What Are the Mets Doing With Marlon Byrd?

The Mets would "win" a trade for Marlon Byrd -- this cannot be emphasized enough -- if they receive literally anything of value at all in exchange. (USA TODAY Sports)

The Mets would "win" a trade for Marlon Byrd -- this cannot be emphasized enough -- if they receive literally anything of value at all in exchange. (USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Mets, even after beating the Miami Marlins on Monday night, are 12.5 games out of first place in the National League East. They trail the Cincinnati Reds, the NL’s second wild card, by 10.5. And this was not a roster put together with a pennant in mind — even this meager showing is beyond what many believed the Mets were capable of achieving.

So what on earth are they doing with Marlon Byrd?

Byrd, in case you haven’t been following, has put together an amazing season. He’d last topped league average in OPS+ in 2010, and barely, at 105. His career high, 122, came in 2008. And in 2012, he’d managed a paltry 32, then saw his season end early due to a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

So the fact that he’s at a career-best 133 for the Mets this year, at age 35, for a team going nowhere, in a trade market that suffers from a scarcity of right-handed power hitters, would all seem to argue in favor of the Mets dealing him for the best available return.

That’s not how it seems to be going down, though we won’t know if this is just posturing until after 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“One AL club said the Mets told them NY would have to “win” the deal in order to trade Marlon Byrd before Wednesday’s deadline,” ESPN’s Adam Rubin tweeted tonight.

“Industry perception remains that the Mets appear willing to move Byrd. However, one source said that the Mets have not backed off their ‘extremely high’ asking price for the veteran outfielder, whose 17 homers rank ninth in the National League,” Newsday’s Marc Carig wrote this evening.

He’s been great and all, but again: this is Marlon Byrd.

Should the Mets elect to hold onto Byrd, they’d face a pair of options this offseason. They can offer him the qualifying offer necessary to get a compensatory draft pick if a free agent signs elsewhere; last year, that was a one-year deal at slightly more than $13 million. This option would have the Mets bet that much money on Byrd having discovered a completely new performance level at age 35.

The other option: see him enter free agency, and have the same chance to sign him as everyone else.

With these options the only two available, the Mets win a trade for Marlon Byrd, and this cannot be emphasized enough, if they receive anything of value. A bag of balls will have value to the Mets in 2014, unless the price of baseballs somehow plummets. Marlon Byrd will not.

And reports like those above about what the Mets are asking for when receiving calls about Marlon Byrd include the following, not-to-be-ignored tidbit: the Mets are receiving calls about Marlon Byrd. Teams aren’t doing this, hoping the Mets are about to release him. They are doing so with the intent of trading assets, actual players, for Byrd. And this isn’t meant to denigrate Byrd, who has truly remade himself as a player, and forthrightly answered PED-related questions that naturally follow. It just means we know, fairly conclusively, that the Mets can get something for Byrd, while keeping him gives them nothing which can help in 2014 or beyond.

Carig, when I spoke to him via Twitter, said something else interesting. “I think some of it is the idea of making things interesting in the second half. Still need butts in seats.” So the Mets could get a player for 2014 and beyond, but it might cost them a bit of 2013 marginal value. Isn’t this precisely the “ready to invest” moment Jeff Wilpon recently talked about? Will that moment ever come? (Hint: ask JPMorgan Chase.)

Essentially, the argument for keeping Byrd comes down to perception. The Mets seem to think Byrd on the team will give fans the idea that the team is intent upon competing for the rest of this season. But no Mets fan I’ve talked to has gone to Citi Field this season for anything like a 2013 Mets fix. There’s Matt Harvey, there’s David Wright, both with separate displays of individual greatness. And then… there’s anything that can provide hope for 2014 and beyond, because this team sure isn’t one to pin hopes on.

That’s why Zack Wheeler starts matter, not because he looks like he’s ready to throw strikes consistently enough today, but because he might do it tomorrow. That’s why Juan Lagares winning NL Player of the Week mattered, not for that week, but in case it was the first of many such weeks, eventually for a far better Mets ballclub. That’s why the Jeremy Hefner renaissance was so encouraging, and this recent regression so dispiriting, because Hefner is under team control for years to come.

And most Mets fans are sophisticated enough to know that the absolute worst thing the Mets could do for 2014 would be to bet on Marlon Byrd to repeat his 2013. There may not be other outfielders in the organization who are better bets to help the team in 2014 around, either. That’s how Byrd got the chance to play regularly, after all. But anyone younger, anyone under team control, anyone who has even the slightest chance of being on this team next season will give Mets fans over the final two months a chance to dream. Every time Marlon Byrd homers — and he’s done it often this year — all it does is root a Mets fan to the present moment.

And prioritizing Byrd over some help for the future affects perception, all right, just as making a similar choice with an over-performing Scott Hairston at last year’s deadline did: it says that the Mets still aren’t really moving in one direction, trading R.A. Dickey for prospects, signing David Wright, and letting Jose Reyes leave town without getting anything in return.

Get anything for Marlon Byrd, and the Mets are selling high. Put anyone younger than Byrd in right field, and it gives Mets fans a chance to dream. That’s perception and reality.

17 thoughts on “What Are the Mets Doing With Marlon Byrd?

  1. I honestly think the Mets should trade Byrd. I love Byrd, don’t get me wrong. My first game of 2013, Byrd hit a walk-off single and it was awesome. But as history as shown us, last year we didn’t trade harriston and he ended up leaving as a free agent. The problem is that if we re-sign Byrd it will be more of gamble than the first time we signed him. Anyway, trade Byrd to a contending team and I’m sure he will be happy to be there.

