"This is the best job for me, without a doubt," Byrnes said from PETCO Park. "I won't be looking elsewhere."
Veteran believers in Byrnes are Padres executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel, who approved an eight-year extension for him when he was GM of the D-backs and made him a Padres vice president in late 2010 after his dismissal by rival Arizona.
Now, they've installed Byrnes as the successor to Jed Hoyer, the GM they hired two years ago after dismissing Kevin Towers.
Hoyer is leaving the Padres to become GM of the Cubs, aligning him with his friend and former Red Sox boss Theo Epstein. If Byrnes hadn't been available, Moorad said he would've denied Cubs owner Tom Ricketts' request to interview Hoyer.
Under Hoyer, the Padres had a 90-72, second-place season in 2010, followed by a 71-91, last-place finish in 2011, and their farm system rose several places in Baseball America's rankings.
"It's a day of mixed emotions," Moorad said. "On the one hand, we acknowledge officially that Jed Hoyer and [draft overseer] Jason McLeod will be moving on to the Chicago Cubs. We wish them well. We thank them for the tremendous couple years of service here. This organization is clearly in a better place with Jed Hoyer having been at the helm for the last two years as the GM.
"But," the CEO and vice chairman continued, "because of the relationship that exists 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 sport that we're grateful to be a part of, baseball in America."
What most impresses Garfinkel, the club's president, about Byrnes is "his passion for and knowlege of the game, and his competitiveness."
"Josh also possesses the most important qualities of a great leader: courage, humility, judgment and integrity," Garfinkel said.
In a sense, Moorad has put his Arizona band back together at 19 Tony Gwynn Drive. Garfinkel came west to San Diego after Moorad became CEO of the Padres in March 2009. Byrnes said he'll install A.J. Hinch, a former D-backs farm director and manager, as an assistant GM, calling it a "center of the wheel type job." Hinch joined the Padres after his dismissal in 2010.
The D-backs won the National League West in 2007, two years after Moorad hired as his GM Byrnes, then an assistant to Epstein in Boston.
Arizona finished second to the Dodgers in 2008 and last in 2009. Byrnes and his handpicked manager, Hinch, didn't survive a poor first half to the 2010 season, but with several players acquired by Byrnes, including ace pitcher Ian Kennedy and center fielder Chris Young, the D-backs won the West last season.
"Josh inherited a team in Arizona with the worst run differential in the NL the two years prior to his arrival," Garfinkel said. "Working with a lower-third payroll, he built a talent base that was in first place longer than any other NL team in '07 and '08 and left the team with a very talented core of players that the current leadership there could build on and be successful with for a long time to come."
Byrnes has 18 years in Major League Baseball and counts the Rockies and Indians among his former employers.
He said he has high regard for Padres manager Bud Black, who was an Indians pitcher when Byrnes worked in Cleveland's baseball operations. Black is under contract though 2013 with club options for 2014-15.
Having spent most of the 2010 season in San Diego's farm system, either scouting players or consulting Padres Minor League staffers, Byrnes said his transition to the GM job is off to a good start. Although Byrnes didn't mind the larger payrolls that were part of his Red Sox experience, which included a World Series title in 2004, he said he won't carp about a Padres payroll that Moorad projects at $54 million for 2012.
"I think it does require an honesty about where you are and what your talent is and how to organize that to be good," Byrnes said. "We're not big on excuses. If that's who we are, that's who we are. It can be done, and we're determined to get it done."
Byrnes described Class A outfielder Raymer Liriano as the best prospect in San Diego's farm system.
The GM said he recently told the agent of Padres closer Heath Bell, who is eligible for free agency, that the club likely will offer Bell arbitration.
"He might accept it," Byrnes said. "If that's the outcome, OK, we're happy with that.
"If he doesn't, we'll get two Draft picks, and we've got to fill that part of our club."
Byrnes also confirmed that Padres Minor League hitting instructor Phil Plantier will be the lead Major League hitting coach in 2012. Asked about reports that the mutual option of pitcher Aaron Harang will not be picked up, the GM said an announcement could be forthcoming. Harang, signed by Hoyer to a one-year deal last offseason, was 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA last season.
Within two weeks, Byrnes plans to have hired replacements to evaluators McLeod and Chris Gwynn, who told Byrnes he accepted a job as farm director of the Mariners.
Byrnes shouldn't have problems identifying executives of other clubs. Among his former colleagues and bosses, he counts nine execs who are either GMs, senior advisors or presidents. They are Jon Daniels and John Hart (Rangers), Ben Cherington (Red Sox), Neal Huntington (Pirates), Hoyer and Epstein (Cubs), Dan O'Dowd (Rockies), Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro (Indians).
"I'm sort of an old 41," Byrnes said. "I've seen a lot of people in the game."
Tom Krasovic is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.