Each day until free agency begins, we at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will become a free agent five days from the conclusion of the World Series. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed outfielder Marlon Byrd. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink above.
Raise your hand if you had Marlon Byrd hitting .291/.336/.511 in 2013 with 24 homers after facing a suspension for PEDs in 2012 with a .210/.243/.245 line in 153 PA. Byrd’s 2013 was among the most surprising by any player in the Majors as the 36-year old posted an All-Star caliber, four-wins-according-to-FanGraphs season for the Mets and Pirates. Byrd was clutch down the stretch for the Pirates, hitting .318/.357/.486, helping the Bucs win the Wild Card.
Even in his worst years, Byrd has feasted on left-handed pitching, an area of opportunity for the 2014 Phillies to improve. Byrd is a career .291/.343/.461 hitter against lefties. The biggest question with the former Phillie essentially is when you offer a 36-year old a multi-year, $15-20 mil contract, will you be getting the 2012 Byrd or the 2013 Byrd? The one thing Byrd has lacked throughout his career is consistency – check out the chart after the jump for an illustration.
Is a 36-year old player with that level of variance in play worth multiple years and multiple millions? Byrd has been so inconsistent that standard deviation indicates that you should expect him to contribute between 3.68 Wins Above Replacement and -0.20. That’s essentially a range of a fringe All-Star candidate to a player who likely shouldn’t be in baseball at age 36.
Considering the fact that Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, and Ben Revere are locks to start and are all lefties and Jimmy Rollins had better splits last year as a lefty against righties, the Phillies are incredibly lefty-heavy, even more so than in previous years. While the Phillies search for the elusive “right-handed power bat” has led them down dangerous rabbit holes and likely got them burnt in a deal for Hunter Pence, Byrd has among the best splits against lefties among any free agent. Crazy isn’t it?
According to the awesome FanGraphs crowd-sourcing project, Byrd is likely in line for somewhere between $6-8 million per year for one to two years.
Ruben Amaro loves veterans and Byrd fits that bill. Surprisingly, the biggest obstacle in signing Byrd may be Byrd’s desire to re-sign with the Mets or the Pirates desire to re-sign him. Byrd would be a good value play but he’d certainly be high risk: it’s uncertain whether the team who signs Byrd will get the fringe All-Star or the almost-out-of-MLBer.
Verdict: Play, play, play!
Byrd is a lower-cost option that the Phillies should genuinely consider, even if it means signing him on a two year pact. I would not go over two years for Byrd but his career splits are good enough that he would serve his purpose and then some even if he performed somewhere in the middle of his career averages.