Pirates Land Marlon Byrd, as Upgrade, in 2013

Every baseball season is crazy, and the crazy can never be completely summed up in one sentence. There’s just too much of it, in too many places, and no one wants to read that long of a sentence. But here’s a sentence that captures some of the 2013 crazy to date: on August 27, the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded for Marlon Byrd. Suggested, by that sentence, is that the Pirates are in the playoff hunt, hence their desire to make an upgrade. Suggested, also, by that sentence, is that Marlon Byrd is an upgrade, in this season. It’s been weird. It’s always weird, but it’s been weird.

If you’d like all of the details, Anthony DiComo has many of them. The Pirates are adding Byrd, John Buck, and some cash from the Mets. The Mets are adding Dilson Herrera and a player to be named player from the Pirates. The Pirates recently put Starling Marte on the disabled list, and they recently lost their backup catcher for the season. They’re still in great shape to at least play in the one-game wild-card playoff, and by making this swap in August instead of September, Byrd and Buck will be postseason-roster eligible. It’s easy to understand the Pirates’ motivation, and it’s easy to understand the Mets’ desire to get something young for a month of two veterans.

It’s funny — in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline, there were reports the Mets would have had to be “blown away” to move Byrd. The Pirates placed a few calls, but the Mets defended their decision to hang on to Byrd, saying it was important to them to remain competitive down the stretch, even in a non-competitive year. There is some value in that, to be sure, but it’s minimal, and now the Mets are also without Matt Harvey so certain ships have sailed. It always made sense for Byrd to get moved, because he’s old and Marlon Byrd. The Mets got what they could.

It’s hard to fight off the immediate skepticism, because the Byrd story doesn’t make a lot of sense. It would’ve made some sense for Byrd to have this season a year ago. A year ago, Byrd reported to camp in spectacular shape, having changed his diet and taken up Muay Thai. Then he hit an empty .210 for two teams and got suspended for a performance-enhancing drug. This past spring, a 35-year-old Byrd said he’d probably retire if he didn’t make the Mets’ roster out of camp. Byrd looked like a guy with little left to give, like a guy on his last legs, then, miraculously, he produced. Even now, if you think “Marlon Byrd,” you don’t think “stretch-run contributor.” It’s easy to assume this whole thing has been a mirage.

But here are the facts: right now, Byrd ranks tied for 12th among major-league outfielders in WAR, around names like Hunter Pence and Shin-Soo Choo. He ranks tied for tenth in isolated slugging percentage, equal to Chris Carter. A glance at Byrd’s page at the ESPN Home Run Tracker shows that it’s not like he’s been hitting a lot of cheapies. He’s already hit six home runs at least 430 feet, and on the Golden Sledgehammer list, he’s between Mark Trumbo and Giancarlo Stanton. Marlon Byrd has been a power hitter. If you get past the fact that he’s Marlon Byrd, with Marlon Byrd’s background, there’s a lot to like in his statistical profile.

Earlier in August, Terry Collins suggested that Byrd “may be completely out of gas.” Would’ve made sense for an aging player. In his last 14 games, Byrd’s slugged .633. He’s not out of gas yet. Look at his FanGraphs page and you can see a lot of changes. This year, his strikeouts are up and his groundballs are down. His swing rate is up, and his contact is down. It all paints the picture of a guy who’s decided to swing harder, to swing for the fences, and Byrd’s been successful in that regard. He whiffs and he doesn’t walk so much, but he hits for enough power to make himself a worthwhile asset.

So at the price, Byrd is a good get for the Pirates. He fills an immediate need with Marte sidelined, and even when Marte’s back, then the Pirates can shuffle around with a host of options. It’s fine to be skeptical of Byrd’s ability, but at the end of the day, the Pirates traded for an outfielder with Shin-Soo Choo’s WAR, and they didn’t lose much. It’s a limited-downside roll of the dice.

Buck, basically, replaces Tony Sanchez, who replaced Michael McKenry. For the Pirates, he can serve as a power-hitting veteran, and for the Mets, including Buck should bring them some savings. Buck isn’t going to get on base and he hasn’t been shown to be much of a framer, but Russell Martin is the primary guy and he’ll get the lion’s share of the workload. Buck will just be a reliable presence, and he’s clearly not the reason the Pirates swung this trade.

As for Dilson Herrera, the Mets didn’t get nothing. We’ll see about the player to be named later, as well, but Herrera is a 19-year-old second baseman who’s held his own this year in full-season Single-A ball. He’s never ranked in Baseball America’s top 10 Pirates prospects, but last February Marc Hulet ranked him 12th. From that profile:

The middle infielder generates surprising pop for his size, and that included 25 extra base hits in 60 short-season contests last season. The 19-year-old Colombian needs to tighten up his approach at the plate, including pitch recognition, if he’s going to hit for average as he moves up the ladder.

In the field, Herrera has a below average arm but has good actions and average-or-better range thanks to solid foot speed. He’s played third base, shortstop and second base in his young career but profiles best at the keystone. He should move up to full-season ball in 2013.

Herrera, this year, has shown that there’s still progress for him to make with regard to his approach, but his power is real, and remarkable for a player his age. In short, he’s not a non-prospect, so the Mets didn’t give Byrd away for nothing.

The Pirates are a half-game back of the Cardinals in the National League Central. Their odds look good for at least advancing beyond the regular season, but there’s real value in skipping the one-game playoff, and Byrd could help down the stretch as the littlest thing could turn out to be the biggest thing. Marlon Byrd is an upgrade. At this point in the year, there’s only so much one team and one player can do, but on Tuesday the Pirates got better, and the transaction itself captures some of just how 2013 has been another wild season.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Dave
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Dave

As a Mets’ fan, I am unimpressed with the haul, but not disappointed, if that makes sense. I am pleased that they made the trade at all though, as without Harvey, Mejia and Hefner and with Wright at least a week away, this team has a legit chance at a top 5 draft pick next June, which of course would be protected should they actually sign a free agent worth a tinkers’ dam this off-season. If the PTBNL ends up being worth anything, I’ll call this trade a win for the Mets.

