Byrd flying from Pirates to Philadelphia
ORLANDO, Fla. – Marlon Byrd cashed in on his comeback season.
Byrd and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed Tuesday to a $16 million, two-year contract, a deal that came less than a year after he was playing in Mexico’s winter league.
The 36-year-old outfielder hit a career-high 24 homers last season for the New York Mets and Pittsburgh, which acquired him on Aug. 27. He batted .364 with one homer and five RBIs in six playoff games after hitting .291 during the season with 88 RBIs, one short of his career best.
“Marlon adds a significant upgrade both offensively and defensively to our outfield,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. “He has been particularly productive against left-handed pitching, which was a serious challenge for us this past season.”
Byrd was drafted by the Phillies and began his big league career in Philadelphia. His agreement calls for $8 million in each of the next two seasons and includes an $8 million team option for 2016, The option would become guaranteed if he has 1,100 at-bats in the next two seasons, including at least 550 in 2015, or 600 at-bats in 2015.
“If you don’t want to give up your first-round pick, Marlon Byrd is arguably the best available outfield bat,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “We feared he was out of our price range immediately. We stayed engaged in the process, and Marlon and his agents talked about wanting to come back to Pittsburgh. He loved his time there. The environment and playing for a winner and playing in front of that fan base was something that really intrigued him.”
A career .280 hitter with 106 homers and 533 RBIs, Byrd was released by Boston in June 2012, then given a 50-game suspension 11 days later following a positive test for Tamoxifen, which can reduce side effects of steroid use and increase testosterone. At the time, Byrd said he mistakenly used the medication for a recurrence of a condition that earlier required surgery. He says he did not use it for performance enhancement.
He played winter ball for the Tomateros de Culiacan (Culiacan Tomato Growers) and signed a minor league contract with the Mets on Feb. 1. He wound up on their big league roster for a base salary of $700,000 and earned another $100,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances.
Both the dollars and the years offered by the Phillies were at a level the Pirates were unprepared to match in talks with agents Sam and Seth Levinson.
“The timing really bit us, and Ruben did a great job of going out and getting his guy early – what we did with Russ Martin a year ago,” Huntington said. “We weren’t in a position to be able to move this quickly.”