A Byrd in hand

Ronald Martinez

Why Marlon Byrd is a goo..., well, why Marlon Byrd isn't a bad thing.

I can't sit here and tell you that Marlon Byrd is a great player or the best free agent signing Ruben's made. What I can tell you is, it may be the best signing he makes this Winter. That has less to do with Byrd than with everyone else, but it's still probably worth doing some Byrd watching (it's a great signing for my Puns per piece average if nothing else). Byrd was a 10th round pick of the Phillies in 1999 (I guess he seemed like he was worth a flier. I know, I know, just endulge me). I recall him being heralded as a 5 tool player, and looking at his minor league stats up until he debuted in 2002, that doesn't look like a crazy description. He was ranked as high as the #26 propsect in all of Baseball by Baseball America in 2002. After a breakout season in 2003 where he went .303/.366/.418, it looked like maybe he could be future regular. That was until his BABiP normalized and his average spent a few years in the .230 range. The Phillies sold low by flipping Byrd to the Nationals for Endy Chavez (wait, he was a Phillie? How did I not remember that?).

Byrd began his journeyman career from there. He had a few highlights, like his .307/.355/.459 line with Texas in 2007 or his 20 HR season with the Rangers in 2009. Byrd has been through several cycles of soaring BABiP followed by crashes back to earth. I will grant that last year he soared with a .353 BABiP, so there is concern he could crash this year, and he simply doesn't walk enough to offset a BABiP that dips below .300, as seems to happen to him after his lucky years. The fatalistic view is that the Phillies sold low on Byrd 8 years ago and are buying "high" on him now. That's fair and it's also fair to note that Byrd's history suggests he's either a 3-4 win player or he's worse than replacement level, with not much middle ground.

So, "what makes this good?", you might ask. A few things: Byrd doesn't cost a draft pick. Now let me clarify here, I'm not against losing a draft pick for a big difference maker. If there were a Cliff Lee on the market or an Albert Pujols, I'd give up that Second Rounder in a heartbeat. There isn't though, especially in the Outfield. Curtis Granderson should have accepted his QO. He's a pretty average Defender at this point, with limited speed, won't hit for average and doesn't walk a ton, sure he has pop, but I'm not entirely sure he isn't just a more athletic Adam Dunn at this point in his career. I'm not giving up a really good pick for that. Nelson Cruz reportedly wanted 5/$75. Nelson Cruz is apparently insane. Carlos Beltran, when healthy is a very good hitter, but I don't see him as a significant enough upgrade over Byrd to be worth the extra money and draft pick. Of Course there's the big guys on the market like Choo (compounds our Lefty problem) and Ellsbury, but they will be very expensive and Ellsbury's had his own history of health issues.

What else makes this good? Byrd is capable and a much better signing that the flier taken on Delmon Young last year. Byrd roughly averages out to a 2 WAR per year player and if he can continue that for even just one of the next 2 years, that roughly makes the $16mm at least equal to his actual value. And while I don't believe in protection in the lineup, Byrd does allow them to slot his amongst Brown, Utley, Howard and Asche to possibly limit LOOGY's just shredding the middle of the lineup in relief.

Am I excited about Byrd? No, but I am excited about Byrd and a top draft pick next year (That Second Round pick will be roughly equal to the old compensation rounds and next year looks to be the deepest draft in years). In the short run, this is not a very sexy move and it's unlikely to help very much, but compared to the splashy options, this one has less long term impact on the club. I'll call that a win, for now.

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