Why acquiring Marlon Byrd was a sound decision


On Monday afternoon, we came to you with a piece that displayed why the Cincinnati Reds near acquisition of Marlon Byrd would have been a disaster. Three days later, here we sit, telling you why it was in fact, a sound move.

The majority of the fan base grew restless with general manager Walt Jocketty heading into the New Year, as he was yet to make a major splash for the 2015 roster. He traded away two members of the starting rotation for pieces that will unquestionably help down the road, but he seemed to neglect the present. His deal to acquire Byrd on Wednesday afternoon showed that in no way are the Reds rebuilding, but rather, retooling.

After staring down the barrel of not having a true left fielder entering 2015, Walt Jocketty pulled the trigger, shopping off the Reds’ 2014 Minor League Player of the Year in right-handed pitcher Ben Lively. Whether or not Lively pans out is a risk the Reds were willing to take due to a multitude of reasons: A.) He still was only getting steady at Double-A at the conclusion of 2014, B.) He was just one of many highly skilled pitchers in the organization at the moment, and C.) The acquisition of Byrd is one that Jocketty and many close to the team believe can put them over the top.

Left field was mainly a dark and shadowy place in 2014. Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, and more, all combined to make for a glaring hole in the lineup that was just pleading to be plugged. With Heisey being sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Ludwick given his severance package, the club was staring at a potential Schumaker/Lutz/Negron platoon. Instead, they pulled the trigger with the money they had cleared by trading Mat Latos and got the slugging veteran, Marlon Byrd.

Fans desired a player who got on base and didn’t strike out a ton, which is what every fan base is seemingly clamoring for at every position in our post-Moneyball world. Unfortunately, Byrd has regressed exponentially in both of those categories. But what he has done, is rediscovered his ability to slug.

In 2014, Byrd clobbered a career-high 25 home runs. The year before in 2013, he would hit 24 combined shots with the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates (not including the home run he crushed off Johnny Cueto in the Wild Card Game that signified the end of the Reds’ campaign).

Having driven in 88 and 85 runs, respectively, in the past two seasons, Byrd achieved that feat for the first time in his career. Plugging him in towards the tail end of the lineup, anywhere from fifth to seventh it seems, will allow him to keep that trend going with plenty of capable hitters both in front of, and behind him.

A major concern when it came to acquiring Byrd was his contract. He is owed $8 million in 2015 no matter what, and he’ll get that—half of it will be coming from the Reds, and half will be coming from the Phillies. In short, after clearing out Alfredo Simon, Mat Latos, and Jonathan Broxton from the cap in 2015, they only put Byrd on the books for $4 million this upcoming season.

Where things get dicey is for 2016. Byrd will already be turning 38 years old this summer, but should he receive at least 550 plate appearances (which if he is to play everyday, he should easily exceed), an $8 million vesting option will kick in for 2016. The Phillies will not be paying any of that.

Byrd has been, as they like to say, “around the block.” A 13-year veteran of seven different clubs, Byrd is a well-respected veteran within the locker room—something the Redlegs suddenly seem to be chock full of. At his press conference, Walt Jocketty said this deal reminded him of the one they pulled off in which they acquired Scott Rolen.

By bringing in Byrd, the club patched up their one true glaring need. By doing so, they also gave prospects like Jesse Winker time to develop at a reasonable pace. What this means for Donald Lutz is a bit fuzzy, and Kristopher Negron should return to his super-utility role as planned.

After much scheming and hustle, the Redlegs finally have their man. The Byrd is in the building.