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Marlon Byrd Rumors
When the Mets took a minor league flier (lame pun intended) on Marlon Byrd, the transaction was met with little enthusiasm. Such is the case with minor league deals for veterans. Most fans enter the offseason dreaming on big names and high-upside rebound candidates, neither of which were overly applicable to Byrd. Mets fans and Pirates fans alike benefited from Byrd's rebound, and he'll carry a career-best .294/.336/.511 slash line and 24 homers into free agency.
Byrd has typically been able to hit for average and get on base at a solid clip, as evidenced by his career .280/.336/.425 batting line. Even if he can't repeat the surprising power that he showed in 2013, there's plenty of reason to expect helpful contributions in terms of batting average and OBP.
The power that he showed in 2013 is tough to completely write off, however; his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES, will be able to point out the fact that Byrd's .220 ISO ranked second among qualified free agent hitters, trailing only Mike Napoli.
Byrd was particularly deadly against left-handed pitchers, slashing .344/.376/.583 with eight homers in 178 plate appearances, but he was no slouch against same-handed pitching either. Byrd batted .268/.318/.480 against right-handers in 2013, giving him a 129 OPS+ against right-handed pitchers and a 157 mark against lefties.
In the outfield, Byrd can play center field in a pinch and graded out as an outstanding defensive right fielder. He posted a +2.6 UZR/150 in right field, but The Fielding Bible loved him at +12 runs saved in his 1168 innings.
The only truly bad season that Byrd has had in recent history was 2012. That year aside, he's posted an OPS+ of at least 96 and wRC+ of at least 94 in each season dating back to 2007. Interested parties can reasonably expect at least a league-average offensive performance out of Byrd with the upside for quite a bit more.
Because he was traded midseason, Byrd is unable to receive a qualifying offer (not that the Pirates would've extended one anyhow). He will not be tied to draft pick compensation.
With such a strong showing in 2013, it's easy for some to forget that Byrd looked like he was finished as a Major Leaguer in 2012. Prior to his age-36 renaissance, Byrd mustered just a .210/.243/.245 batting line in 153 plate appearances between the Cubs and Red Sox in a season that was also marred by a 50-game suspension. Byrd acknowledged that he made a mistake in using a banned substance to help recover from a surgical procedure. Byrd was quoted as saying that he was "mortified by [his] carelessness" and accepted his suspension without protest.
Byrd has never been one to draw many walks, and 2013 was no exception as he earned a free pass in just 5.4 percent of his trips to the plate. That mark actually represented his highest rate since 2008 with the Rangers. Unfortunately, it also came along with a career-worst 24.9 percent strikeout rate. Byrd's 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate was the seventh-highest among qualified hitters, and his 40.7 percent chase rate on pitches out of the zone ranked 10th. To sum it up in a concise manner: plate discipline isn't really Byrd's strong point.
Early in October, John Perrotto wrote that Byrd's ebullient personality made him a quick favorite in the Pirates' clubhouse. Dave Caldwell of the Wall Street Journal wrote in June that Byrd was beloved and respected in the Mets' clubhouse as well, with David Wright talking about the importance of the example that Byrd set with his work ethic.
Caldwell added that Byrd's wife, Andrea, used to send him a copy of a speech from Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of each season, but that is no longer necessary. As ESPN's Doug Padilla wrote prior to the 2012 season, Byrd has Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" tattooed on his arm, beginning with the lines: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better." (Padilla's piece has the full quote)
The Pirates have said they will try to retain Byrd, and there's mutual interest in a reunion between Byrd and the Mets. Beyond that, any team with a corner outfield hole and in need of a cheap upgrade could look to Byrd as an option.
The Phillies are one team that is known to be looking for right-handed pop to balance out their lineup, and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he doesn't view Darin Ruf as an everyday player. Byrd was dealt from the Phillies to the Nationals in a change of scenery deal back in 2005 after questioning his role with the team, but then-GM Ed Wade and manager Charlie Manuel no longer occupy those roles and it's been more than eight years, so a return could be plausible.
The Rockies could give Byrd a look and move Michael Cuddyer — who was one of baseball's worst defenders in right field — to first base to replace the retiring Todd Helton. The Royals are prioritizing right field and second base this offseason, and Byrd will be more affordable than Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz. The Rangers let Byrd walk in free agency once when they felt they had cheaper internal options in Julio Borbon and David Murphy. Now in need of a corner bat if Cruz isn't retained, a return would seem to make sense. Other teams that would make sense include the Orioles, Giants and Mariners, to name a few.
