Marlon Byrd Doesn’t Need to Save the Giants


The pressure had been put on for the San Francisco Giants to make a deal. Madison Bumgarner pinch-hitting two games in a row forced their hand, showing how weak their bench really is. On Thursday, the Giants completed a deal to bring in a veteran outfielder, Marlon Byrd.

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Cincinnati Reds’ general manager Walt Jocketty seems to be on very friendly terms with the San Francisco front office, as this is the second deal between the two teams in less than a month, after the Mike Leake deal before the non-waiver deadline. In exchange, the Giants sent over Double-A reliever Stephen Johnson. Byrd is still owed about $2 million for the rest of this year, but the Reds also sent along about $1.5 million, leaving a relatively minuscule amount on the Giants’ plate.

Byrd has become a journeyman late in his career, as the Giants will be the almost 38-year-olds’ ninth different team, and his seventh in just four seasons. He’s been traded four times in that span, including the deal to the Giants.

The Giants shouldn’t expect Byrd to be an offensive savior, to put the team on his broad shoulders and lift them out of offensive doldrums. What he can be is a temporary fix to an area of offensive need, bridging the gap between now and when Hunter Pence is ready to retake his rightful spot in the Giants’ lineup.

With the Reds, Byrd wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball. He was slashing .237/.286/.448 with 13 doubles and 42 runs batted in. His average and on-base percentage are below average, but his .448 slugging percentage is better than every Giants’ outfielder, sans Hunter Pence. He started the year slow, hitting .163 over his first 22 games, but bounced back nicely, batting .281 over his next 60 games. He’s hit another slight downturn lately, with a .157 average in his past 14 games.

Byrd brings some pop with him, or as his former teammate (and teammate again, now) Leake says, some “old man strength“. He has hit 19 home runs this year, but has been aided by the hitter’s heaven the Reds play in, the Great American Ball Park. 11 of his 19 longballs have come in Cincinnati. Even still, the eight home runs he has hit on the road is more than any current Giants’ outfielder has overall, and as many as Pence hit in his brief stays in the lineup.

Byrd becomes an offensive upgrade over the Giants’ current backup outfielders, Ryan Lollis and Juan Perez. Lollis has two hits in five career games, and Perez has had incessant struggles with the bat during his three seasons of acutely inconsistent playing time. Byrd also provides an upgrade over Justin Maxwell, who is hitting .200 since May began.

The addition of Byrd makes the Giants’ lineup a little bit deeper, giving the team another bat that can take a pitcher deep every once in a while. In the past three games, the Giants have put out lineups resembling ones used during split-squad games in Spring Training, with Kelby Tomlinson, Perez, Maxwell, and Lollis getting a lot of playing time. Byrd adds more of a power dimension, putting a proven threat in the middle of the order.

This has the potential to become one of the Giants’ typical “under the radar” type of deals that ends up having a big impact on the team, a la Marco Scutaro or Pat Burrell. All three were aging veterans, acquired cheaply to fill a semi-specific role. Burrell and Scutaro became vital pieces to a World Series team. If Byrd can run a similar course, it will further the Giants’ front office’s legend as dealmakers extraordinaire.

Next: Bumgarner Pinch-Hitting Highlights Depth Need