Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Marlon Byrd

Yah, yah, we know he's not Giancarlo Stanton or Chase Headley. But the Bucs' FO, with their hand forced by a lingering ligament injury to Starling Marte and next-to-zero production from right field, finally pulled the trigger and did get a guy they can plug into the middle of the order in soon-to-be 36 Marlon Byrd.

Some think he's having a outlier year at the plate, but to show some power w/average is not a complete anomaly for Byrd. In 2009, he whacked 20 HR with 89 RBI for Texas while hitting .283 and was an AL All-Star the next season. So his .285 BA, 21 homers and 71 RBI this year could be sustainable for a few more weeks, and that's what the Pirates are banking on happening.

They've been using Russ Martin as their middle-of-the-order righty, and he's misplaced. It's not that Martin's been slacking as his stat line is his best since his Dodger days. But he's a square peg being driven into a round hole. The Yankees used him almost exclusively at the bottom of the order, and his bat should play better from the seven-hole. The Bucs have the opportunity now to plug Byrd into the four-five spot and drop Martin a notch or two, making for a more potent attack all the way around.

Byrd also provides some much needed muscle against lefties. In his career, he's a .290 hitter with an OPS+ of 111 against southpaws, and has been particularly zoned in this year with a .345 average and 134 OPS+. So that' another weakness covered; he, Cutch and Gaby should form an acceptable 3-4-5 presence against LHP.

His splits against righties are pronounced, but bearable. He's hitting .255 with an OPS of .738, and it's easy to envision him as an everyday presence in the lineup. Garrett Jones (.245/.729), Travis Snider (.231/.638), JT (.270/.737) and Alex Presley (.258/.657) all have lower OPS numbers against RHP.  His only comparables versus righties are Tabata, who will be locked into left field until Marte returns to action, and Jones, who will be at first base.

His weakness is one he shares with many of his new teammates - he's whiffed 124 times, and that is an anomaly. Byrd's career K rate is 18%; this season it's 26.7%. And he doesn't draw many walks; never has, with a career rate of 6.4% and a current rate of 5.4%. So he'll contribute his share of unproductive outs.

His glove should play well, making for a seamless OF picket line. His centerfield days are done, but he has a 6.6 UZR/150 in right field, so that will be an upgrade over the usual collection of ham-and-eggers the Pirates have been sending out to play in the shadow of the Clemente Wall.

The big question, of course, is the cost. Pirate fans have to look at this deal from a a previously unvisited perspective: that of a contender trying to fill a hole for a playoff run.

Dilson Herrera may not be a well known name to many but the die-hard fans, but he was a strong second tier prospect, right below the elite guys. The fact that he's 19 and in the Sally League (Low A) means that his future is a crap shoot, but be that as it may, the Pirate system is weaker without him. The key, of course, is to pile up multiple prospects at as many positions as possible, and the Bucs aren't particularly deep at middle infield.

But they have Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer for the here and now and Alen Hansen for the future, along with guys like Jarek Cunningham and Max Moroff, with other players who will ebb and rise. And the point of having prospects is for them to become MLB pieces.

Some, like Cutch, Marte, Pedro, etc are keepers. Others are flipped into the likes of Wandy Rodriguez, AJ Burnett, Vin Mazzaro, Gaby Sanchez and company. As long as the FO keep their short term and long range goals balanced, we have no problem with the cost of the deal; it suits the purposes of both parties (dependent, of course, on the PTBNL).

Marlon Byrd may be a rental, but one that's on time to fill this year's needs.

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