Right-handed pop is in short supply on the free agent market, and even with some regression, Byrd offers a plus glove in right field. Because Byrd and the Levinsons can point to the 2012 season as an abnormality, a two-year deal doesn't seem far-fetched. Byrd has always been an under-the-radar commodity, and there's little historical context for a 35-year-old outfielder posting an unexpected four-WAR season after a year in which he was below replacement level. Byrd's case is fairly unique, and as a result it leaves us with little historical context to make a prediction.
Jonny Gomes' two-year, $10MM contract with the Red Sox may seem a good comparison upon first glance, but Gomes got that contract coming off a season in which he played just 99 games, and his defense is generally not considered a positive. That contract seems like the floor for Byrd, but I think the demand for right-handed power bats and the bulk of teams looking for a corner outfield upgrade will allow Byrd to beat Gomes' deal. In recent years we've seen corner bats Melky Cabrera and Jason Kubel land two-year deals for $16MM and $15MM, respectively, and my expectation is that Byrd will match Cabrera with a two-year, $16MM deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pirates will try to re-sign pitcher A.J. Burnett, outfielder Marlon Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes, and they may extend Burnett a qualifying offer, MLB.com's Tom Singer reports. Burnett is still deciding between playing for the Pirates for one more year and retiring, but Singer suggests that the most likely route is that Burnett will accept their qualifying offer. Since Burnett has already said he wants to retire as a Pirate, the Bucs do not need to worry much about their five-day exclusive negotiating period, except in the sense that whether or not they re-sign Burnett will have a significant impact on the rest of their offseason plans.
Byrd, who arrived via an August trade with the Mets, would continue to serve as the Pirates' right fielder if he were to re-sign. If he does not, the bulk of the playing time will likely go to Jose Tabata, with prospects Andrew Lambo and Gregory Polanco behind him. After posting a .291/.336/.511 season in 2013, Byrd will likely be in line for a multiyear deal, even at age 36.
Barmes made $5.5MM in the second year of his two-year deal with the Bucs in 2013. He hit poorly in both seasons and lost his starting shortstop job to Jordy Mercer, but he still has value due to his strong defense. If the Pirates retain him, it would likely be on a cheap one-year deal to back up Mercer.
The Bucs will try to negotiate with Byrd and Barmes before the bidding opens to other teams, Singer reports. He also notes that the Pirates are unlikely to re-sign first baseman Justin Morneau, catcher John Buck, or pitchers Jeff Karstens or Kyle Farnsworth.
The NLCS is taking a day off as the scene shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 tomorrow night with the Cardinals leading the Dodgers 2-0. Here is the latest news and notes out of the National League today:
- The Rockies need to improve their talent acquisition via the draft and Latin America in order to overcome the crushing injuries suffered in recent seasons, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Tim Hudson, whose free agency was profiled this past week by MLBTR's Steve Adams, would make a perfect middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Rockies, Renck opines.
- The Pirates' payroll will increase significantly in 2014 aiding their efforts to retain free agents Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett while also trying to sign Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez to long-term extensions, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel.
- The Mets will face a dilemma with their 40-man roster when it comes time to protect minor league players from the Rule 5 draft, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. The Mets' 40-man roster is currently full and will be so again once the eight players on the 60-day disabled list replace the eight pending free agents on the 40-man. Jordany Valdespin headlines Rubin's list of eight Mets who could lose their roster spot.
- The Reds' managerial search is centered on pitching coach Bryan Price and Triple-A manager Jim Riggleman, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Fay expects Price to get the job; but, if neither candidate impresses ownership in upcoming interviews, the search may be expanded.
- Nationals third-base coach Trent Jewett has an excellent shot to become the team's next manager, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required).
Veteran Justin Morneau was in Minnesota for his entire career before the summer trade that shipped him to the Pirates, but the adjustment wasn't too difficult for him thanks to a familiar element, writes Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun. “[Manager Clint Hurdle] speaks the same language as Ron Gardenhire,” said Morneau. “He’ll come up and say ‘[I'm] going to give you a blow tomorrow.’ I know I’m getting the day off. Gardenhire used to say it.” Elliott spoke with several Pirates players about their respect for Hurdle and their appreciation for him as a motivator. Here's a look at more from the NL Central..