    • 100% agreed!!! The Wilpons… enough said!!! I don’t care who the GM is, the point is that the Wilpons have screwed us over and will continue to do so!!!

  2. This is very well written. If I were a Mets fan I would shed a single tear for the fading of that orgastic future.

  3. Pingback: Mets would win ANY trade for Byrd... - NY Sports Day Forums

  4. I am a Mets fan and there’s more depth in the farm system’s pitchers than there has been for decades. The Mets are a few offensive prospects and a veteran power outfielder away from having a very competitive team.

    • You are 100% right!!! We have over ten pitching prospects and most of them can be something. We have Synderguard and Montero to lead so you have to believe that there is going to be a future and then you add on all the guys from different drafts, and even if only one or two of them becomes something special, then we are stocked. Young Jr. is a nice and young, fast player who can actually hit in the lead off spot. Then you take prospects like Nimmo and D’aNaurd and you have a pretty decent team!!! And you add this all to Harvey, Wheeler, Wright and Murphy, and I am surprised that I am saying this, but I think that baseball will soon be associating the Mets with a winning team!!! Let’s go Mets!!!

  5. Nicely written article. The main issue with how the Mets proceed is – Jeff Wilpon. He is the single most negative force within the organization. Here is a list of a few of his highlights and achievements:
    1) Builds a new stadium basically dedicated to the Brooklyn Dodgers with NY Giants colors on the inside. (I’m sorry, it was with Daddy’s money.)
    2) Gets -0- for Reyes; -0- for Hairston; and soon -0- for Byrd.
    3) Hopes Bernie Madoff gets pardoned and can play right field.
    4)Under Jeffy the Mets AAA minor league team is moved to Las Vegas??? A great way to build your North Eastern Major league franchise. (The Wall St. Journal had a recent article about this topic.)
    5) Attendance has now dropped 4 years in a row? But Jeffy, et. al. still charge top dollar.
    6) MLB stepped in and “told” the Mets that they had to take Sandy Alderson.

    Don’t worry sports fans we Mets fans can fall back on the Jets………

    • Lol!!! Nicely spoken!!! I hate the Wilpons!!! They like don’t want this orginization to do well! I love the point you made about moving the Triple A team to Las Vegas!!! How is moving a team with PITCHING PROSPECTS to the worst PITCHERS PARK in baseball going to help? And what happens if they need to call up a guy before a game? Good luck getting him here on a four hour flight with zero warning!!!

    • Besides the cost of transporting players almost from coast to coast between Las Vegas & New York, when it would be much more logical and cost-effective to have an AAA team in Pennsylvania or Connecticut or Virginia, by the time young Mets players get called up to the big club, they’ve already developed habits for gambling, hookers, and going to shows to see washed up singers and standup comedians.

  6. Actually I think the mets have played this perfectly.

    If you have an asset to trade, you do so in a way that maximises value. With Byrd, he is a scarce resource (right handed power outfielder) on a super cheap salary. What he is not, is a renewable asset given his age, and no-one in their right mind will offer him the qualifying offer.

    The value of Byrd is higher than its ever been today and will be highest of all before tomorrow’s deadline. Why? Because Byrd has kept hitting, and with his low salary, there is no chance he will get traded after the waiver deadline. Frankly I think Byrd is someone that another GM “might” overpay on with a prospect because he will cost no salary and there is no second chance of him passing waivers. I’d much rather receive something decent for an asset (particularly where there is the dearth that you cite) than a bag of balls…and keeping him till this point means we actually have a real shot at getting something better than a bag of balls, each second that ticks by the chances of that improve.

    Heck, if we don’t get a trade, the worst that happens is that we get a competent outfielder for the rest of the year that actually has managed to hit in the four/five hole thereby helping David Wright to not swing at everything because he knows there’s someone half-decent behind him, and a veteran that can talk to Lagares while he is on the field. It’s not just going for a few wins, its also creating a stable club helps prospects to evolve, not one that just chucks them in and hopes for the best.

    I get the sentiments – I just happen to think the front office have played our trades much smarter than we give them credit for. Off-season bullpen hires…are another story :)

  7. Despite the fact he is having a very good season, I don’t think Byrd’s trade value is all that high. He got a minor league deal from the Mets at the beginning of the season and made the team. He’s done real well, but I don’t think a large number of teams are looking to add him.

  8. Howard, I know this is your view on Byrd, as it was on Scott Hairston, and you put it well, but I think you overstate the point. According to your analysis, so long as the Mets don’t make the postseason, the value of their playing, say, .500 ball for the rest of the season as opposed to .350 or .400 is zero. Or, at least, no greater than a bag of balls. I disagree. There is value in having them play as well as they can as a team and not roll over the last two months of the season as they did the past two years. And it’s not just about ticket sales, it’s about not ending 2013 with their tails between their legs and having some positive momentum going into 2014. So while I agree that the Mets should be open to trading Byrd if they can get someone who gives promise of being a contributor at the major-league level in 2014, I wouldn’t trade him for a non-prospect. Personally it would irritate me to see Byrd help put another team in the postseason, while the Mets ended up with an organization guy.

  9. Just a general question for the editors at Sports On Earth.

    Why do many stories have two titles.
    Is the title of this story “Sell,Sell, Sell” or “What are the Mets doing with Marlon Byrd?”.
    If you happen to see a title in the index or while you are reading a different story, but you file that title away and say to yourself I’d like to read this other story also when I get a chance – but the story’s title has been changed then you’ll probably never find it.
    For the reader’s and for clarity’s sake please stick to one title.