== Feather your nest or fly, fly away? ==
In addition to this series, I’m going to bump up the article on the “menu” of RH-hitting OF from non-contending teams (which is here), so folks can keep it as “ready reference.”
Like it or not, when you go down the list and consider those who might be available at non-prohibitive cost, well, Marlon Byrd and his 18 home runs are sitting right there.
The Phillies are not very good, the Mariners desperately need more bats, and Byrd is putting up some impressive numbers.
Match made in heaven?
Well, there are some wrinkles.
First, there is Byrd’s no-trade clause, which lists four teams. One of which is Seattle. Oops.
But it turns out that Byrd really only wanted to exclude artificial turf teams Toronto and Tampa Bay, and just added Seattle and Kansas City because those were the first two backwater burgs that came to mind. Or something to that effect.
Anyway, now that the Mariners and Royals are in contention, those destinations didn’t seem so off-putting to Byrd in his interview. So maybe that’s not an issue.
There is another issue with Byrd’s contract, however. The Phillies, seemingly in a very generous mood, gave Byrd not just two years at $8 million per (for his age-36 and age-37 seasons), but tacked on a vesting option for another $8 million in 2016 at age-38.
Byrd has to get to 1100 plate appearances for the two seasons for the option to vest. That’s 550 per year, or about 3.5 per game for a guy playing most of the games. Byrd has 390 so far.
In short: if you use him most of the time, you’ll end up owing him another $8 million for a year in which you might not want to use him most of the time.
So Byrd is no short-term rental. He’s potentially a long-term commitment.
What else do we need to know before diving into numbers and charts? How about some history?
Byrd is from Georgia, and was picked by the Phillies in the 10th round of the 1999 draft. If you don’t remember the 1999 draft, the top two picks were Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett.
He quickly, however, became the Phils top prospect by showing a dazzling power-and-speed combination, plus strong plate skills (28 HR, 32 steals, 52 walks in 2001).
Almost as quickly, he lost favor after an underwhelming start to his MLB career. In May 2005, he was traded to the Nationals straight up for … wait for it … you won’t believe it … Endy Chavez. Here’s a rather amusing (to today’s reader) blog post about the deal from 2005.
After 1-1/2 years of more mediocrity in D.C., he signed with the Texas Rangers, and, finally, at age-29, the hot prospect from seven years prior showed up (except without the stolen bases).
His ISO and XBH% started moving up, while his strikeout rate went down. By 2009, he looked like a pretty complete player, with 43 doubles, 20 homers and 32 walks for a .283/.329/.479 line.
He cashed that in for a three-year deal with the Cubs. It started well, with a solid year and All-Star appearance in 2010, but he went the wrong direction from there, and 2012 was a disaster.
With deteriorating stats, the Cubs dumped him to the Red Sox. But after just a month in Beantown, he was released. Shortly thereafter, he was hit with a 50-game drug suspension. At the time, it was revealed that Byrd had been working with Victor Conte, the controversial drug guru of Barry Bonds.
All of which added some question marks to his sudden revival in Texas a few years prior, which happened on a team that had Sammy Sosa as DH and Nelson Cruz in the outfield. Hmmmm.
Byrd, of course, said it was all just an isolated tragic mistake. Except that the drug he tested positive for was actually one that offset the effect of other steroids (preventing other steroids from enhancing the breasts … um, OK … doesn’t really seem like an isolated tragic mistake). He did not play again in 2012.
After all that, Byrd ended up with the Mets … and his career took off again. His ISO jumped for the second time … this time up over .200. He ended up being traded to the playoff-bound Pirates (together with … John Buck) during the waiver period (August 27) and started every post-season game in right field for Pittsburgh.
All of which led up to the two-years-plus-option deal to return to the Phillies during this past offseason. He’s still in the first year of that deal.
So is that convoluted enough for you?
Next part here.