Phillies sign Marlon Byrd… but why?
By Ryan Gillman
According to multiple reports, the Philadelphia Phillies have signed outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal worth a total of $16 million, with an $8 million vesting option for a third year (the option vests if Byrd has either 600 plate appearances in 2015 or 550 plate appearances in 2015 and a total of 1100 plate appearances in 2014 and 2015). Byrd had the best season of his career last year, posting a .291 average, 24 homeruns, and 88 RBI with the Mets and the Pirates. This was a huge comeback from Byrd’s miserable 2012 season, in which he was mired by injury, overall poor play, and a 50-game PED suspension. The Phillies are desperately in need of some outfield help, as their outfielders collectively posted a -1.6 WAR last season, dead last in the MLB. While the Phillies do need to improve their outfield, the Byrd signing makes no sense whatsoever.
The time for the Phillies to spend is most certainly not now. At nearly $160 million, the Phillies payroll was the third largest in the MLB, behind only the Yankees and the Dodgers. Yet, the Phillies were still terrible; they finished 73-89, the 8th worst record in the MLB. The year prior, they finished at exactly .500, which was a huge disappointment given their lofty payroll and high-profile players. Clearly, the Phillies are moving in the wrong direction. Signing a 36-year-old outfielder who’s good, but not exactly a superstar isn’t going to change any of that. With already over $120 million committed to their payroll next year (and that’s not even including arbitration and renewable contracts), it just doesn’t make any sense for the Phillies to commit $8 million to an aging outfielder with an inconsistent track record.
Beyond the payroll, the Phillies roster is not set to compete any time soon. Their best player, Chase Utley, will be 35 next season and has had some injury problems of late, with his 131 games played in 2013 being the most he’s played since 2009. Jimmy Rollins will also be 35 and, quite frankly, is not that good anymore. Their best pitcher, Cliff Lee, is still spectacular, but at age 35, it is unknown how much longer he will be able to keep it up. They have no real group of young talent, save for Domonic Brown and Cole Hamels, who at 27 and 30, respectively, can’t be considered “young” for much longer.
It is clear that the Phillies need to rebuild, but apparently general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. didn’t get the memo. Instead of decreasing the Phillies’ payroll, Amaro is adding to it in the form of a 36-year-old outfielder who is far from a guarantee to repeat his success from last season.
Ryan Gillman is a native Long Islander. He is a long-suffering Mets, Jets, Islanders, and Knicks fan. You can follow him on twitter at @ryangillman