The amount of trade rumors flying around are starting to explode, and the Mariners are involved in a great deal of them. Everyone is focused on a possible deal with the Rays right now, and for good reason -- as Logan explained yesterday, there's a ton of interesting talent -- but in the other league, Marlon Byrd is a name that's heating up.
The #mariners, on the lookout for a RH bat, recently scouted the #phillies Marlon Byrd.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 11, 2014
Salary: $8,000,000 ($8m in 2015, $8m vesting option for 2016 with 550 PA in 2015)
Age: 36 (37 on August 30)
Position: Right field
Offense: Lots of power, lots of strikeouts
Byrd, along with Willingham, represents an easy upgrade for the Mariners roster. The problem is, Byrd has a 4-team no-trade clause that includes Seattle. He's also been outspoken in his desire to not get traded, though if it's an inevitability either way, it's possible he could waive his clause to head to a contender. Seattle is a contender. I am writing these words in all sincerity.
Byrd was a hotly contested signing in the offseason, as the Phillies struck early by inking Byrd to a 2 year, $16 million deal. Byrd was worth 4 WAR in 2013, but his plummeting contact rates caused several pundits to slam the deal as an overpay. But Byrd has essentially ditched contact for power, and it's still kind of working for him. He's striking out a ton, on pace for 188 -- but he's also on pace to hit 32 homers. His wRC+ is 118, he's been completely healthy, and he's on pace for around a 2 win season.
Like Josh Willingham, Byrd doesn't represent a major upgrade for the Mariners, but he also doesn't figure to be expensive. The cost to acquire him might be a little more than Willingham's, given his extra year of control on a contract that looks more bargain than bust, but there's also risk to employ Byrd past 2014 -- especially because there's a vesting option for 2016 if he reaches 550 PA in 2015. There are more details to this (it could be 600 PA), but he already appears likely to hit the first part of the qualifier that forces it down to 550. Easily avoidable if Byrd hits some decline, but still a factor to consider. Ideally, you probably don't want to bank on Byrd doing this again at ages 37-38, even at just $8 million.
Most of Byrd's stats are down across the board from 2014, but the red flags that existed last year haven't progressed to any deeper shades of red. His contact rate is at 72%, low, but exactly where it was the year before. He's swinging at the same amount of pitches too (56%) and his ISO is practically identical to 2013, .220 vs. .221. His average is down 30 points, but his BABIP is down 31 points from an inflated .353 the year before. Byrd has typically carried a high BABIP (.325, career) and he's very close to that mark this year at .324. Essentially, Marlon Byrd is a fairly rock solid bet for the rest of the season -- he's doing exactly what you'd think he would based on his peripherals and history, and there's no indication that he's going to sink or bust loose in any way.
Byrd plays mostly RF where he's an average-ish fielder at this stage in his career, but has some past experience in left and has played plenty of center field through his career. He should be capable of playing either corner. Plugging him into the Mariners lineup would be remarkably simple, just as it would with Josh Willingham. Both players are ideal targets for those who don't want to make a monster move or sell the farm, and it can be done in addition to acquiring another starting pitcher or another upgrade. Byrd might not want to come to Seattle, but once the writing is on the wall near the deadline, we'll see if he has a change of heart.