San Francisco Giants: What To Do with Marlon Byrd


Earlier this season in August, the San Francisco Giants completed a trade with the Cincinnati Reds to bring in outfielder Marlon Byrd to fill the void left by Hunter Pence‘s third disabled list stint of the season. With Byrd, the Giants also got a weird contract situation.

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Before the 2014 season, Byrd signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. With that, there was a team option for a third year at $8 million, that would vest under special circumstances. If Byrd reached 600 plate appearances in 2015, or reached a combined 1,100 plate appearances over the lifespan of the contract, with at least 550 plate appearances coming in 2015, that option would vest and become guaranteed for that $8 million.

That sounds confusing, but the most important thing to know is that Byrd reached 637 PA in 2014, leaving him needing 463 PA this year to reach that 1,100 mark. He’s already achieved that, as he has accumulated 490 PA in 120 games between Cincinnati and San Francisco. But he still needs to reach that magical 550 PA in 2015 mark to vest that option, which he is dangerously close to doing.

When the Giants picked up Byrd, he had made 388 PA with the Reds, leaving him needing 162 to reach 550. In 24 games since being acquired, he has totaled 102 PA with the orange and black. He is only 60 PA shy of having his option vest, and with 17 games left to play this year, he would have to average just 3.53 plate appearances per game for the rest of the year to reach 550. He has averaged 4.25 per game since coming over, so at that rate, he will assuredly obtain the number needed to guarantee his option.

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Byrd’s contract situation creates an interesting dilemma for the Giants. $8 million seems like a lot for a 38-year-old outfielder, but Byrd has played so extremely well since joining the Giants that they simply can’t sit him to avoid having his option vest. Byrd has been the Giants’ best run-producer since his first game on August 21st, as he has totaled 12 extra-base hits and 24 RBI in 24 games. Buster Posey and Brandon Belt‘s eight extra-base hits and Matt Duffy‘s 12 RBI are the next closest totals. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy isn’t one for waving the white flag by sitting a presence in the middle of the order when healthy.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Giants were to be stuck with Byrd for another year. While $8 million is not cheap, other free agent outfielders figure to get double, some likely triple that amount. The Giants won’t have to spend that exorbitant amount of money for an outfielder, and will instead be able to spend that cash on a much more pressing need: starting pitching. Upgrading the rotation, by re-signing Mike Leake and adding another front-of-the-rotation starter like Jordan Zimmermann, is the team’s number one priority.

If Byrd were to be brought back, he would likely take over as the almost everyday left fielder. With a completely healthy lineup, complete with Pence, Joe Panik, and Brandon Crawford, his offensive role wouldn’t be so prominent. Although Bochy does typically shift his lineups around somewhat, Byrd would likely hit seventh, or possibly even eighth, when the team is at full strength. Even at 38 years of age, Byrd’s old man strength would make him a dangerous hitter at the backend of a lineup.

Byrd’s option vesting could also affect Nori Aoki‘s future. Aoki also has a team option for 2016, but his will not vest into the mutual option it would have if he reached 550 plate appearances. Aoki’s option is worth $5.5 million, and if picked up, the two of them would create a $13.5 million left field platoon. While that is still cheaper than looking outside for an impact left fielder, the Giants may also think it better to spend part of that pot on the pitching issue.

The question ultimately becomes, are the Giants comfortable with Byrd’s option vesting, and having him be the (mostly) everyday left fielder next season? We’re going to find out over the next few weeks, but there hasn’t been any indication recently that the Giants plan to sit Byrd.

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