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15

March 2012

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COMMENTS

Marlon Byrd: Center Fielder of the Present, but for how Long?

Written by , Posted in General

Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry made a lot of mistakes in the free agent market.  But one smart move he made was signing center fielder Marlon Byrd to a three year, $15 million contract prior to the 2010 season.  According to Baseball-Reference, Byrd has been worth 4.2 WAR since joining the Cubs, and FanGraphs likes him even better at 6.4 WAR.  Using the standard $5 million per one win above replacement that has been the effective rate over the last two seasons, Byrd has been an extreme bargain who has already provided somewhere between $20 million and $30 million in value to the Cubs.

But why is Byrd so valuable?  He is essentially a league average hitter.  But he is a league average hitter who plays average to above average defense at a premiere defensive position while being paid like a platoon corner outfielder.  That is a good player to have.

The projections all think Byrd will put up a triple slash in the vicinity of .275/.325/.415, which is essentially his line from last year with a little more power.  This should place him as an almost exactly league average hitter, and I have no reason to disagree with these projections.

The real question with Byrd, however, is how long will he be a Cub?  Brett Jackson is the future in center fielding, and, depending on who you ask, is somewhere between the best and third best prospect in the Cubs’ system.  He is a consensus Top 100 prospect, with Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein both placing him in their Top 50.

Despite many Cub fans itching to see Jackson since early last season, he could clearly benefit from more time in AAA.  Players who strike out 30% of the time in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League tend to struggle mightily when they hit the Majors. Keeping Jackson in the minors until the middle of the season would also help the Cubs gain another year of Major League service time on Jackson and avoid Super 2 arbitration status, potentially saving the team millions of dollars in the long run.

Unless the Cubs surprisingly contend this season, Byrd is likely end up on the trading block midseason to open up the center field spot for Jackson and to try and get some value in return for Byrd.  But what can the Cubs expect in return for the veteran center fielder?  After all, when a veteran is on the market fans often seem to expect Top 10 organizational prospects in return.

Cub fans should temper expectations.  While Byrd is a nice piece, he is not a star and will not bring back elite prospects.  I would set baseline expectations for a return for Byrd at a package similar to the prospects the Cubs received in return for Sean Marshall.  Note that I said just the prospects, so that does not include Travis Wood.  But two C to C+ level prospects would be a fair return for Byrd. Just as a guideline, that level of prospect is generally either someone who is close to the Majors but with limited upside (back of the rotation starter, middle reliever, platoon player or bench player), or someone who is farther away from the Majors with real upside.  If the Cubs could get more for Byrd, that would be great.  But no one should expect more.

For however long Byrd stays with the Cubs, fans should enjoy watching him play.  Byrd may not be a star, but he’s a full effort player who clearly loves playing the game.  That does not make him more valuable, but it is fun to watch him sprint around the bases after hitting a home run.

  • Gymjok

    My guess is a .312 avg. this year.

    • Noah_I

      I’d be thrilled if he hit .312, but very surprised.  He’s only been able to post averages over .300 twice in his career, with a high of .307.  And he required .360+ BABIPs to do that.

      • Buddy

        I’ll eat my keyboard if Byrd hits .312. And even if he does, his on-base percentage will be under .350. 

  • Gymjok

    My guess is a .312 avg. this year.

    • Noah_I

      I’d be thrilled if he hit .312, but very surprised.  He’s only been able to post averages over .300 twice in his career, with a high of .307.  And he required .360+ BABIPs to do that.

      • Buddy

        I’ll eat my keyboard if Byrd hits .312. And even if he does, his on-base percentage will be under .350. 

  • Mark P.

    Byrd is a nice supplementary piece–may get luck and flip him midseason to a team with no production in center field–Indians, Brewers??

  • Mark P.

    Byrd is a nice supplementary piece–may get luck and flip him midseason to a team with no production in center field–Indians, Brewers??

  • cap’n obvious

    Byrd’s association with Victor Conte and his vehement loyalty to the guy and his ‘workouts,” has me constantly considering who will take his place during the inevitable 50 game suspension. 

  • cap’n obvious

    Byrd’s association with Victor Conte and his vehement loyalty to the guy and his ‘workouts,” has me constantly considering who will take his place during the inevitable 50 game suspension. 

    • Joe Aiello

      If you see him this spring, he’s so much thinner. He looks like he’s lost 40 lbs.

  • Eddie Von White

     “he’s a full effort player who clearly loves playing the game.  That does not make him more valuable,”
    —  In my eyes that does make him more valuable.

  • Eddie Von White

     “he’s a full effort player who clearly loves playing the game.  That does not make him more valuable,”
    —  In my eyes that does make him more valuable.

  • BLPCB

    Byrd is the word!
    Regarding Super-2 status, does that mean the player hits free agency a year earlier, or does it mean he gets 4 arbitration years instead of 3?

