The Obligatory Eric Byrnes Post

Dave · January 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

On Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks designated Eric Byrnes for assignment, essentially announcing that he will be released – and that they will eat the remaining $11 million owed on the last year of his deal – if no one trades for him in the next week. Byrnes was a local hero in the desert when the D’Backs gave him a 3 year, $30 million extension after the 2007 season, but that went about as well as the Carlos Silva deal did here. He stopped hitting, got hurt a lot, and has given Arizona 500 plate appearances with below replacement level production over the first two years of the deal. Given that he turns 34 in a month and that the club has other options in the outfield, this isn’t a very surprising move.

Since it was announced, I’ve had roughly half the city of Seattle ask me if he’d be a good fit for the last spot on the roster. So, by popular demand, here’s the post on Byrnes as a possibility for the M’s.

In a lot of ways, he makes sense. We’ve talked about how the team needs a right-handed hitting left fielder to fill out the roster, a guy who can preferably hit a bit and defend the position adequately while being willing to share time with Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley. Given that the team is working on a budget and would like to avoid blocking Michael Saunders off completely, they’d ideally like to find a guy who won’t cost much to acquire – they don’t want to have to get into a scenario where they’re trying to figure out if the new guy is a sunk cost in May if Saunders is tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma.

On those points – cheap, right-handed, guy with some upside who might hit and can play the field – Brynes fits. In a lot of ways, he’s like Bill Hall, only if his good year had been more recent and his bad years more easily explained by injury. We saw that the M’s were willing to pick up part of a bad contract to give a guy with a track record of success another shot with Hall, and Byrnes would basically be the same thing, just with a higher likelihood of success. They’re actually similar players, except Byrnes makes contact about twice as often. Depending on if his hamstrings ever recover, he’s a better defender and base runner as well.

But that’s the big hang-up. We’ve talked about this with regards to why the organization shied away from Russ Branyan, but the Milton Bradley acquisition gave the team three aging, injury prone players in Bradley, Wilson, and Griffey. You can only have so many guys on the roster that you can’t count on being healthy. With an expected four man bench, one of those belonging to Junior, you have limited options if a couple of people come up lame on the same day. If the M’s were to add Byrnes, they’d have to be comfortable with the fact that there would be days when he, Bradley, and Jr were all day-to-day, forcing you into a situation where your bench consisted of the back-up catcher and you just weren’t going to make any substitutions.

Given the potential reward (Byrnes was a +4 win player the last time he was healthy, and ran off three seasons of +3 wins or more in a four year span from 2004 to 2007) and the expected low cost of acquisition, perhaps that’s a risk worth taking. It shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but it’s certainly a big part of the discussion.

The other part is how they would go about getting him. Based on his public comments about wanting to play for the Giants (he lives in SF), the M’s would probably have to trade for him before Arizona released him. Once the D’backs set him free, the M’s have no leverage. Players released under contract are paid their full salary by their old team, minus whatever salary the new team is paying if they get employed elsewhere. So, the Mariners could offer Byrnes $9 million a year, but it wouldn’t matter, because he’d still get $11 million – he’d just get most of it from Seattle instead of Arizona, but his overall paycheck wouldn’t change. That’s why these guys always sign for the league minimum – there is no financial incentive for the player to receive any more than that from their new employer.

Since the M’s can’t outbid the Giants (or any other interested team), then they’d be left hoping he chose to come here voluntarily. That wouldn’t happen unless both Bay Area teams told him that they had no interest, and then you’re hoping that the other California teams don’t make an offer, that he’s not spooked by Safeco, that he likes rain… there’s just a ton of things working against the Mariners signing him as a free agent.

So, if they want him, they have to trade for him. And that means they have to give Arizona a reason to deny Byrnes his freedom. They’re not going to do that without a real asset coming back – probably something like the $1 million plus in cash the M’s agreed to cover in the Hall trade. The M’s won’t get him from Arizona for the league minimum or anything even all that close to it. They’d have to make it worth the D’backs while to deal him to Seattle.

And that brings up the cost question, naturally. How much are you willing to pay for 300 to 400 plate appearances and the chance that Byrnes returns to form? I’d pay $1 million, personally, but not a whole lot more. He’s got some upside, but the injury concern is real and he’s not getting any younger. As a stop-gap role player, he could help the team, but it’s not a big enough role to give a significant portion of the budget to Arizona.

If they can get Byrnes on basically the same deal as they got Hall (picking up $1.35 million of his contract, giving Arizona almost $1 million in salary relief), I’d be in favor of the pickup. He’s a better bet than a guy like Fernando Tatis, or at least the upside is higher. But if the price isn’t right, walk away and let him try to revive his career in San Francisco.

Comments

32 Responses to “The Obligatory Eric Byrnes Post”

  1. bumkus on January 17th, 2010 10:25 pm

    I’d leave it alone. Byrnes is just not that exciting.

  2. Drew on January 17th, 2010 10:32 pm

    Don’t even touch it. Aside from his injuries, being 34, and coming from the national league, off the field, he annoys the living hell out of me.

