|Born: August 30, 1977
Drafted: 10th Round, 306th Overall, 1999 (Phillies)
How Acquired: Trade from Mets (with John Buck for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black)
College: Georgia Perimeter College
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Byrd has had an odd career. He hit consistently well in the minors, for power and average, and had a very good rookie season for the Phillies. He then declined badly and struggled throughout what are normally a hitter’s prime seasons. He finally sorted things out in his age 29 season with Texas, with a big assist from the Rangers’ home park, and had a string of solid seasons before declining over the course of a three-year contract with the Cubs. Seemingly washed up, he bounced back with a big 2013 season after signing as a free agent with the Mets.
Byrd has always had a stocky build, but runs well. He was a prolific base stealer in the low minors, but never ran a great deal once he reached the majors. His defensive metrics have been erratic, but over his time in center with the Cubs he was probably no worse than average, and he was probably above average in right for the Mets. His platoon splits as a hitter have generally been mild: he has a career OPS of .803 against LHPs and .741 against RHPs.
Byrd had a strong debut, hitting for very good power in the New York-Penn League. He played mainly left.
Byrd had a nearly identical season in low A, except he improved his K:BB ratio. He still played mainly left.
The Phillies jumped Byrd up to AA and he had a very similar season to his first two, except that some of his doubles turned into HRs. This time he moved to center.
Byrd continued hitting well in AAA, although some of his HRs turned back into doubles. He got a September callup.
Byrd had a strong rookie season as the Phillies’ center fielder, although he didn’t hit for the kind of power he had in the minors.
Byrd struggled badly, leading the Phillies to send him to AAA in mid-June. He didn’t hit well there, either, then returned to the majors in August and continued to struggle.
The Phillies seemed to lose patience with Byrd very abruptly. He opened the season in AAA, then was called up in early May only to be traded after a few games to the Nationals for career fourth outfielder Endy Chavez. Byrd hit a little better, but not well, for the Nats, and was sent to AAA for most of August.
Byrd more or less platooned in center for the Nationals with Ryan Church for half the season, but hit poorly. The Nats removed him from the 40-man roster in mid-July when they acquired Austin Kearns and sent him to AAA. After the season he became a free agent and signed a one-year, major league contract with Texas.
The Rangers designated Byrd for assignment at the end of spring training and he accepted assignment to AAA. He hit very well there and the Rangers called him up in late May. He ended up playing regularly the rest of the year, moving around amongst all three outfield spots as the Rangers juggled a number of players in their outfield. Byrd got significant help from the hitters’ haven in which the Rangers played, as he had a .916 OPS at home and .715 on the road. Texas signed Byrd to a one-year contract after the season.
Byrd again played more or less regularly, moving around among the three outfield spots. He missed a month early in the season with knee inflammation, but otherwise had about the same season as 2007, except with uncharacteristically good plate discipline. His home road split this time was .911 to .772. The Rangers signed him to another one-year deal after the season.
Byrd was the Rangers’ regular in center. He got on base significantly less than the previous two years, but posted the biggest power numbers of his career up to that point. Again his home park played a big role, as his OPS was .873 at home and .740 on the road. He signed a three-year deal with the Cubs in the off-season.
Byrd was the Cubs’ everyday center fielder. He had a decent year, but saw a dropoff in power and continued mediocre plate discipline.
Byrd continued to decline slowly, mainly due to another decrease in power. He missed about six weeks with a facial fracture.
Byrd started the season back in center for the Cubs, but got off to a brutal start and was sent to Boston a little over two weeks into the season. He didn’t fare as badly in Boston, but he didn’t hit for any power and his plate discipline appeared to be gone, which wouldn’t have endeared him to the Red Sox. They released him in mid-June. To top it off, in late June he was suspended for 50 games for performance enhancing drug use. He remained on the restricted list until late August and didn’t play again in 2012. The Mets signed him to a bargain deal ($700K) after the season.
Byrd won the Mets’ rightfield job and, through late August, was enjoying arguably his best major league season. Certainly he was hitting for the best power of his career, although his plate discipline was well below his career norm, which wasn’t that great to begin with. Byrd’s success came despite the Mets’ home park, which is tough on power: he had an OPS of .712 at home and .975 on the road while with New York. The Mets placed him trade waivers during August and traded him to the Pirates, along with John Buck, late in the month. The Pirates at that point needed help not only due to their struggling offense generally, but due to an injury to Starling Marte. Byrd did what the Pirates hoped, both in September and in the post-season. In fact, after 12 years and 1250 games without a post-season appearance, he homered in his first playoff at-bat.
Byrd will be a free agent after the season and the Pirates have expressed an interest in bringing him back. It could be difficult for them to get him back on acceptable terms. He’s coming off a career year and will probably command a multi-year deal, possibly even three years. Just a year ago, though, he appeared to be washed up. There’s also the fact that Gregory Polanco figures to be ready for the majors as early as the middle of 2014.
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1999
MLB Debut: 9/8/2002
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: November 20, 2001
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 9.115
|June 2, 1999: Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 10th round, 306th overall pick; signed on June 4.
November 20, 2001: Contract purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.
May 14, 2005: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Washington Nationals for Endy Chavez.
July 14, 2006: Designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals and assigned to AAA.
October 31, 2006: Became a free agent.
December 8, 2006: Signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers.
March 31, 2007: Designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers and outrighted to AAA.
May 26, 2007: Called up by the Texas Rangers.
November 5, 2009: Became a free agent.
December 31, 2009: Signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs.
April 21, 2012: Traded by the Chicago Cubs with cash to the Boston Red Sox for Michael Bowden and Hunter Cervenka.
June 12, 2012: Released by the Boston Red Sox.
February 1, 2013: Signed as a free agent with the New York Mets.
August 27, 2013: Traded by the New York Mets with John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.