly as it can."
The Padres netted a total of five prospects through their two biggest trades in the last year, Gonzalez to Boston and Adams to Texas. One of the prospects, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, tore up Triple-A to earn a promotion and then flopped after he was called up in June.
Byrnes said the Padres talk every day about how to score more runs at the downtown ballyard derisively known as Petco National Park.
"I think we're open to anything. I think when you had a season like we had, you don't start to act like things are untouchable. I think we have to really look at our roster and be open to any area we can get better," he said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press