  3. Techno_Viking- on January 17th, 2010 10:34 pm

    I agree on that level but it’s not only that he’s not exciting, but it’s already so improbable we can get him, and risky on the pay-off that I say pass. We could probably do better.

  4. Dave on January 17th, 2010 10:59 pm

    I don’t think you can do better. I may have undersold this in the post – Byrnes was a really good player from 2004 to 2007, sort of like an outfield version of Adrian Beltre. His 2007 season was legitimately tremendous – 59 extra base hits, 57 walks, 50 steals in 57 attempts, and a +9.3 UZR while playing all three outfield spots.

    That’s a hell of a player. Yes, it was three years ago. No, he’s not going to do that again. But if healthy, don’t undersell the broad base of skills he has. Contact + power at the plate, great base running, good defender – there’s a lot of upside there.

    The risks are real, and I won’t blame the M’s for passing if they decide he’s not the right fit, but let’s not pretend that he’s some scrub and that these types of players are laying around.

  5. vertigoman on January 17th, 2010 11:14 pm

    Cool to hear that Byrnes has an endorsement from DC, even if it’s not ringing in our ears.
    I am confused about the money you’d be wiling to pay however.
    If you wouldn’t go more than 1.35 million and he’s a better bet than Tatis, are you saying that Tatis is only worth somewhere between league min and 1.35 mil per?
    how bout throwing in someone on the 40 since we’d have to lose a player to add Byrnes anyways?
    Olson?

  6. Dave on January 17th, 2010 11:17 pm

    Yeah, I’m not giving Tatis much more than $1 million.

    If you’re tossing a guy from the 40 man, it’s Gaby Hernandez. If the D’Backs want him, they can have him.

  7. Liam on January 17th, 2010 11:31 pm

    How does Hall + FA 1B compare to Byrnes + Kotchman?

  8. henryv on January 17th, 2010 11:47 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but this whole off-season has driven me nuts. Not in a bad way, just in a “what the hell is going on?” way. It’s like I’m sure we’re going the right way, I just don’t know why I’m so sure.

    But maybe Eric Byrnes can replace Griffey as the official team “tickler”, since he is a good “clubhouse guy”, and unlike Griffey, he could probably run to first in less than a lunar cycle.

    It also kinda feels like they’re throwing together a 85 win team, and seeing if they can get lucky and win 92 and hope the Angels have a bad year…

    I don’t know, I’m going to go back to my sake.

  9. Slurve on January 17th, 2010 11:51 pm

    Take that Lookout Landing.

    I like Rocco Baldelli a bit more than Byrnes as the RH platoon member. Righty who can mash lefties while playing good defense however the health concerns are there and having quite a bit of guys with questionable health is going bite you in the butt down the road.

  10. DaveValleDrinkNight on January 18th, 2010 2:41 am

    OF’s with injury histories are always looking to DH. That position with the M’s is filled.

    I say give Saunders enough AB’s to see how good he is.

    Sticking with Saunders part-time is a limited risk/high up-side move. Plus that, a cheaper move.

  11. dingbatman on January 18th, 2010 4:14 am

    Perhaps Seattle would appeal to Arizona simply to keep Byrnes out of the NL West (assuming he does indeed have interest in the Giants). If he returns to form the potential for embarrassment would be greatly reduced if he were neatly tucked away in Seattle rather than trotting out and taking his cuts in all those inter-division games.

  12. thehemogoblin on January 18th, 2010 4:18 am

    @dingbatman

    Or, maybe they think Byrnes is in fact irreparably broken, so having him end up on the Giants would be a good thing for them.

    Also, where do you put the emphasis in your name? Are you Ding Batman, or Dingbat Man?

  13. dingbatman on January 18th, 2010 4:46 am

    @thehemogoblin

    I guess that’s possible…seems unlikely. Arizona would be wagering that harm Byrnes would do to the Giants (if he signs with them) would be of greater value the the (theoretical) $1,000,000 in salary relief plus a throw away player the M’s would offer. Even if the Giants pay minimum that’s still roughly a $600000 wager. Chump change for a big league club to be sure but still.

    Dingbatman was a character on the old JP Patches kids show up here in Washington about 40 years ago. It’s most assuredly Dingbat Man.

  14. obtb555 on January 18th, 2010 9:37 am

    I’ve got to disagree with this one. Not only is Byrnes past his prime, he’s a punk. Bringing him on with MB already on board seems disastrous to me.

  15. coasty141 on January 18th, 2010 9:46 am

    I’d sell on the idea of Byrnes and go after someone with a little more positional flexibility. On top of Bradley, Junior, and Wilson being good bets to miss significant time, Figgins played in only 115 games in 07 and 116 in 08. We might end up needing another player that can hold down an infield position.

  16. captain obvious on January 18th, 2010 10:14 am

    When I read posts that detail flexibility in the roster, I view them as a problem of what is apparently the holy grail of roster construction….the new fangled commandment that you must carry 12 pitchers on the roster. I remember a time in the 1980′s when Sparky Anderson had only eight pitchers on his roster. This is a 50% increase over those years.