LaLoosh
Guest
LaLoosh

tough crowd. the Mets get someone’s top 10 prospect for 1 month of 2 players and it’s not impressive? Herrera could easily end up the Mets regular 2Bman from 2015 – 2020! As of now he’ll easily be a Mets top ten prospect.

za
Guest
za

Easily Top 15. Maybe Top 10. I like his defense so far.

FeslenR
Guest
FeslenR

Really? Were you expecting Luis Heredia or James Taillon ?

Byrd is having a career year, and Buck is Buck. If anyone expected Sandy and Co. to take anything more than they got from them is crazy.

I call this haul pretty good for two very old players.

Dave
Guest
Dave

I’m mostly disappointed with how far away the kid is and that he’s 2B and not SS where we need more help. If Herrera was the haul for Byrd alone, that would be a nice haul. For both guys, I want the PTBNL to be worth something also.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter

Are you implying that Buck has legit trade value?

FeslenR
Guest
FeslenR

huh…okay….

I guess you’ve forgotten Billy Wagner trade by Omar Minaya where he literally got nothing for him? A “prospect” by definition is “years away and young.”

Dave
Guest
Dave

As a run producer, Buck has negative value. For a major league team trying to make the playoffs who just lost their second catcher, he would seem to have some value.

As long as the Mets PTBNL isn’t named John Buck, the way they did back in the ’62 with Harry Chiti (and lost both times)…

Ballfan
Guest
Ballfan

that happened to John MacDonald once

traded for a PTBNL and he turned out to be that player

Spraying Mantis
Guest
Spraying Mantis

John Buck has little value to the Pirates. The only area in which he’s better than Tony Sanchez is not being a rookie, I’d say.

Zen Madman
Guest

I think you’re undervaluing Buck, which is hard to do. He’s roughly a league-average catcher. That’s a strong backup. Martin will obviously get the lionshare of the starts, but what if he gets hurt? Replacing him with an average catcher is a lot better than a rookie, not to mention – who would the backup catcher be if Martin got hurt?

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd

Based on what the White Sox got for 1.5 years of the much younger Alex Rios to a team with a more pressing need in RF, I don’t know what you expected.

Matty Groves
Guest
Matty Groves

Dave I’m going to be real honest with you buddy, you’re coming across as a real huge cunt.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps

Really? In this last three comments? Where?

Scraps
Guest
Scraps

Why did this post merit -18 (so far)? He was just arguing about a trade, and if he’s wrong, he wasn’t a jerk or something. Enlighten me?

Greg
Guest
Greg

It’s an internet circlejerk/hive mind. Don’t worry about it.

Zen Madman
Guest

Once a post receives a single + or -, it’s more likely to receive more of the same. I read about this on commentgraphs.com

ConfusedAndDefeated
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ConfusedAndDefeated

I actually looked up commentgraphs.com ::Sigh::

dovif
Guest
dovif

This trade is a win for the Mets no matter what happens, they gave away 2 guys for 2 month, who would not be with the team the next year, and they got an ok prospect. While the prospect might never amount to anything, there is still lots of value in that

Dave
Guest
Dave

to some degree I agree with this. Last year the Mets had a chance to trade Scott Hairston and get SOMETHING back for him and his career year. This year, with Harvey, Mejia and Hefner all hitting the DL and with trading Byrd and Buck, the Mets have a chance at a top 5-7 draft pick next June, much more valuable than possibly finishing 3rd in the East. If Herrera turns out to be a solid 2B, that’s nice. All I’m saying is I’d rather they’d have tried to get a similar value player at a position they’re not already settled at for the next few years. If they’d have gotten an OF or a pitcher, I’d be more pleased.

I read a rumor that the PTBNL is Vic Black. That would be a huge win for the Mets, and I’d suggest I’d have been reasonably happy with only Vic Black.

I’m still foolishly optimistic that the Mets can contend next year, with or without Harvey. Black helps them do that. Herrera doesn’t. Again, not saying I’m disappointed with Herrera, just not saying it’s a clear win. He may or may not be worth something to the big league club, though the potential worth is better than riding out the season with the veterans.

Sounds like PTBNL, whether Black or someone else, will be worth something. And yes, I hope Byrd and Buck help the Pirates win the World Series this year. Next year is the Mets’ turn!

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter

” I’d rather they’d have tried to get a similar value player at a position they’re not already settled at for the next few years.”

Isn’t he a 2B? If so, who are you assuming is their 2B for the next several years? It’s not like they have a stud 2B that will block Herrera if he develops into a good player 3 years from now.

Murphy’s an adequate player, but he’s not someone that’s cemented into the 2016 line-up. And who knows if Flores will be their 2B in a few years.

Spraying Mantis
Guest
Spraying Mantis

You’re going to have to stop being a Mets fan for one second and realize how bad John Buck is. I really don’t know what you expected here.

Zen Madman
Guest

I think Herrera is a clear win, but I’d RATHER have a SS, yeah. I’m sure Sandy tried to get a better, more advanced prospect at a position of greater need. I’m also sure no one wanted to give it to him. Adding Black to the mix, this trade is a huge win. I think it’s okay for PIT, too, but a clear win for the Mets.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar

I gave Dave a plus, not because this was an especially good comment, but to counteract the undeserved flaming. I don’t see what got everybody so riled up about in this comment.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

No one’s “riled up,” but it is very, very silly to complain about getting a decent prospect for a month of Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

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