Josh Byrnes AP

Report: Padres general manager Josh Byrnes is on the hot seat

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We heard some speculation last month that Padres manager Bud Black could be fired after their disappointing start to the season, but it turns out that general manager Josh Byrnes could be the first one to go.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears from major league sources that Byrnes’ relationship with ownership has “deteriorated” and that he is under the “most scrutiny” for the team’s current state. If the team does fire him, assistant general manager A.J. Hinch is considered the likely interim replacement. Of course, Hinch has close ties with Byrnes going back to their time together with the Diamondbacks.

The timing on this situation is delicate for multiple reasons. First, the Padres don’t want to appear insensitive following the death of Hall of Famer and franchise icon Tony Gwynn. His memorial service isn’t until next Thursday. Also, the Padres are one of just a handful of obvious sellers in the trade market. Whether it’s Byrnes, Hinch, or someone else making the decisions, names like Huston Street, Carlos Quentin, Chase Headley, and Ian Kennedy all figure to be in play before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Interestingly, Rosenthal makes the case that the Padres could do well to deal staff ace Andrew Cashner, who has rejected overtures about a contract extension and is under team through 2016.

Byrnes, who is signed through 2017, was promoted to GM under the previous ownership group in October of 2011. The Padres had back-to-back 76-wins seasons in 2012 and 2013 and sit at just 32-42 this season behind the league’s worst offense.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.