So the Twitterverse is freaking out. It's somewhat about Marlon Byrd, but fans seem to care more about the dollar amount he received. Here are some samples:
Someone tell me that Byrd's deal is not for 16 million dollars, that is a fireable offense— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) November 12, 2013
Wait...There is literally no way a single person in the world could think giving $16 million, let alone $5 MM to Marlon Byrd makes sense— Mike Prince (@Mike_Prince21) November 12, 2013
Phillies signing Byrd to a $16 million contract is probably the worst signing ever. I thought that guy died like 8 years ago #FireRuben— Quinn Ewen (@ChuckDawg35) November 12, 2013
LOLOLOL Phillies are paying Marlon Byrd $16 million for 2 years? Okay. Good luck with that.— Chelsea (@chelseaadaavid) November 12, 2013
Fans balk about the numbers. But before freaking out, it's important to put these numbers in the context of present-day baseball finances in a year when almost every team is getting a new television deal. That means every player's salary is going up.
But, with Byrd there are a couple things worth noting:
1) Comparable players
2) The alternatives
Who is the closest comparison?
The Byrd contract was almost identical to another player nabbed for PED use in recent years, Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe mentioned Cabrera's name as the most commonly-uttered frame of reference:
The other common response in the lobby of the GM Meetings hotel to the 2-year, $16 million Marlon Byrd deal with Phils was: "Melky Cabrera."— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) November 12, 2013
The difference between the two is that Byrd established himself as productive after completing his suspension. Cabrera signed for that amount immediately as his suspension ended and did not play a post-suspension game before signing that deal. One would think that the renewed Marlon Byrd could be better than the post-suspension Cabrera.
Some have pointed out that Byrd is one positive test away from a 100-game suspension. I doubt Byrd would be that stupid. This is his last contract of significance, and it would be silly to risk losing his last payday by taking PEDs.
If not Byrd, then who?
Nelson Cruz is the most-mentioned right-handed free agent bat that the Phillies would potentially sign. Many sites predicted that Cruz would still command $15 million a year despite a PED suspension last season. MLBtraderumors.com predicts that Cruz would get a three-year deal. I must ask Phillies fans this: would you be happy with a three-year, $45 million contract with Nelson Cruz instead?
Carlos Beltran is another name mentioned for the right-handed corner outfield bat. Beltran's agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a four-year deal. Many, though, believe Beltran would go to the American League where he could serve as a designated hitter in his remaining years. Beltran will probably get three years and $42 million, minimum. Turning 37 in April, would Phillies fans be okay with THAT contract?
No Draft Pick
The Phillies also avoided giving up their second-round draft pick by not signing any players offered a qualifying offer from their outgoing team. It is not the same as long a first round draft pick, but many would prefer to have the talent than not.
The Bottom Line
Television contracts aren't just a Phillies thing. Teams all across baseball are signing new television deals and all major league contracts are going up and up and up and up. The $3 million player will be a $5 million player. The $7 million player is a $10 million player. And so on and so on. In short, I would prefer that the Phillies have Marlon Byrd at $8 million times two over $15 million times three for Nelson Cruz. The Phillies can eat $8 million next year if they need to, much easier to swallow than eating $15 million for 2015 and 2016 for an underperforming Nelson Cruz.
Plus, the Phillies have extra money right now to do other things with the $7 million difference. Let's see what they are before getting upset.