    • Noah_I

      Four arb years.  Here’s essentially the deal: If he comes up after mid-July or so (I don’t know the likely date range with the new CBA off hand), he’ll be under team control and not eligible for arbitration until after the 2015 season, and then will be a free agent after the 2017 season.  If he comes up after early June (again, don’t know likely date range off hand), he’ll be eligible for arbitration after 2014, and have 4 years of arbitration before becoming a free agent until after 2017.  If he starts the season with the Cubs or comes up in the first month or so, he’ll hit arb after 2014 and be a free agent after 2016.

  • AC0000000

    Byrd is the word!
    Regarding Super-2 status, does that mean the player hits free agency a year earlier, or does it mean he gets 4 arbitration years instead of 3?

    • Noah_I

      Four arb years.  Here’s essentially the deal: If he comes up after mid-July or so (I don’t know the likely date range with the new CBA off hand), he’ll be under team control and not eligible for arbitration until after the 2015 season, and then will be a free agent after the 2017 season.  If he comes up after early June (again, don’t know likely date range off hand), he’ll be eligible for arbitration after 2014, and have 4 years of arbitration before becoming a free agent until after 2017.  If he starts the season with the Cubs or comes up in the first month or so, he’ll hit arb after 2014 and be a free agent after 2016.

  • Doc Raker

    I agree with Eddie Von White- full effort is more valuable. I like Marlon Byrd but he is another player that will be shopped at the trade deadline regardless of if Brett Jackson is ready. Byrd is not in the long term plans and therefore will be a player to trade for more prospects.

  • Norm Bothwell

    So let’s play hypothetical:

    Marlon Byrd: 285/340/420, 10 hr’s
    CF with the hustle of Alfonso Soriano: same exact stats/performance…

    By “more valuable” would you guys pay more for Byrd than you would the CF with the hustle of Alfonso Soriano?

    • Noah_I

      I’m just not particularly concerned if fans find a player who hustles more valuable.  Not because it’s not a valid opinion, but just because I don’t think teams look at it much aside from being concerned if a player is a malcontent or not.  If teams cared about that more, there would have been a lot more competition to sign Byrd heading into 2010. 

      I’d put it this way: if you had two guys who played the same position whose production you could accurately predict, and you knew Player A was going to put up a triple slash of .285/.335/.450 and play average defense and Player B was going to put up a .295/.350/.465 and play above average defense.  Player A is a great clubhouse presence who is really known for his hustle.  He runs out the play every time he puts the ball in play, doesn’t stare at home runs, etc.  Player B isn’t a negative influence, but is a neutral in the clubhouse.  He will sometimes not run out routine grounders or pop ups, and will occasionally sit and stare at his homers.  Who do you take?  I take Player B every day and twice on Sunday.

      • Doc Raker

        If player A hustles and player B doesn’t hustle I will say that player A plays better defense. I have never seen a ball player who doesn’t hustle play better defense than one that does. So your whole hypothetical isn’t realistic. Also, player B isn’t a non hustler the way I define it because he sometimes doesn’t run out routine grounders. A non hustler is someone who turns triples into doubles, doubles into singles and doesn’t get to balls on defense that he should get to.

      • BLPCB

        Don’t you mean turns doubles into triples and singles into doubles?

      • Doc Raker

        No-  a guy who doesn’t hustle turns triples into doubles and doubles into singles.

      • BLPCB

        Oh you mean on offense. I thought you were talking about defense

      • AC0000000

        Don’t you mean turns doubles into triples and singles into doubles?

      • Doc Raker

        No-  a guy who doesn’t hustle turns triples into doubles and doubles into singles.

      • AC0000000

        Oh you mean on offense. I thought you were talking about defense

      • Norm Bothwell

        Andruw Jones wasn’t much for hustling and is much better than the hustler Marlon Byrd.

      • Noah_I

        That was the guy I was going to use!  Andruw Jones in his prime was the best defensive CF since Willie Mays, and was well known for general laziness.

      • Mrbig

        Lifetime batting stats of Jones and Byrd

        Andruw Jones- 256/339/488

        Marlon Byrd- 281/339/420

      • Noah_I

        First, 68 points of slugging is a ton.  Also, Jones was a high early peak/quick decline guy whose career numbers have dropped massively over the past 5 seasons after having a first 10 seasons that are going to put him in the Hall of Fame.  If you take Jones’ peak, which is from 1998 to 2006, he averaged a .270/.343/.513 while playing historically good defense.  If you take Byrd’s peak, which has been over the past 5 years, he’s at .291/.346/.445 while playing average to slightly above average defense.  Jones’ peak just lasted much longer and the extreme power from such a good defensive CF is rare.

