Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Byrd & Buck

The Bucs landed their right handed right fielder today and got a veteran backup catcher to boot when they dealt for Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

The Pirates claimed Byrd, who turns 36 this week, and Buck, 33, from the Mets on revocable waivers. It cost West Virginia Power second baseman Dilson Herrera and a PTBNL. There's no hint as who is on that "to-be-named" list, but GM Neal Huntington told the media that  “New York’s going to get a pretty good second piece." You can be sure of that; the Mets threw money in as part of the deal to make sure they maximized the player return. We're a little surprised the Reds didn't try to block the move; we'll have five weeks to see if that was smart of them or not.

New York, after holding on to their pieces in hopes of a 2013 rally/2014 resurgence, have gone into fire sale mode since Matt Harvey's ligament tear, placing five players on waivers, including Byrd and Buck.

Byrd has a 2013 line of .285/.330/.518, and his 21 homers, 71 RBI and 135 wRC+ (runs created) are both career highs. More importantly, he's mashing lefties at a .345 rate rate season (.255 v RHP) with a .290 lifetime BA vs. LHP. He'll give Clint Hurdle a bat to insert into Russ Martin's mid-order spot, and provide one less square hole to fill in the lineup card. Byrd also provides the flexibility of taking over in left if Jones is flipped into right, an interesting scenario if the Bucs are indeed still sniffing around Justin Morneau. But a bit of caution: He has an outlandish BABIP of .350, and has struck out 124 times with only 25 walks, so...

The former CF'er is targeted for right field in Pittsburgh, and he has a +6.6 UZR/150 at that spot. Pirate right fielders, on the other hand, hit .245/.307/.368 this season with a wRC+ of 89, and Travis Snider is the only RF with a positive UZR/150 at 2.6 - Jones, Tabata, Presley, Harrison and Lambo are all negative fielders.

Also playing into the equation is that Starling Marte isn't expected to swing a bat for at least a couple of more weeks. The need for another outfielder was pretty pressing for the Bucs with the low RF production, JT penciled into left for the short term and a bunch of games with the Cards coming up on the dance card.

Byrd is also owed just $130K for the remainder of the season before he hits free agency, so the pocketbook price is right. The Pirates were thought to have some interest in him in July, so it may be that a preliminary structure was in place for the deal.

Buck started off on fire, but has settled in at .215 with 15 HR and 60 RBI. He's also tossed out 30% of wanna-be base-stealers, so he'll fit in with the Bucs season-long commitment to reining in the running game.  Buck lost his starting job when the Mets called up uber-prospect Travis d'Arnaud to become available and will be a FA after the season, so there's a very good chance that both guys will end up rentals.

They're expected to report tomorrow, and that's when the Bucs are going to have to clear room on the active roster. That puts Felix Pie in the middle of a bulls eye, but with September so close, the second call  could go a couple of ways. The 40-man was cleared by DFA'ing Russ Canzler and doing a paper shuffle to flip Kyle McPherson from the minor league DL to the MLB 60-day DL.

Herrera, 19, is hitting .265 with 11 homers, 56 RBI and 69 runs and 11 stolen bases in the Sally League. He played in the All-Star Futures Game, and was ranked as the  #20 Pirate prospect by Baseball America and 11th by MLB.com.

Herrera projects an above-average hitter and excellent runner whose arm strength limits him to second. He's one of the Bucs top 15 minor-league prospects, and including whoever joins him from the PTBNL list - which may include players from the current MLB roster - represents a fairly hefty rental price. But what it really represents is a commitment: the Pirates FO is finally going all in. The message is clear and loud to both the fans and players - "we've got something special goin', and we're not collapsing, not this time." Let's hope Byrd and the boys have enough pixie dust left to continue the 2013 magic carpet ride.

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