Marlon Byrd (9) Days Until Cincinnati Reds Report to Spring Training


Although Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in nine days, the focus of the preseason for most team observers will be on the anemic offense that doomed the team in 2014.  Rebounds by Jay Bruce and Joey Votto would fix many of the Reds’ problems at the plates, but it was the abyss in left field that plagued the team throughout last season, and fixing that was general manager Walt Jocketty’s main objective this winter.  To that end, the Reds traded pitching prospect Ben Lively to the Philadelphia Phillies on New Year’s Eve in exchange for Marlon Byrd, Number 9 on our Countdown Team. 

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Byrd, 37, has been the subject of intense interest by the Reds since at least the summer of 2013, when the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired him at the trade deadline from the New York Mets.   Cincinnati was rumored to be in on similar talks at the time, but Byrd signed a lucrative deal with the Phillies after a solid month with the Bucs.  After Philadelphia fell out of contention early in 2014, though, Byrd was back in play as a potential target for the Reds.

The intense interest in a mid-to-late-30s outfielder with middling defensive skills may seem odd until you consider Byrd’s performance in recent seasons, especially in light of the general lack of right-handed power throughout the Major Leagues.  Entering 2013, Byrd’s one-season high for home runs was the 20 he clubbed for the Texas Rangers in 2009.  Splitting his time between New York and Pittsburgh two seasons ago, though, Byrd connected for 24 long balls, and he followed that up with 25 homers for a dreadful 2014 Phillies team.

While Byrd’s OPS+ dropped from 138 in 2013 to 110 in 2014, he upped his playing time to 154 games and logged a whopping 637 plate appearances with the Phils last season.  If he can provide that kind of durability with 20-25 home runs for the Reds in 2015, Byrd will go a long way toward plugging the holes in Cincinnati’s offensive attack and will be well worth his $8 million salary.

Manager Bryan Price will have to be careful with Byrd’s playing time as the season unfolds, though, as the left fielder’s contract has an $8-million option for 2016 that vests once he clears 550 PA.  If the Reds are falling out of contention in August and Byrd is not tearing it up, that contract structure could represent a tricky balancing act.


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