The San Deigo Padres fired General Manager Josh Byrnes on Sunday, citing a failure to live up to expectations, with Byrnes getting the axe after barely more than two seasons as the team’s GM. Reports of a deteriorating relationship with ownership and the team’s executive chairman Ron Fowler seemed to indicate the Padres owners, who inherited Byrnes when the Padres were purchased in 2012, wanted to bring in their own guy. Now that Byrnes is out of a job, the Cleveland Indians should consider bringing their own guy home.
Byrnes joined the Indians in 1994, his first job in MLB, and worked his way up to be the team’s scouting director in 1998, before following former Indians assistant GM Dan O’Dowd to the Colorado Rockies in 1999 to be the assistant GM to O’Dowd. Byrnes held that job for two years before taking a similar position with the Boston Red Sox under then-GM Theo Epstein. Byrnes got his first GM gig in 2005, when the Arizona Diamondbacks handed him the keys to the hot tub at age 35. He was the Diamondback’s GM until July 2010.
Byrnes dismissal comes as a bit of a surprise, if you’re judging him on his performance. This isn’t to say Byrnes has been exceptional with the Padres, as the team’s record is poor and the results of most of his transactions have been uneven, at best. Generally speaking, evaluating a GM solely based off of his or her win-loss record is an exercise in futility, but there have certainly been questionable moves in Byrnes’s tenure (Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a package including Edinson Volquez and Yonder Alonso doesn’t look so hot in retrospect), and players on the Padres seem to have a propensity for injuries, related to Byrnes or not. Byrnes also made some questionable contract extensions, and players like Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Corey Luebke and others simply haven’t provided the value the Padres hoped when they agreed to the deals. And the Padres have had payrolls as tight as the Indians in recent years, leaving little margin for error.
All of these faults should be noted, but in the end, they don’t really matter. If Josh Byrnes is interested in returning to the Cleveland Indians in a front office role, the team would be wise to consider it, even if it’s only a temporary arrangement.
Simply put, if Byrnes were to return to Cleveland, there’s little downside to the organization, other than whatever salary Byrnes would require (which is admittedly easy for me to wave away with my hand, but generally speaking, front office employees appear to be undervalued, at least in terms of salary), as he’s already familiar with the club and the major players involved in the front office (such as Team President Mark Shapiro), but he also would unlikely have full reigns to individual decisions, meaning in essence, the Indians would be getting all of his knowledge and expertise, but wouldn’t necessarily have to rely on Byrnes’s decision-making. Not everyone who becomes an MLB general manager is a genius, but it’s pretty hard to hold onto a GM job for five years, much less get hired for a second GM job after that, if you’re not bright. Byrnes is certainly a smart guy.
And Byrnes does certainly have knowledge and expertise. Byrnes was at the helm of the Diamondbacks when they drafted RHP Max Scherzer in the first round in 2006. Three-fifths of the Padres current, still-pretty good rotation (Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, and Andrew Cashner) were acquired by Byrnes via trade, with 1B Anthony Rizzo (traded to the Chicago Cubs in the Cashner deal) being the only real valuable player dealt away in those three trades. Josh Byrnes can identify talent, and there’s rarely anything wrong with having another experienced voice at the table. The Indians themselves have been open to this in the past, such as when Buck Showalter joined the team in an advisor role in 2007.
There’s little obvious downside to having an experienced and talented baseball man like Josh Byrnes come home to the Cleveland Indians. If he’s interested in returning home for a reunion, even if it’s only on a temporary basis until another opportunity comes along, the Indians could benefit greatly from his talents. San Diego’s loss could end up being Cleveland’s gain.
Byrnes discussed his firing with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley: