Will Marlon Byrd Help the Cincinnati Reds Contend in the NL Central?
One team is clearly in rebuild mode. The other seems to be conflicted.
The Phillies and Reds have reportedly agreed to a deal that would send veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd to Cincinnati in exchange for their number-seven prospect, minor league pitcher Ben Lively (no relation to Blake, at least to the best of our knowledge).
The deal is a no-brainer for Philadelphia. After trading shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers a couple weeks back, they are hunting for suitable partners for virtually all of their veteran players -- with the possible exception of Chase Utley. In exchange for Byrd, they get a guy who throws in the low-to-mid 90's and has what is described as an average change-up, curveball, and slider. He's seen as a potential back-of-the-rotation arm.
As for the Reds, they get one of the few remaining power-hitting outfielders on the market. The 37-year-old Byrd hit .264/.312/.445 last year with 25 home runs and posted a bWAR of 2.6 and a nERD of 0.61. That means a lineup full of Byrds would generate 0.61 runs a game more than a league-average hitter. His weighted runs created (wRC+) of 109 shows him to be a slightly above-average run producer.
Among all National League outfielders last year, only Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton hit more home runs than Byrd did, and his 25 was tied with Andrew McCutchen and Matt Kemp. And, there was this interesting comparison.
He was also surprisingly decent in right field last year for the Phils, with six defensive runs saved, sixth-most among NL right fielders. Of course, he won't be playing right field in Cincinnati. He'll be in left.
Byrd's salary of $8 million this year is relatively inexpensive but also comes with a reachable vesting option of $8 million for 2016, his age-39 season. And Byrd has some negatives as well, striking out 185 times last year (second-most in the NL) with a walk rate of 5.5% that was 12th-worst in the NL.
It is for some of those reasons that some in the Cincinnati blogosphere is generally not too thrilled with this deal.
Lol, jocketty.— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) December 31, 2014
Yep. RT @djshort: The Reds’ offseason strategy can best be summed up in ¯\_(ツ)_/¯— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) December 31, 2014
The Reds and the Braves are in a pitched battle for the title of Most WTF? Offseason.— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) December 31, 2014
It is interesting that the Reds have traded for Byrd, who will replace Ryan Ludwick in left field. It was just a few weeks ago that Cincinnati traded away two of its starting pitchers, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, leading some to think that a rebuild was in the works.
The acquisition of Byrd doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense -- unless they plan to also have Byrd start every fifth day.
Byrd does, however, give the Reds a nice right-handed bat to put between Joey Votto and Jay Bruce if they chose to do so. He would join a lineup with Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton, and a fading Brandon Phillips.
Last year, playing in one of the most hitter-advantageous home parks in the Majors, the Reds were only 13th in runs scored, 14th in batting average, 14th in on-base percentage, and 11th in slugging percentage. They were eighth in home runs, however, all without the services of Votto for most of the season.
Getting Marlon Byrd doesn't make the Reds contenders in the NL Central, not with the Cardinals, Pirates and the vastly-improved Cubs all looming in the division. And it also creates a bit of an identity crisis for Cincinnati.
But at the very least, Byrd should make the offense a little bit better than it was in 2014.