Let me start by saying $16 million guaranteed for a player with a link to PED's who had a career year at age 36 is a ridiculous sum of money and a move that will likely fail. That said, the Marlon Byrd signing was not quite as bad as it appears.
First of all, Marlon Byrd's 2013 season was by no means a complete aberration. His 2013 season was undoubtedly the best of his career with a .291 average, .336 OBP, .511 slugging, .847 OPS, 24 homers, 88 RBI, and 35 doubles. But, as Beerleaguer pointed out, he had plenty of success prior to 2013. From 2007-11, he hit .291/.346/.445 with a .792 OPS and full-season averages of 16 homers and 38 doubles. If Byrd can approach those numbers it would be a serious upgrade.
Secondly, $8 million per year for two guaranteed years is reasonable given the current market in baseball. Hunter Pence hit .267/.325/.483 with an .822 OPS and signed a 5 year/$90 million contract with the Giants. Slightly better numbers overall than Byrd from 2007-11 and worse than Byrd last season yielded Pence $2 million more per season for 3 additional guaranteed years.
Pence was by no means the only recent bloated contract. Pence's teammate Tim Lincecum signed for 2 years/$35 million after posting a 4.76 ERA over the last two seasons. Then there is my favorite, BJ Upton signing for 5 years/$75.25 million last season. As foolish as Ruben looked jumping on Byrd and "setting the market," we may find in the next few months that $16 million for Byrd is a bargain.
Thirdly, the Byrd deal might indicate Ruben is ignoring his instinct to sign another potentially crippling multiyear contract for outfielders like Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Nelson Cruz, or Curtis Granderson. With little room under the luxury tax and $121.5 million in salary obligations for eight players prior to the Byrd signing, the Phillies cannot afford a huge free agent spending spree and still fill their needs for a catcher, two or more starters, and bullpen help. The aforementioned names will also require forfeiting a second round pick, something the Phils can ill afford to toss away.
Phillies right fielders in 2013 ranked 27th in hitting (.243), 25th in OBP (.305), 20th in slugging (.405), and 22nd in OPS (.709), making Byrd an enormous upgrade. Byrd won't put up Jayson Werth numbers, but he upgrades right field significantly at only $8 million per year. Marlon Byrd may not solve all problems, but he gives the Phillies roughly $40 million to play with before reaching the luxury tax.
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