        I’d say this, though: Jones’ laziness was probably the biggest factor in his inability to keep his weight down that led to him being a platoon corner outfielder/DH by the time he was 30.  If I had to take one of Byrd or Jones for 2012, I’d take Byrd every day and twice on Sunday.

      • Doc Raker

        I will contend Jones laziness got worse as he got fatter, i.e. he wasn’t that lazy when he was throwing up good numbers. Bobby Cox had to stick his foot up Jones fanny to get him to hustle and in the end he underperformed on his contract as Noah pointed out, a DH corner fielder by the time he was 30. Jones value declined drastically because he lost his hustle, similar to losing ones mojo.

      • Eddie Von White

         Jones will be in the Hall of Fame?

      • Noah_I

        A lot of people have forgotten how great Jones’ peak was and how long it lasted because he’s been such a disappointment over the past several years.  But his peak was very long for MLB standards (about 9 seasons) and incredibly high. 

        This is a guy who, for nearly a decade, was the second best defensive center fielder ever, and he has 420 career home runs.  

      • Eddie Von White

         Oh.

      • Noah_I

        A lot of people have forgotten how great Jones’ peak was and how long it lasted because he’s been such a disappointment over the past several years.  But his peak was very long for MLB standards (about 9 seasons) and incredibly high. 

        This is a guy who, for nearly a decade, was the second best defensive center fielder ever, and he has 420 career home runs.  

      • Buddy

        Agreed. And Yonder Alonso hustles his butt off every time he screws up a play in LF. It’s not an effort problem with him. He just sucks at OF defense. 

      • Norm Bothwell

        Andruw Jones wasn’t much for hustling and is much better than the hustler Marlon Byrd.

      • Noah_I

        That was the guy I was going to use!  Andruw Jones in his prime was the best defensive CF since Willie Mays, and was well known for general laziness.

      • Mrbig

        Lifetime batting stats of Jones and Byrd

        Andruw Jones- 256/339/488

        Marlon Byrd- 281/339/420

      • Noah_I

        First, 68 points of slugging is a ton.  Also, Jones was a high early peak/quick decline guy whose career numbers have dropped massively over the past 5 seasons after having a first 10 seasons that are going to put him in the Hall of Fame.  If you take Jones’ peak, which is from 1998 to 2006, he averaged a .270/.343/.513 while playing historically good defense.  If you take Byrd’s peak, which has been over the past 5 years, he’s at .291/.346/.445 while playing average to slightly above average defense.  Jones’ peak just lasted much longer and the extreme power from such a good defensive CF is rare.

        I’d say this, though: Jones’ laziness was probably the biggest factor in his inability to keep his weight down that led to him being a platoon corner outfielder/DH by the time he was 30.  If I had to take one of Byrd or Jones for 2012, I’d take Byrd every day and twice on Sunday.

      • Doc Raker

        I will contend Jones laziness got worse as he got fatter, i.e. he wasn’t that lazy when he was throwing up good numbers. Bobby Cox had to stick his foot up Jones fanny to get him to hustle and in the end he underperformed on his contract as Noah pointed out, a DH corner fielder by the time he was 30. Jones value declined drastically because he lost his hustle, similar to losing ones mojo.

      • Buddy

        Agreed. And Yonder Alonso hustles his butt off every time he screws up a play in LF. It’s not an effort problem with him. He just sucks at OF defense. 

  • Norm Bothwell

    So let’s play hypothetical:

    Marlon Byrd: 285/340/420, 10 hr’s
    CF with the hustle of Alfonso Soriano: same exact stats/performance…

    By “more valuable” would you guys pay more for Byrd than you would the CF with the hustle of Alfonso Soriano?

  • Doc Raker

    Are you asking if we would want a CF with the lack of hustle Soriano provides? Not sure I understand your question. Simply put numbers are not everything, given similar numbers I will take the guy that hustles. I wouldn’t pay the hustler more, I just wouldn’t sign the non hustler. Hustle is contagious, the energy can spread and make others better. How do you measure that?

    • Eddie Von White

      Value comes in the total package, not just statistics – as Doc pointed out. I think a non-hustler can breed discontent with the rest of the team as that person carries an attitude that says to his teammates: “I’m so good I don’t have to hustle” or something similar, which translates to me, a ticket purchasing fan: “Screw you. I’m so good I don’t have to give you your money’s worth.” That’s why they get booed when they under-perform, but the guy who hustles on every play doesn’t (usually).

      I understand superstars will get the big contracts regardless of my opinion, but that doesn’t change my opinion. 

    • Eddie Von White

      Value comes in the total package, not just statistics – as Doc pointed out. I think a non-hustler can breed discontent with the rest of the team as that person carries an attitude that says to his teammates: “I’m so good I don’t have to hustle” or something similar, which translates to me, a ticket purchasing fan: “Screw you. I’m so good I don’t have to give you your money’s worth.” That’s why they get booed when they under-perform, but the guy who hustles on every play doesn’t (usually).

