Five Reasons Why Marlon Byrd Was a Good Signing (And Two Reasons Why He Wasn’t)

Posted: November 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Yesterday, the Philadelphia Phillies announced that they had agreed to a 2 year, $16 million contract with former Mets’ OF Marlon Byrd. The deal includes a vesting/team option for a third year that could make the contract worth up to $24 million. Reaction to the signing has been mixed, with some suggesting that investing $8 million a year into a 36-year old player was another uninspiring move by Ruben Amaro Jr. Others believe that Byrd will be a fantastic complimentary piece to the left handed power that the Phillies already possess in their lineup. Below are five reasons why it was a good signing, and two reasons why it probably won’t work out:

Signing Marlon Byrd was smart because…

1. Byrd mashes left handed pitching.

In 2013, Byrd was an absolute terror against southpaws. The outfielder put together a .344/.376/.583 triple slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) against them. For his career, the veteran has a .291/.343/.461 line. In English, he should provide adequate balance in a lineup rife with left handed batters.

2. Short term deal = low risk, high reward

The Phillies know that their holes this offseason are greater than merely a right handed power bat in the outfield. Philadelphia still needs to figure out what they’re doing behind the dish and in their rotation (they could probably use a bullpen improvement as well). So, waiting it out for the high priced talents like Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo was not a wise scenario. The other options included Nelson Cruz, whom many believed the Phillies would be after. Ruben Amaro Jr. noted on Tuesday that the Phillies pursued Cruz. But, were turned off by his opening offer of 5 years, $75 million. For a player that cannot play the outfield and is a PED risk, signing Cruz just would not be a smart economic decision.

With Byrd, the Phillies will get at the very least the league average production that he enjoyed from 2009-2011 with the possibility that 2013 was not an outlier but a new career norm.

3. The “PED” suspension was not steroids.

As we all know, Nelson Cruz was suspended for steroids along with a handful of others last season. In 2012, Marlon Byrd was ousted for 50 games due to a positive test for a banned substance. However, the substance itself was not “steroids.” Byrd was suspended for taking a banned substance to help recover from a surgical procedure following the 2011 season. He has been quoted as saying that he was “mortified by his carelessness” and accepted the suspension without any protest (unlike Cruz and many others). When he returned, Byrd was not the same that year. As we saw with Carlos Ruiz, it can take a lot of time to get your swing straight after missing time due to suspension. For Byrd, it all came together in 2013.

4. Defensively Dominant

This, I believe, was a critical reason as to why Byrd was pursued over others like Cruz. The Phillies have had some of the worst corner-outfield defense over the last two years, with the likes of Delmon Young, Juan Pierre, Domonic Brown, and John Mayberry bungling balls left-and-right. Meanwhile, Byrd brings a steadying presence to the corner. He posted a +2.6 UZR/150 in right field and The Fielding Bible claims that Byrd saved +12 runs in 1168 innings during 2013. Even if Byrd doesn’t hit like he did in 2013, the deal could still be worth it with plus defense. Byrd can also play center field should Ben Revere go down with another injury.

5. The finances fit

Last season, Jonny Gomes signed a 2 year, $10 million deal with Boston. Disregarding his production in 2013, it should be no surprise that Byrd got $16 million from the Phillies. Gomes was coming off of a .262/18/47 year with Oakland and had a career line of .244/136/411. Compare that to Byrd’s 2013 numbers (.291/24/88) and career numbers prior (.278/82/445) and there should be no questions. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Shoo Choo, and Curtis Granderson should all be expected to command $16-17 million a year at the very least. That’s per year. Good luck finding a bargain like Byrd in this market.

Signing Marlon Byrd was not smart because…

1. Citizens Bank Park will soon become a senior’s community.

It’s no secret that the Phillies have one of the oldest teams in baseball. Years of long contracts given to aging veterans have left Philadelphia with a bad case of osteoporosis. Byrd only exacerbates that fact, as the veteran will turn 37 next August. The Phillies do have young players like Domonic Brown, Cody Asche, and Ben Revere projected in their starting lineup. But, that’s about it for players who you can reasonably expect to play five more seasons.

2. Outlier campaign

Byrd’s 2013 was obviously above and beyond anything he has done in the past. The slugger mashed 24 home runs in cavernous Citi Field, something few men have achieved before. Prior to last year, Byrd’s high HR total was 20 in 2009 with Texas. Now, there is some silver lining to that scenario. If Byrd regresses in power numbers, he could improve his poor K/BB ratio. Last season, Byrd struck out 144 times to just 31 walks. Prior to 2013, his career average was 106/42 per 162 game. That’s a much easier pill to swallow.

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