    I just don’t get it………

  17. valley on January 18th, 2010 10:23 am

    @DaveValleDrinkNight

    I think some guys with injury histories are looking to DH, but I doubt Byrnesy is one of them. He has more fun dirtying his jersey than just about anyone in baseball. When he says his ideal location is SF, not Oakland, it makes me think he still wants to field and thinks he can.

    The guy isn’t going to save your season and he does take some real frustrating at-bats, but when healthy, he’s a real fun player to watch.

  18. firecap81 on January 18th, 2010 10:46 am

    Is someone going to sign Rick Ankiel this year? Is it just because of his agent that people are shying away from him, or is he done?

  19. gerrythek on January 18th, 2010 10:47 am

    I like Byrnes, not for roster flexibility, but for financial flexibility. It would still leave the team with some money to spend for a mid-season pickup. This is important because we really don’t know, despite Z’s moves, whether or not the Ms can seriously contend this year.

    We may look around in July and realize we’re one player away and will need some money to go out and get that guy.

  20. TumwaterMike on January 18th, 2010 10:47 am

    When I read posts that detail flexibility in the roster, I view them as a problem of what is apparently the holy grail of roster construction….the new fangled commandment that you must carry 12 pitchers on the roster. I remember a time in the 1980’s when Sparky Anderson had only eight pitchers on his roster. This is a 50% increase over those years.

    I just don’t get it………

    Why do we need 5 man rotations. I’d be happy with a 10 man pitching staff like a few years ago. That’s when you expected all your starters to go 180-200 innings. Now if you get 160 out of your 3,4, and 5 pitchers you;re happy. Why accpet this? Lets go to 4 starters and expect them to go at least 6 or 7 innings each outing and don’t worry about pitch count.

  21. TumwaterMike on January 18th, 2010 10:52 am

    BTW, I think Byrnes would be a good fit and maybe could be had for someone like James McOwen. He really doesn’t have a future in Seattle.

  22. juneau_fan on January 18th, 2010 12:05 pm

    For completely non-playing reason, I beg you, no.

    I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that the moment Byrnes’ playing career is over, his smug mug is going to be on ESPN and Baseball Tonight for the rest of my natural life. While playing for the A’s, he was on the Giants’ radio station with his own show, and I thought he also got on national ESPN radio when he moved to the Diamondbacks.

    So I’m envisioning him pushing his way on camera after every game in Seattle, and I’ll have to look at that ‘Yeah, I’m hung-over, what about it?’ smirk and listen to his fratboy drawl on a near daily basis.

    On a more rational front, I don’t believe he’ll stay healthy to be productive. He’s one of those ‘let me dive for this ball so I get on Web Gems,’ guys. Though that may lead to some funny Ichiro WTF-Face reaction shots.

  23. scott19 on January 18th, 2010 1:23 pm

    Well to look at it from the “glass-half-full” perspective, even if Byrnes was still hurt and had a suckworthy year, at least he’d be able to fill in once in a while on FSN — what with his impressive broadcasting “skills” and all. :)

  24. joser on January 18th, 2010 1:53 pm

    Lets go to 4 starters and expect them to go at least 6 or 7 innings each outing and don’t worry about pitch count.

    Dusty Baker, is that you?

  25. scott19 on January 18th, 2010 3:28 pm

    Dusty Baker, is that you?

    Yeah…except, of course, for the one time that he (arguably) should have let his starter at least try to get out of an inning…

    Namely, Russ Ortiz in Game 6 of the ’02 WS.

  26. captain obvious on January 18th, 2010 3:55 pm

    Heck, I was thinking Earl Weaver in the book he wrote in the 80′s “Weaver on Strategy”. Weaver said that a four man rotation is better than a five man rotation because you are giving 20% of your starts to a guy who isn’t as good as your other four.

    Twelve pitchers are just way too much overkill. Five starters and seven relievers….good grief.

  27. daqmajor on January 18th, 2010 8:28 pm

    While I think Byrnes would be a solid acquisition, there are just too many questions about him. If we acquired Byrnes, we would fulfill our outfield depth, but we leave Jack Hannahan to cover four infield positions. With this in mind, I think someone like Ty Wiggington, who can play 1B, 2B, 3B(albeit poorly, but that would be left to Hannahan), and LF would offer more depth at multiple positions.

  28. Buhnerboy on January 18th, 2010 9:30 pm

    [off-topic]

  29. daqmajor on January 18th, 2010 9:31 pm

    [off-topic]

  30. Breadbaker on January 18th, 2010 9:44 pm

    This is probably the last anyone will think about Eric Byrnes if the rumor about Felix is correct, but let me just suggest that anytime Griffey is “day to day” he should immediately be put on the DL. He can tickle from there.

  31. nathaniel dawson on January 19th, 2010 1:54 pm

    Is someone going to sign Rick Ankiel this year? Is it just because of his agent that people are shying away from him, or is he done?

    We could use another good lefty out of the pen. I’d take a chance on him.

  32. Mousse on January 20th, 2010 1:37 pm

    The D’backs released Byrnes today.

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