- Win or lose, Pirates GM Neal Huntington hopes to keep his team together for 2014, writes Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. That means keeping veteran pitcher A.J. Burnett and midseason acquisitions Marlon Byrd and Morneau. Byrd figures to see a significant raise over his $700K salary while Morneau ($15MM) and Burnett ($16.5MM) will obviously earn less in 2014.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter) says that there's a decent chance that the Reds will re-sign reliever Manny Parra. The soon-to-be 31-year-old pitched to a 3.33 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.
- John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer believes that Mets minor league skipper Wally Backman would be a good fit for the Reds' managerial vacancy.
- The Cardinals' 2009 draft class is a huge reason for their success in 2013, writes MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. That draft saw St. Louis tap Shelby Miller (first round), Joe Kelly (third), Matt Carpenter (13th), Trevor Rosenthal (21st) and Matt Adams (23rd).
- Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the host of Pirates first-round picks that didn't work out but notes that the trend began to change with Neil Walker in 2004. Since that time, the Bucs have also selected Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Gerrit Cole in the first round.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Marlins were featured as part of MLBTR's Arbitration Eligibles series two days ago, and according to Matt Swartz's projection model, Steve Cishek is set to earn $3.2MM in his first year of eligibility. MLB.com's Joe Frisaro wonders if such a number could make Cishek a trade candidate, as "the organization is probably asking itself if it needs a $3.2MM closer at this point." Cishek will get more expensive in the future, as he will receive an extra arb year as a Super Two player. Still, Miami has shown that it wants to keep Cishek, as the club turned down all trade offers for the stopper last summer before the deadline.
Here are some more items from around the NL East…
- Marlon Byrd would love to return to the Mets this winter, the Pirates outfielder tells Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. After Byrd was traded to the Buccos in August, Byrd talked to Mets GM Sandy Alderson and told him "thank you for the opportunity at the beginning of the year and thank you for the opportunity to play for a winner. I told him, ‘If you want me back, I would love to come back.’ ” Byrd credits the Mets for giving him an opportunity to revive his career after serving a 50-game PED suspension last year.
- Brad Ausmus has been mentioned as a candidate for the Nationals' manager job, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. The Nats haven't yet asked the Padres for permission to interview Ausmus, who is an assistant to baseball operations in San Diego. Kilgore notes that the Nationals still seem to be in the early stages of their search, as bench coach Randy Knorr and Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams have yet to be contacted about interviews.
- The Phillies under Ruben Amaro have been known for making big offseason splashes but thanks to the team's existing large payroll commitments, "this will be the offseason of the value play," writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Murphy lists five key elements to the Phils' winter plans, including noting that the club "can't have any untouchables."
- In other Phillies news from earlier today, they outrighted four players off their 40-man roster and MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at Philadelphia's arbitration-eligible players,
The Reds could have claimed outfielder Marlon Byrd, who the Pirates acquired in August, but they passed on the chance, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes (on Twitter). Byrd was owed near the league-minimum salary and was in the midst of a solid year, and it was well-known that the Reds' division rivals in Pittsburgh needed an outfielder. The Reds had waiver priority, and thus could have blocked the Mets from trading Byrd to Pittsburgh. But they didn't, and he homered against them in their 6-2, season-ending loss to the Bucs Tuesday night. The primary purpose of claiming Byrd would have been to block the Pirates from getting him, but it's worth noting, too, that the righty Byrd could have been quite helpful for the Reds tonight against Bucs lefty starter Francisco Liriano, who baffled the Reds' lefty-heavy lineup with sliders. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Angels still haven't dismissed GM Jerry Dipoto or manager Mike Scioscia, and that might be an indication that both will still be with the team in 2014, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. The Angels' massively disappointing season and reports of conflict between Dipoto and Scioscia have led to reports that one of them might depart at the end of the season, but so far that hasn't happened. Scioscia is owed around $27MM over the next five years, and Dipoto is under contract through next year.
- Mariners Chairman/CEO Howard Lincoln is expressing confidence in GM Jack Zduriencik, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. After a recent series of poor seasons and the abrupt departure of manager Eric Wedge, the Mariners appear to be in disarray. But Lincoln says that firing Zduriencik would lead the organization in the wrong direction. "I know how frustrated the fans are. No one is more frustrated than I am," he says. "But we have to be patient and stick with the program we have invested so much in. We can't switch horses, change gears, whatever you want to call it now. That's not a good idea." Lincoln also says the Mariners have received inquiries from plenty of potential managerial applicants, even though Zduriencik's questionable status might appear to make the Mariners' managerial job an undesirable one.
