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Marlon Byrd Rumors
This morning's news out of the American League East..
- A deal that would bring Brendan Ryan back to the Yankees was set weeks ago, pending a physical following minor surgery, according to Peter Gammons of MLB Network (via Twitter). There's reportedly mutual interest in a new deal.
- Stephen Drew won't be back with the Red Sox, a source tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. There are a number of teams out there that are willing to make multi-year deals beyond what the BoSox are willing to do.
- A report yesterday indicated that the Yankees are in pursuit of Cardinals third baseman David Freese, but someone involved with the club tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post that it won't happen. The Yankees still won't know what will happen with Alex Rodriguez for at least another month, so if the club does anything at third base, it will be with a left-handed complement, such as Eric Chavez, or a free agent like Jhonny Peralta or Drew who could play shortstop or third and provide insurance for both Jeter and A-Rod. Sherman also notes the possibility that the Yanks could wait and see if the Cards non-tender Freese ($4.4MM projected), but as Tim Dierkes wrote earlier this month, that seems like a drastic measure.
- Sherman also writes that Marlon Byrd apparently wasn't on the Yankees radar. When asked about the outfielder, GM Brian Cashman said, "I didn't even know who his agent was." As shown in the MLBTR Agency Database, his agent is Seth Levinson, who has a long, strong relationship with Cashman.
- Free agent outfielder Chris Young is on the Red Sox's list of fallback options if they don't re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
- Both Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy have been mentioned in trade rumors over the last couple of days, but Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette didn't sound eager to move either one in a conversation with Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16MM deal, according to a team release. The deal includes an $8MM option for 2016 that vests if Byrd gets 600 plate appearances in 2015 or 550 plate appearances in 2015 and a total of 1100 plate appearances in 2014 and 2015. If the option does not vest, it becomes a team option.
The deal will bring Byrd back to the team that he started his major league career with in 2002. The 36-year-old is coming off of a season in which he posted a career-best .294/.336/.511 slash line and 24 homers for the Mets and PIrates. It was a well-timed strong campaign for Byrd and it helped his stock tremendously after he was slapped with a 50-game suspension for PED use in 2012.
Byrd crushed lefties in 2013 slashing .344/.376/.583 with eight homers in 178 plate appearances, but he showed that he can handle right-handed pitchers as well. Byrd batted .268/.318/.480 against right-handers in 2013, giving him a 129 OPS+ against righties and a 157 mark against lefties.
The Phillies have been linked to Byrd this offseason as they were in search of a right-handed hitting outfielder. They weren't the only ones, however, as the Mets, Pirates, and Mariners all had varying degrees of interest this winter.
General Manager Ruben Amaro & Co. certainly hope that they'll be getting the 2013 version of Byrd and not the '12 incarnation. Byrd had just 153 plate appearances in 2012 thanks to his suspension and slashed just .210/.243/.245 for the Cubs and Red Sox.
Michael Barkann of WIP reported that Byrd and the Phillies had agreed to terms. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweeted that Byrd would get two years and $16MM. ESPN's Jayson Stark tweeted details of Byrd's 2016 option.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Phillies' signing of outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16MM contract wasn't the best idea, ESPN's Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law cites Byrd's age, PED history and high 2013 batting average on balls in play as potential red flags, and suggests that Byrd might not even be a starting-caliber player over the length of the contract. "Even if you believe that Byrd's power increase is sustainable, as he's made some changes to his swing, paying him as if he'll be more than a .270/.315/.450 guy is irrationally exuberant — and even that assumes his legs will stay healthy enough for him to get to 20-odd homers each year," Law says. Here are more notes on the Byrd signing.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who acquired Byrd in an August trade with the Mets, wasn't surprised by Byrd's contract, the Inquirer's Matt Gelb writes (on Sulia). "As you look at that outfield group, if you don't want to give up your first-round pick, Marlon Byrd is arguably the best available outfield bat," says Huntington. "He was one of the better players on the market."
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson wasn't surprised by Byrd's contract, either, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reports. "Had you asked me the question three or four months ago, I might have been surprised. But not in light of what's happened since the end of the season," Alderson says. "There haven't been that many signings, but this one is consistent with the others." The Mets did not have serious discussions with Byrd about returning, Alderson says.
- Without mentioning Byrd's name, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated that the Phillies' primary reason for agreeing to terms with Byrd was the lack of power in their outfield, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury writes. "There’s not a lot of power out there. It’s pretty simple," said Amaro. "It’s difficult to develop and it’s difficult to hold on to. Power is an issue and if our club can add some, that would be great."
