On Friday, news broke that the Mets signed outfielder Marlon Byrd to a minor league contract with an invite to Big League Spring Training. While this is not a move that will make the Earth move, we can see Sandy Alderson is trying to find any and all opportunities that are left to potentially help the outfield, as he’s publicly said he’s not satisfied with what they’ve done to date.
Since Alderson’s efforts to acquire players like Justin Upton and Wil Myers were unsuccessful this winter, it looks as though he’s now using the same strategy for the outfield that we’ve seen him employ for the bullpen. This “throw it all against the wall and see what sticks” plan isn’t the best plan for the outfield, but it’s all the Mets have to work with now that Spring Training is just eight days away. And don’t worry, if you thought New York signed Byrd with the thought he could possibly win an everyday job in outfield for 2013, he’s not. According to Anthony DiComo, the 35-year-old will be competing for the fifth outifeld spot on the roster with the also newly-acquired Andrew Brown.
May 20, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Marlon Byrd (23) waves to fans prior to playing the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Red Sox defeated the Phillies 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Byrd didn’t have the best season in 2012, as it started with him getting traded from the Cubs to the Red Sox in April, with Chicago eating $6.1 million of his $6.5 million salary. He appeared in 47 games for both teams (153 PAs) and put together a lackluster line of .210/.243/.245 with one homer and nine RBI. To add insult to injury, Byrd was also suspended by the MLB for 50 games for violating their PED policy.
So, why would the Mets even want to try and take a flyer on Byrd (even if it’s only a minor league deal)? Well, he fits the profile of the type of player New York is in need of: he’s a right-handed outfielder that has the potential of providing some power at the plate. Obviously his .245 Slug% in ’12 and .395 mark in ’11 don’t showcase the aforementioned potential, but from ’07-’10, he hit at least 10 homers every year, while sporting an on-base% of at least .324 and a slug% not lower than .429. Those numbers are far from elite, but with a career line of .283/.338/.443 with 30 homers and 67 doubles in 1,087 at-bats against left-handed pitchers, he’s worth a shot, especially with limited options left this winter. Also, he’s shown the ability to put the ball in the air more often against southpaws (37.2%) than right-handers (29.3%) throughout the duration of his career, at least giving the hope it could turn into some homers.
This signing and the deals they’ve agreed to with pitchers like Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins remind me of the movie, Moneyball. There is a scene where Billy Beane is chatting with David Justice, and Beane is saying how he wants to squeeze the last bit of baseball out of him before his career is done. This strategy seems to be what Alderson is doing as he crudely puts together the bullpen and any last minute signings for the outfield. There’s no guarantee these players will be productive all year long, but whatever production New York can get out of them, they’ll take.
Since he couldn’t make any big-time moves to improve the outfield immediately and for the long-run, he’s trying to find under the radar type players that could make this part of the roster stronger than it appears. At least, he’s bringing enough players on board to create quite the competition once camp starts next week. There’s no better way to motivate an athlete than to tell him his spot on a team is not guaranteed, and there are at least three other players vying for the same spot. It helps bringing in a veteran like Byrd to further motivate mostly unproven players like Brown or Collin Cowgill.
It’s not a situation we were hoping for the Mets heading into 2013, but it’s all they’ve got, and I appreciate their efforts to try and make the most of what is left.