- Former Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. isn't tipping his hand about whether he might be interested in managing the Nationals, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. He does, however, seem interested in managing a big-league team someday. "At some point I might like to do that," Ripken says. The Nationals will be looking for a manager to replace the retiring Davey Johnson. In August, in response to a question about managing, Ripken said, "I think I would be more curious at this stage in my life than I have been."
- Rockies manager Walt Weiss isn't under contract for 2014, but the team wants him to return, writes Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. The Rockies hired Weiss after the 2012 season, signing him to a one-year deal. His next contract might be a two-year deal, or perhaps a one-year deal with an option.
- Renck also notes that, while the Rockies' main front-office personnel will likely remain the same, roles could change, perhaps with Bill Geivett moving into "more of a traditional GM role." Geivett currently reports to GM Dan O'Dowd, but Geivett currently runs Major League operations while O'Dowd works on the minor leagues.
Twins GM Terry Ryan says he has no qualms about blocking potential August trades by making waiver claims, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes (via Twitter). Ryan says he was surprised that Marlon Byrd — who's having a strong season and makes a paltry $700K — made it all the way through waivers until the Pirates claimed him. The Reds, for example, had waiver priority on the Pirates and might well have chosen to claim Byrd, both because Byrd would have cheaply improved their own team and also to prevent the rival Pirates from getting him. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- The Cardinals are the first big-league team that will have to figure out how to stop Billy Hamilton of the Reds, Max Schmetzer of MLB.com writes. Of course, that means that the basestealing phenom will have to battle against Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. "We have film on [Hamilton]," says Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "We're not going to ask the pitchers to be quicker on him or the catchers to throw quicker." Before the season, Hamilton was ranked the No. 20 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and No. 30 by ESPN's Keith Law. Even in a disappointing 2013 season, Hamilton managed to swipe 75 bases for Triple-A Louisville.
- Reliever Michael Blazek spent several days in "limbo" before being shipped from the Cardinals to the Brewers in the John Axford deal, Adam McCalvy and Kevin Massoth of MLB.com write. The Cards technically optioned Blazek to Triple-A Memphis on Thursday, but he was actually just waiting in his hotel in St. Louis, presumably to be called up when rosters expanded on Sunday. Instead, in his third day away from the team, he learned he was headed to Milwaukee.
- Daniel Bard was recently designated for assignment by the Red Sox, but claiming him on waivers could be a tricky proposition, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. That's because the claiming team would have to decide by early December whether to take Bard to arbitration, where he would receive a minimum of about $1.5MM next year. That might be a lot to pay a player who appears to be nowhere near the pitcher he was in 2009 through 2011, when he was a solid relief option.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
WEDNESDAY, 5:34pm: Black is in fact the PTBNL in the deal, Rosenthal tweets.
WEDNESDAY, 5:09pm: Triple-A reliever Vic Black is a strong possibility to be the PTBNL heading from the Pirates to the Mets, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Black is currently on waivers, but if he is the PTBNL, the Pirates can just pull him back and send him to the Mets at the end of the season rather than right away (Twitter links). In 46 and 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, Black owns a 2.51 ERA with 63 Ks and 21 BBs.
Baseball America rated Black as the Bucs' 16th best prospect heading into this season. Black, who was drafted 49th overall by the Pirates in 2009, began his pro career as a starter but was plagued by control issues and converted to a reliever in 2011. BA writes that if he can get his walks under control, he has the stuff close in the majors.
8:33am: The Mets also sent the Pirates $250K in the trade, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). That would mean the Pirates are paying just under $1MM — roughly $980K — for Byrd and Buck over the remainder of the season.
TUESDAY: The Pirates are likely headed for their first playoff berth since 1992, and they made sure to bolster their roster accordingly by acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets for minor league second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later. Both teams have announced the trade.
Earlier today, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported that in the wake of Matt Harvey's injury, the Mets were exploring trade options and had placed five players on waivers, including Byrd, Buck and Pedro Feliciano. Byrd (pictured on the right) was claimed by an unnamed NL team shortly thereafter, which clearly was the Pirates. It's unclear whether Buck cleared waivers or was also claimed by the Pirates following a season-ending injury to backup catcher Michael McKenry.
