Apparently, the fact that I don't believe the signing of Marlon Byrd is the end of the world means that me and Ruben Amaro Jr. are BFFs and we will be getting matching charms that say so this weekend.
Ruben is dumb for setting the market. But he does it every year so why are we surprised? He gives multiyear deals away like they're Halloween candy. Again, why are we surprised? RAJ has a longer leash than any of us like to admit. If you hope that a Marlon Byrd failure is going to cost Ruben his job, you're probably going to be disappointed. So rather than dwell on what a bunch of buffoons the Phillies front office must be, I like to focus on the possibilities that this signing might create...
First, Marlon Byrd is not the difference between 73 wins and 93 wins. But 2 years and $16M for Marlon Byrd is probably a better deal than they would have got if they signed Carlos Beltran, or Nelson Cruz, or Curtis Granderson, or Jacoby Ellsbury, or Shin Soo Choo. Crazy, I know.
Byrd was probably the 6th or 7th best outfield option in a lukewarm free agent class. The 5 guys at the top of the list will all receive guarantees of more years and more than twice as much per year from a team. Is Shin Soo Choo a better baseball player than Marlon Byrd? Of course, but probably not TWICE as good. Marlon Byrd offers a few things:
- Potential Value. PED guys are always a gamble. For every David Ortiz who competes at a high level after his "alleged" PED days, there's a dozen guys that fall off the map. Byrd failed a drug test in 2012, missed some time, honed his skills in winter ball, and churned out a career year in 2013. Was he on PEDs when he cranked out 24 HRs and a .291 BA this year? I would guess not. Who would risk a 100 game ban knowing that they are under the watchful eye of MLB coming off a suspension? Some of those skills might be a one year wonder, but some might be real. $8M is a huge gamble for you and I, but for the Phillies it's a drop in the bucket. Assuming they are up against the luxury tax number as expected, Byrd's contract will represent about the same percentage of overall contracts at Geoff Jenkins did in 2008. That worked out alright for everyone, didn't it? If Byrd produces 80% of what he did last year, he's a bargain. If he doesn't, well then you have a guy who can replicate 75-80% of Byrd's 2013 numbers already on the roster with Darin Ruf and Marlon Byrd is a sunk cost.
- Contract length compatibility. The Phillies are already in an impossible situation. By 2017, the entire roster will need to turn over. But they're also not in a position to hand the keys off to a team full of guys in the farm system. Byrd on a short deal puts his contract in line with the Utley/Rollins/Lee/Papelbon/Howard deals that tell us that we will have a brand new team in 2017. Adding any of the other top OF free agents would required a longer deal, which would have meant they would be around longer than the core. None of the top 5 outfielders are young enough to be a building block for the next team. Paying a 35 year old Jacoby Ellsbury $20M in 2018 while the rest of the team is in their 20s would be a much bigger point of contention than the $8M Byrd will be owed next year if he's terrible.
- The opportunity to add more pieces. I don't think adding any of the other free agent outfielders would have been enough to right this ship. But the amount of money they are all looking for would have made it nearly impossible to add any other impact players this offseason. There are holes on this team well beyond RF. 1-2 starters, 2-3 bullpen arms, and an entire new bench are needed. The difference between what Byrd will make and what any of the other free agent outfielders will make may be upwards of $10M this year. Sink that money elsewhere.