The Phillies may have had some help in turning the page on Wednesday, when an unnamed team claimed outfielder Marlon Byrd on waivers. The Phillies have three real options: trade Byrd to the claiming team, give Byrd to the claiming team for no compensation, or pull Byrd back and keep him on the Phillies for the remainder of the season. I believe that the Phillies should make certain that Marlon Byrd is not on the Phillies anymore.
I have been a huge Marlon Byrd fan since I regularly watched him play in AA Reading 15 years ago. I still have the signed Marlon Byrd Reading Phillies baseball card that he signed for me when I was 17 years old. I was annoyed when the Phillies traded Byrd for Endy Chavez in 2005, and watched Byrd's success with the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs and his rebirth with the New York Mets and Pittsbugh Pirates in 2013. I was also happy that the Phillies signed him, and I even own a # 29 Marlon Byrd jersey.
So, why would I be in favor of the Phillies letting him go?
When the Phillies signed Byrd, it was the last-ditch attempt at putting together a winning season with the old core. If the team's play did not end the notion that the 2014 Phillies were going nowhere quickly, General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. stated as much the other day, indicating that the Phillies had to be ready to take a step back in 2015 and 2016 before they would get better. In other words, there is no point to having Marlon Byrd here.
Byrd is 36 years old. He is signed to $8 million in 2015, and, if he is healthy, will vest an additional $8 million in 2016. If 2015 and 2016 is about taking the step back to put some pieces together fore the future, a 37 year-old and 38 year-old Marlon Byrd does not accomplish that goal. So what would?
Rusney Castillo. The Cuban defector is a right-handed hitting outfielder who could make a significant contribution quickly. The Phillies could clear both salary and a space in the outfield to make room for Castillo in 2015. With the Phillies really short on prospects in their system that could make a near-immediate impact, Castillo would give them one player. And, all he would cost is money.
The Phillies have shown a willingness in the recent past to spend on Cuban players. Their most recent acquisition, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, has the makings of being a valuable bullpen piece. While some think that the $12 million Gonzalez got from the Phillies was a lot, it's only money. The Phillies have it. I would be more concerned if the Phillies traded young talent for Gonzalez. The Phillies are one of the teams who have worked Castillo out. Showing Castillo that they have an outfield spot waiting for him as soon as next year would send the right message to the free agent outfielder who has to make a decision.
What do the Phillies do for the rest of 2014?
This one is easy. For once and for all: play Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf every single day. Either these two guys will help the Phillies in one role or another down the line or they will not. The less they play, the less that question is answered. I would put Brown and his arm in right field, and give Darin Ruf left field. Ben Revere would play center. Grady Sizemore really has no purpose on this team, unless they hope he clears waivers and they can trade him.
How would the Phillies respond to the waiver claim?
If I were Ruben Amaro, Jr., I would pick up the phone and call the claiming team. I would say,
"Congratulations! With your claim, you are going to be the proud owner of Marlon Byrd. Now, do you wish to pay the whole salary and take him off our hands, or would you rather we pay some of that down and you give us a prospect we would like?"
If the Phillies can get something in return to pay down the $8 million next year and possible $8 million in 2016, that would be very beneficial to the Phillies. If the claiming team will not get anything back in return, the money can be put to good use on Castillo.
Marlon, I really am a big fan of your play. I will enjoy watching you in the playoffs for your new team. The Phillies need to turn the page, and this is an opportunity just too good to turn down. Best of luck to you.