In Stacked Free Agent Outfield Class, Marlon Byrd Was The Best Ruben Amaro and The Phillies Could Do?


Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t get it. In an offseason where the Phillies need to try to correct what has led to two straight non-winning seasons, after the best five year run in franchise history, and get younger at the same time,  all I can do is laugh at a signing like this.

"The Phillies will sign outfielder Marlon Byrd, the Mike and Ike Show on 94WIP are reporting.Todd Zolecki of reports the deal is for two years. ESPN’s Adam Ruben reports that the deal is for $8 million per year."

So not only are the Phillies, who desperately need to get younger, signing a 36 year-old, but they are signing him for two seasons. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Sure, Byrd hit .291 with 24 homeruns and 88 RBI’s in a split season with the Mets and Pirates last season, but when has he ever come close to numbers like that in his career? The last time, and only other time, Byrd hit 20 homeruns, was in 2009 as a member of the Texas Rangers. That season was also the only other time that Byrd topped 75 RBI’s in his career. Somehow I’m struggling to think that success in 2009 is any indicator of  what’s to come in 2014. Hell, if that’s the case, maybe we should get ready for the Phillies to make a World Series run next season.

If you remember, Byrd struggled to get a job last spring, before the Mets signed him, after a 2012 PED suspension.  Lots of guys, Nelson Cruz will be an example once he signs this off-season, overcome PED suspensions and sign with teams easily, because their talent is still recognized. Melky Cabrera getting a two-year 16 million dollar deal with the Blue Jays last off-season, after the being suspended during the second half of the regular season and not being put on the playoff roster by the Giants, is another example. So why weren’t teams willing to put Byrd’s suspension aside? Because they didn’t feel like he was a good enough player to take that risk on.

So Byrd proved them wrong by having a big season last year, but why are we to believe that he can produce anywhere like that over the next two seasons? Not only did he not do it from 2010-2012, but he has only had one season like that (2009) in his entire big league career.

So we are giving Byrd eight million, which means he is going to start, and we are going to do one of two things with him. Either Byrd starts in left or right, depending on how the Phillies choose to go forward with Domonic Brown in the field, Ben Revere starts in center, and Darin Ruf gets roadblocked, or the Phillies continue to shake things up in the outfield and they bring in another outfielder which forces Ben Revere either to the bench or to the trading block. That puzzles me.

Darin Ruf hit 14 homeruns in only 73 games last year. Funny if you project that out, he would easily top Byrd’s power total. Ruf did only have 30 RBI’s, which wouldn’t be on pace to top Byrd’s 2013 numbers, but it would be right around his career averages. Ruf is also only 27 and a much cheaper option than Byrd. So do you really want to put the cheaper option with more upside on the bench for a 36 year-old? That’s what the Phillies are going to do with either of the options that I just laid out.

Ben Revere got off to a slow start last season, but in only 88 games, Revere rebounded to hit .305 with 22 stolen bases. Project that for a whole season, and Revere is likely to steal over 40 bases. Sure, he provides no power, but not every guy in your lineup needs to be a big bat. Some guys set the table for your other bats.  He is 25, and because he hasn’t reached arbitration yet, the Phillies get to pick his salary for 2013. So basically Ruben Amaro wants to throw a young, prototypical leadoff hitter to the curb, or put him on the bench, if you go with the second option.

The Phillies are not a World Series contender the next two seasons, even if Byrd produces like he did in 2013. Byrd isn’t going to keep Chase Utley or Ryan Howard healthy, he isn’t going to re-motivate Jimmy Rollins, and he isn’t going to give the Phillies rotation or bullpen depth. So why not go with a younger option like Revere or Ruf?

If Ruben Amaro was going to go all in, he should have gone all in and signed a guy like Nelson Cruz. I don’t think Cruz makes the Phillies a World Series contender, but I feel like I know that Cruz will hold up his end of the deal at least. I don’t feel like that with Byrd.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Marlon Byrd has found late life in his career and is going to have two more great seasons. I hope that’s the case. But my gut is telling me that when it is all said and done, Byrd will join Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, and I’m sure other names I’m forgetting, as disastrous contracts that will go down to define Ruben Amaro’s tenure as Phillies general manager.