Why was Josh Byrnes really fired?

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Matthew and Drew covered the bases on the Diamondbacks’ firings last night, but I’m still thinking about it.

I think it’s apparent that Hinch had to go. All reports I’ve read reveal that he had lost the confidence of the clubhouse. And he maybe never had it. I was a cautious fan of his hiring last year because I’m a sucker for unconventional moves, but it’s clear now that plucking a young guy from the front office who neither (a) had any coaching experience anywhere; and (b) was never a big enough deal of a player himself to at least give him a temporary pass, credibility-wise, was a big gamble.  The Diamondbacks have a lot of problems, but given how people default to blaming the manager no matter what’s happening, Hinch stuck out and his fate was sealed.

Byrnes is a more interesting case. The first take on it I read was Matthew’s. I take mild issue with some of his arguments — you’ll be shocked to learn that we don’t engage in groupthink at HBT — but there are a lot of people coming to Byrnes’ defense this morning that aren’t addressing, say, the Dan Haren trade in terms of the talent he gave up and the Dbacks’ place on the success cycle at the time or, for that matter, questioning the choice of Hinch from the point of view of risk management and self-preservation. I don’t think I would have fired Byrnes based on his transactions, but I don’t think it’s an atrocity like some people are saying this morning.  There are arguments on both sides of the equation. There almost always are.

But I think one thing we can maybe all agree on is that the Diamondbacks’ ownership is lost at sea at the moment.  The timing is what gets me mostly. We’re less than a month from the trade deadline and the Diamondbacks are poised to unload a lot of talent. Haren maybe. LaRoche. Kelly Johnson. Possibly Edwin Jackson. If the owners had questions about Byrnes’ ability before last night, they should have gotten rid of him before all these moves needed to happen.  Of course if they did have reservations earlier, they shouldn’t have let him handle the signing of a big free agent in LaRoche and run one of the bigger trades in team history over the offseason in the Scherzer/Granderson/Austin Jackson trade.

Given his very long contract you figure ownership was willing to take the long view with Byrnes. Given that he was allowed to make those moves this past winter but can’t be trusted to handle the trades that are necessary this month, that trust disappeared rather quickly. Either something notable and negative happened in the past couple of months to sour the owners on Byrnes, or else the owners are panicky and are laying the team’s bad year at his feet. 

Given how these things tend to go — people with futures like Byrnes’ rarely dish dirt — we’ll probably never know.  Something just doesn’t seem natural about this firing, however, and I bet there’s more to the story.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.