"The expectation is" that the Mariners will target right-handed hitters such as Jhonny Peralta, Marlon Byrd, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The M's were particularly weak from the right side of the plate last season and will look to upgrade their right-handed bats, though really, Seattle will look to add hitting in any form. Ken Rosenthal also noted that the Mariners were looking at right-handed hitters earlier this week, though he noted that the M's were in on Napoli. Here's some more news from around the AL West…
- Cruz declined his qualifying offer from the Rangers today and Adam Katz, Cruz's agent, told ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett that he will continue to talk with the team about his client's possible return to Texas. "We've always been engaged with the Rangers and continue to be," Katz said. Durrett notes, the draft pick compensation tied to Cruz may hurt him in free agency, though MLBTR's Steve Adams recently predicted Cruz would find a three-year, $39MM deal on the open market.
- Brian Grieper, Napoli's agent, is scheduled to meet with Rangers GM Jon Daniels during the GM Meetings, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. The Rangers are known to be looking for an upgrade at first base and Napoli, a former Ranger, would definitely fit the bill.
- The Rangers have promoted A.J. Preller to assistant general manager, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link). Preller had previously worked as the team's senior director of player personnel. Texas also named Mike Daly, formerly their director of international scouting, as the franchise's new senior director of minor league operations.
- The Angels have been opposed to going over the luxury tax limit under Arte Moreno's ownership and that's not likely to change, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez writes. Gonzalez also looks at Mark Trumbo trade rumors and a possible Mike Trout extension as part of his all-Angels mailbag.
- In another item from Gonzalez, he speculates about what the Angels might have to give up (and what the Rays might want) in order to facilitate a David Price trade.
- Earlier today on MLBTR we collected another set of AL West notes earlier today on MLBTR, a set of Astros-related notes and learned that the Angels signed Wade LeBlanc to a minor league deal.
Here's the latest from the City of Brotherly Love…
- The Phillies intend to avoid more expensive free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann in favor of "mid-level" free agents, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury reports. The Phillies are wary of how much it would cost to sign Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson even though they like all three players.
- Also from Salisbury, the Phillies have discussed signing Franklin Gutierrez, Marlon Byrd, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Smith and Bronson Arroyo.
- GM Ruben Amaro told reporters (including Salisbury) that the team could wait to see what kind of a market there is for Roy Halladay's services before deciding whether or not to pursue the former Cy Young Award winner. “We’re keeping our eyes open on him. We’re not sure how the market is going to develop for him. But we haven’t ruled out bringing him back," Amaro said.
- The Phillies have "long-standing interest" in Mike Morse and see Morse as "a potential Jayson Werth-like late bloomer," CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman writes. Despite this interest, Morse could just be a backup plan for the Phillies if they can't sign a more higher-profile hitter.
- Carlos Ruiz could make a decision about his next contract soon, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link). We heard earlier this week that the Phillies wanted a quick decision from Ruiz so they could figure out their catching situation.
- If Ruiz doesn't re-sign, Morosi tweets that John Buck could be a more realistic backup plan for the Phillies than A.J. Pierzynski. Not only would Buck be cheaper, Philadelphia is in need of right-handed bats.
- Trading Domonic Brown and bringing back Ryan Madson are two of the topics addressed by MLB.com's Todd Zolecki as part of a Phillies-centric reader mailbag.
- Five or six teams have inquired about Davis and/or Lucas Duda, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports. Duda is considered by some AL teams to be a fit as a designated hitter, Carig tweets.
- Peralta appears to be the Mets' top free agent target, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The club "really likes" Peralta but they don't know if he intends to sign soon or later in the offseason.
- The Mets have talked to free agent Corey Hart, but Martino gets the sense that they either don't identify him as a top target or aren't that eager to get a deal done with him. Carig (link) also hears from a source that the Mets aren't close to a deal with the Brewers first baseman. "We haven't discussed him in depth enough to say where we'd put him if we got him," the source said.
- The Mets have plans to meet with Curtis Granderson's agent this week, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post (on Twitter). The outfielder is turning down the Yankees' $14.1MM qualifying offer.
- The Mets have touched base with Marlon Byrd's representatives in the last few days, according to Carig (link). Recently, Steve Adams examined the market for Byrd and concluded that he could fetch a deal in the neighborhood of $16MM over two years.
- A source suggested to Carig (link) that it would make sense for the Mets to take their time in trading Davis and take advantage of a market that is starved for power. Carig (link) hears that the Mets might do just that and hang on to him until later in the offseason when teams will be seeking out less costly alternatives to add power.
- The Mets aren't actively talking to Mike Pelfrey about a possible reunion, but they are open to it, a team official tells Adam Rubin. "I know he is on a long list of guys just like him," the team insider said. The Mets non-tendered the hurler after he earned $5.7MM in 2012.
- The Mets' top priority is shortstop, but they're hardly alone in that, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Possible options for the Mets include Peralta, Erick Aybar, Didi Gregorius, Rafael Furcal, and Jed Lowrie.
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.