Sep 26, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd (3) scores a run in the sixth and is congratulated as he heads back to the dugout in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Braves 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
With the New Year dawning, and after having already weakened their starting pitching stock by trading Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos, the Cincinnati Reds today made a deal that they should have made five months ago. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Reds have traded pitching prospect Ben Lively to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Marlon Byrd. This is a move that the Reds will likely come to regret, and here are the top three reasons why that’s true.
Marlon Byrd Is Not a Good Fit for The Reds … in 2015
Byrd would have been a great pick-up at the deadline this past summer, when a good bat could have kept the Reds in the running. Now, though, he is 37 years old and, in the last five years, has played just two games in left field, where the Reds need him. It’s also very likely that age will sap his playing time after 154 games in the field in 2014.
And, while Rosenthal reports that the Phillies will send money to the Reds to help cover Byrd’s salary, it’s unknown how his 2016 option will play out. If Byrd gives the Reds anything close to what they’re hoping for in 2015, then the 550 plate appearances necessary for his $8-million salary to vest should be cake.
It could be a very expensive dessert for a team that can’t really afford it.
Ben Lively Could Have Been Part of the Reds’ Future Rotation
Lively is just 22 years old and has moved well through the Reds’ system, ending 2014 at Double-A Pensacola. As noted by Charlie Wilmoth at MLBTradeRumors.com, Lively is a top-10 Reds prospect and has a large repertoire of solid pitches that allows him to strike out a lot of hitters and maintain good control. All indications are that he was headed toward the Reds’ rotation within a year or two, and he should have been part of the next Cincinnati team that might legitimately contend, toward the end of the 2010s.
Instead, by the time 2020 rolls around, Lively will be pitching for the Phillies — or some other team — and Byrd will be watching games from his rocking chair.
The Reds Won’t Contend in 2015
With Latos and Simon gone, the Reds need Johnny Cueto to continue performing like Cy Young, Homer Bailey to bounce back from injury to be better than he’s ever been and at least two more starters to step up if they hope to come close to the starting pitching numbers the rotation put up in 2014. Those starters were the main reason that the Reds even sniffed contention beyond June 1, so, if Cincinnati is to contend in 2015, then they’ll need significant improvement from the offense, as well.
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That means Marlon Byrd will need to continue his late-thirties magic, Joey Votto will have to be completely healthy and productive, Brandon Phillips will need to return to health and turn back the clock, Jay Bruce will need to reverse his slide from last year and Billy Hamilton will have to improve on a rookie season that held much promise but dissolved in the final third of the schedule.
Whew! Those are a ton of conditions for a team to fulfill in order to contend, and that does not even take into account a division that continues to improve. The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs all look better than the Reds right now, and the Milwaukee Brewers are in the ballpark.
The Reds should be building, not selling off prospects.
It will be interesting to see how the Reds come out of the gate in 2015, because it’s make-or-break for this group. In reality, they’re likely already broken, and adding Marlon Byrd now won’t fix them.