Byrd, who turns 36 on Friday, is having a surprising career year despite his age. In 464 plate appearances, he's batting .285/.330/.518. His 21 homers and 136 OPS+ are both career-bests. Byrd is no longer a regular center fielder (just two games there in 2013), but his defense in right field grades out to a solid +6.6 UZR/150, and The Fielding Bible pegs him at nine runs saved. Pirates right fielders have batted just .245/.307/.368 this season, and their right field defense ranks 24th in baseball, according to UZR, so Byrd's bat and solid glove will be welcome additions in the Steel City.
Byrd is also owed just $130K for the remainder of the season before he hits free agency, so he's an affordable upgrade for the Pirates, financially speaking. Given that salary, it's a surprise to see that the Reds didn't place a claim to block the Pirates from acquiring him. Cincinnati is just 3.5 games out of first in the NL Central while the Pirates are a half-game back of the Cardinals. All three NL Central teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, but the Reds and Pirates would face each other in the one-game Wild Card playoff.
Buck, 33, has cooled off considerably following a meteoric start that saw him club 10 homers in his first 25 games (23 starts). Since May 1, he's hitting just .206/.290/.302 with six homers, and he's owed $1.1MM. However, with McKenry out for the season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus, his pop and veteran leadership should be welcome additions for Pittsburgh. Buck has also caught a strong 30 percent of potential base-stealers.
Herrera, 19, is having a strong season at Class-A West Virgina. The Colombian infielder is hitting .265/.330/.421 with 11 homers and 11 stolen bases in 479 plate appearances. Herrera ranked as the No. 20 prospect in the Pirates system prior to the season, according to Baseball America, and his solid play in 2013 has him currently ranked 11th among Pirates prospects by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
In their scouting report, BA noted that Herrera has plus speed and surprising power for someone of his size (he's listed as 5'10" and 150 pounds) with the ability to hit the ball to all fields. BA feels that his lack of arm strength will limit him to second base, and Mayo agrees. Mayo adds that Herrera had no problem adjusting to the game after coming to the United States, and he projects an above-average hitter and well-above average runner. Mayo also ranked Herrera as the ninth-best second base prospect in all of minor league baseball.
ESPN's Adam Rubin was the first to report that Byrd and Buck were headed to Pittsburgh (on Twitter), and MLB.com's Anthony DiComo was the first to break that the Pirates were giving up Herrera and a PTBNL (also on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are a handful of odds and ends from this afternoon's trade between the Mets and Pirates, in which the Bucs received outfielder Marlon Byrd, catcher John Buck and cash in return for second base prospect Dilson Herrera and a PTBNL.
- In addition to putting in a waiver claim on Byrd, the Pirates also claimed Buck before the trade, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes (on Twitter).
- The player to be named the Mets are set to receive will be a "solid" one, and that could make an already-strong trade even better for New York, says ESPN's Keith Law (Insider-only). But Law also calls the trade a "truly all-in move" from the Pirates' perspective, noting that Byrd represents an enormous upgrade over the Bucs' right fielders, who have been dreadful this year.
- Byrd is "a good get" for the Pirates, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes. Sullivan notes that, based on what we knew entering the season, it would have been strange to learn that the Pirates were still looking for upgrades in late August, and just as strange that the aging Marlon Byrd would constitute an upgrade.
- In Herrera, the Mets may be getting an "offensive-oriented second baseman," Matt Eddy of Baseball America writes. Eddy also notes that Herrera could hit for decent power to go with a good on-base percentage, and that appears likely to stick at second base.
- They may have just traded him, but the Mets may have interest in pursuing Byrd again when he becomes a free agent this winter, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes (on Twitter).
- Martino also tweets that the Mets are unlikely to make any more trades this month.
9:29am: A National League team was awarded the claim on Byrd, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
8:58am: Marlon Byrd has been claimed off revocable trade waivers by an unknown team, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link). Not long ago, this wouldn't have seemed as newsworthy, as the Mets had been steadfast in their stance against trading Byrd. However, as Rubin reported earlier this morning, the Mets are likely to make at least one trade in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Byrd, who turns 36 on Friday, is enjoying a surprising career year with the Mets. His 21 homers are a career-high, as is his 136 OPS+, and his .285/.330/.522 batting line has made him one of baseball's most productive right fielders. His defense grades out well in right, and he's owed just $130K for the remainder of the season.
The Mets will have 48 hours to work out a trade with the claiming team, so the latest we could find out resolution on the situation would be Thursday. Prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Reds, Pirates and Orioles were among the teams to show interest in Byrd.