Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hi, Hi, Byrdie

So here's why Marlon Byrd to the Phillies for 2 years and $16M (plus an option year) is a bad signing.

It's not the money. I mean, sure, to you and me $8M a year is a lot of money, but the going rate for decent outfielders, which Byrd might or might not be (depending on whether you view his 2013 season as an outlier or a harbinger of a new skill set), is a little higher than that. So, assuming you're going to get decent production - say a .270 batting average and 25 homers and solid defense - that money's defensible. And it's not like he's blocking anyone. Darrin Ruf's not an everyday guy and plays defense like an Ent. John Mayberry's out the door. The best outfield prospects in the minors are years away, or are not actual prospects. So, since you've got to stick somebody out there, you might as well pay market rate.

It's not the length. I mean, sure, Byrd's in his mid-30s and could fall off a cliff any year now, but two years means that even if he stinks up the joint, you're not locked into him for all that long. If you want to talk dead weight contracts with the Phillies, the line starts at Ryan Howard and stays there for the foreseeable future. This, as your zayde might say, is a pish in the ocean. If the worst happens and he suddenly channels 2013 B.J. Upton, he's still off the books before the next presidential election.

It's not even the guy. Look, there's no way in heck Byrd is going to reproduce what he did this year, retooled swing or not. It's nothing to do with the fact that he got popped for PEDs a couple of years back. On a certain level, the signing even makes for good narrative; he was originally a Phillies signee, and played for the team back before they got, well, good. (In retrospect, this may not be coincidence.) He fought his way back from an injury that nearly took his leg, and by all accounts seems to be a decent human being who will not replicate Dom Brown's mistake and publicly admit to rooting for the Cowboys. 


He's a win-now sign. He's a clear signal to the fan base that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks this team, which had a worse run differential than the Marlins, can contend next year. And so rather than trying to acquire talent that's going to go into the core of the next winning Phillies team, he's patching what he thinks are the holes on this one. The one thing you can guarantee about the Marlon Byrd signing is that the guy has no upside. He will never be better than he is right now, and as time progresses, he's going to get worse. There is no long-term benefit to the move, which means, ultimately, it's not going to make the team better. 

And that means Amaro hasn't taken a good long look at this team and figured out what it is (old, expensive) and what it isn't (in any shape to contend). He's going to keep making the sorts of moves you make to patch a contender, not build one. And that means the actual job of rebuilding, when it comes, is going to take that much longer and be that much harder.

Then again, if Amaro keeps making moves like this, it's going to be the next GM's problem.
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