Let's face it: our constant desire for baseball transaction news is insatiable, but there isn't much logic to it. Whether our favorite team signs a left-handed reliever in December or January will have little effect on the upcoming season.
But a person with a vested interest in offseason signings is, naturally, the player himself. A guaranteed Major League deal as opposed to a simple invitation to Spring Training is the difference between someone asking you to move to a new city with a guaranteed income and asking you to come for a few weeks to play a lottery ticket.
So it should come as no surprise that Mets reliever Tim Byrdak, who has pitched for five Major League teams and numerous minor league outfits, has the MLB Trade Rumors app on his iPhone. Every rumor, whether involving him or one of his lefty specialist brethren, has the potential to completely shake up his life and uproot his family.
"You do everything you can to keep your job, and I felt like I put up pretty strong numbers," Byrdak said as we chatted in front of his locker last week. Byrdak noted that he'd pitched through a sports hernia last year, though his results against lefties (a .644 OPS, 8.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9) hardly suffered as a result.
"I thought we'd have more of an opportunity to secure a big-league job," Byrdak continued. "So you have to keep watching the wire, MLB Trade Rumors, all these sites to see who is going where, who has interest in guys. So it became a pretty valuable tool for me to keep an eye on other lefties that were still on the market, and how that market was developing."
What may seem like a minor post to a reader about a team's interest in a middle reliever is seismic to someone like Byrdak, and he found it hard to avoid getting frustrated by some of the things he read.
"There were a couple [of times]," Byrdak said. "You would hear from a couple of different teams, and you thought you'd be starting the negotiation process. People have asked me, 'How come I don't play for the White Sox' [Byrdak is from nearby Oak Forest, IL], and I tell them, 'Well, you know, they've never offered me a job."
Apparently, the White Sox did express some interest, raising Byrdak's hopes of a homecoming.
"They said last year, they were going to offer me a minor league deal, but we didn't know what they were going to do with [Chris Sale], what they were going to do with [Matt] Thornton - was he going to close for them – and then all of the sudden, out of nowhere, I read on MLB Trade Rumors that they signed Will Ohman to a two-year deal.
"So there were times that you'd be talking to a team, and then you'd read that they had interest in somebody else, and it was kind of a shock."
After three seasons with Houston, Byrdak worked hard not to worry too much about the process all winter. But he acknowledged the difficulty in being unable to tell his family just how their next few months would unfold.
"The whole adversity of it was the wait-and-see," Byrdak explained. "You want to do everything you can to prepare for the season. But it's nice to have, in the back of your mind, knowing where you're going to be. It was different for me and for my family."
Over the course of the offseason, Byrdak had a number of other minor league offers. Ultimately, after waiting for a Major League deal that never came, he signed with the Mets on January 21, and made the team with a strong spring.
"I read somewhere, Chad Durbin said the same thing, that you've got to take what was out there," Byrdak said. "There wasn't a big-league job out there for us to get. I'm a guy who usually is coming into camp – you're in shape – but it's about getting your arm strength, getting everything together without the pressure. It was different this year. You have to compete, put up zeroes as early and often as you can."
Now with a Major League roster spot secured, Byrdak plans to use the 2011 season as proof to the 29 other teams that he deserved more security.
"You want to prove to all of those teams that they were wrong," Byrdak said. "It's a little extra incentive to go out there and have the best year you can."
And if Byrdak excels for the Mets in 2011, that article he seeks – Byrdak Signs Long-Term Deal – could pop right up on MLB Trade Rumors. You may read it and have little reaction. But in the Byrdak household, the response will be huge.