Philly Sports Talk

Lost in the Supermarket


We are nearly two weeks into the 2013-14 Free Agency season and it has been tremendously underwhelming to this point.  Absolutely nothing of note has happened.  The inertia of the transaction wire makes the GM Meetings in Orlando look like a flimsy excuse for everybody to go to Florida just as the weather up north gets cold.  Heeyyyyyy … wait a minute!!!
Ok, I shouldn’t say that ‘nothing’ has happened. A series of unknown players and fading veterans have signed minor-league deals tied to spring invites. All of the Disabled List and option exercising housekeeping has been done. But, none of the ‘names’ on the market have been inked.

Unless, of course, you consider the curious case of Marlon Byrd. Byrd was bursting with potential when he broke into the bigs with the Phillies in late 2002. His .303 average and 86 runs scored in 2003 were good enough for 4th place in the Rookie of the Year vote. By 2005, he was dealt to Washington. Eventually, he found his way to Texas, Chicago’s north side and Fenway Park before impotence at the plate and a PED suspension sent him south of the border. Byrd returned from his Mexican exile last year, signing with the New York Mets. At 36, he had the best year of his career. A mid-season trade to Pittsburgh raised his profile as he helped the Bucs return to the postseason for the first time in 21 seasons. It stood to reason that Byrd would cash in on his well-timed career year.

What did not stand to reason was that Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro would look at Byrd’s reported 2013 salary of $700k and come to the conclusion that his only chance of signing Byrd was a 2-year $16m deal with a vesting option for a 3rd $8m year. It’s not as though they were running out to get the top player on the board and wanted to blow all the other suitors out of the water. This is Marlon Byrd we’re talking about!!! When I think about the salary purgatory this team is already in, with cumbersome contracts tied to aging players, it absolutely baffles me that they would run out and blow $8m a year on a guy who they probably could have gotten for $3-4m. More to the point, if you are going to tie up that much scratch in one guy, why wouldn’t you get someone more worthy of it?

This odd move has prompted rumors (or at least rampant wishful thinking) that there is something else in the works. We’ve heard about Dom Brown as the cornerstone of deals that would bring the likes of Mark Trumbo, David Price or Giancarlo Stanton to Citizen’s Bank Park. But, again, these deals would be inconsistent with the fiscal austerity the team has been preaching of late. In the case of Price especially, you would be dealing an everyday outfielder that makes less than $2m for an every fifth day guy who will be in line for a Hamels-like contract AND you would STILL need to replace Brown. At least the Trumbo and Stanton deals address that problem. Though, I can’t imagine the Marlins would have the temerity to further enrage their dwindling fan base by dealing their only power threat to a division rival. I won’t discount the Trumbo thing only because nothing the Angels’ front office does surprises me anymore.
So, we wait and watch the crawl at the bottom of the screen for that first big name to find a new home. Eventually, a stone will be thrown that unleashes the signing avalanche. If not in Orlando this week, then at the Winter Meetings which begin December 9th in the Magic Kingdom. Maybe then we will see the big picture of Amaro’s grand plan.
Until then, it’s Marlon Byrd at $8m a year … and that uneasy feeling that disappointment awaits.