      I understand superstars will get the big contracts regardless of my opinion, but that doesn’t change my opinion. 

  • Lizzie

    Norm, I’d pay more for the hustler. I understand that with the exact same numbers he’s not bringing any additional wins/runs/etc. to the team. But as Doc said he might encourage someone else to hustle, someone whose hustle actually does make a difference in his overall numbers maybe. Or maybe not. But I certainly don’t want lazy guys as their leaders. Especially lazy guys that still play a lot.

    • Norm Bothwell

      That’s what I was getting at Lizzie, thanks.
      Now my 2nd question would be, what if the non-hustler put up BETTER numbers. Would you still prefer Byrd because he’s a hustler, or would you take the better player that lacks of hustle?

      And I think you answer that already below…

      • Lizzie

        Right, Norm, then I’m ok with the non-hustler. (Wishing always that he’d somehow discover a better work ethic!) I really only think the chemistry, hustle, great guy, nice to his Mama thing applies when everything else is equal. When everything else isn’t equal, I want to win games!!

        Sorry my stuff is being misplaced. Disqus is not a friend of the iDevice.

      • flyslinger2

        Agree on Idevice integration w/ Disqus. It’s like the girlfriend you don’t wanna tell your wife about from HS days. She had the right stuff but it didn’t always work perfectly-the wife that is!

      • Seymour Butts

        Hey there is basketball on tv this am, what gives.
        Would have been nice if somebody had organized a bracket to fill out, you know, just for fun.
        If only I had known.

      • Lizzie

         Boy we suck.

    • Joe Aiello

      So you’re a Hustler girl over Playboy?

      • Lizzie

        Nothing to see here, move along.

  • Norm, I’d pay more for the hustler. I understand that with the exact same numbers he’s not bringing any additional wins/runs/etc. to the team. But as Doc said he might encourage someone else to hustle, someone whose hustle actually does make a difference in his overall numbers maybe. Or maybe not. But I certainly don’t want lazy guys as their leaders. Especially lazy guys that still play a lot.

    • Norm Bothwell

      That’s what I was getting at Lizzie, thanks.
      Now my 2nd question would be, what if the non-hustler put up BETTER numbers. Would you still prefer Byrd because he’s a hustler, or would you take the better player that lacks of hustle?

      And I think you answer that already below…

      • Right, Norm, then I’m ok with the non-hustler. (Wishing always that he’d somehow discover a better work ethic!) I really only think the chemistry, hustle, great guy, nice to his Mama thing applies when everything else is equal. When everything else isn’t equal, I want to win games!!

        Sorry my stuff is being misplaced. Disqus is not a friend of the iDevice.

      • flyslinger2

        Agree on Idevice integration w/ Disqus. It’s like the girlfriend you don’t wanna tell your wife about from HS days. She had the right stuff but it didn’t always work perfectly-the wife that is!

      • Seymour Butts

        Hey there is basketball on tv this am, what gives.
        Would have been nice if somebody had organized a bracket to fill out, you know, just for fun.
        If only I had known.

      •  Boy we suck.

    • Joe Aiello

      So you’re a Hustler girl over Playboy?

      • Nothing to see here, move along.

  • Lizzie

    Noah I’d take player B here too, in your example. But our player B doesn’t play good defense. LOL

    • Doc Raker

      Exactly Lizzie- players that hustle play better defense in general.

    • Doc Raker

      Exactly Lizzie- players that hustle play better defense in general.

  • flyslinger2

    I’m an A. What few less percentage points he doesn’t muster for his triple slash he creates in PMA for the rest of the team. That would carry over into BIG numbers.

  • Doc Raker

    Byrd’s HWAR (Hustle Wins Above Replacement) was 4.3. Soriano’s HWAR is -8.4.

  • SVAZCUB

    I have a feeling Byrd is going to have a very good April/May.  He knows he had a bad year last year and is in his contract year, and he worked his butt off in the off season.  He hears the footsteps behind him, too.  This should help the Cubs because he’ll have that much more value.  But…with the new CBA not giving teams compensation picks, his trade value goes down a bit.  I think we’ll take as much value as we can for him, which means it’ll be someone in A ball.

    • Doc Raker

      Someone in A ball with a 10.4 HWAR!

  • SVAZCUB

    I have a feeling Byrd is going to have a very good April/May.  He knows he had a bad year last year and is in his contract year, and he worked his butt off in the off season.  He hears the footsteps behind him, too.  This should help the Cubs because he’ll have that much more value.  But…with the new CBA not giving teams compensation picks, his trade value goes down a bit.  I think we’ll take as much value as we can for him, which means it’ll be someone in A ball.

    • Doc Raker

      Someone in A ball with a 10.4 HWAR!