Yes, Eric Byrnes is a left field option

Gaudin, Logan file for arbitration
A-Rod sought out Gaborik for reassurance about hip surgery

Just last night I used this space to make a case for the Yankees potentially acquiring Conor Jackson, and now I’m going to write about another Diamondbacks’ outfielder, Eric Byrnes. Arizona designated the fan favorite for assignment yesterday, signaling the end of one of the most ill-advised contract extensions in recent memory. The deal was so absurd at the time it was signed that it almost had to be ordered from ownership, who was probably trying to use Byrnes’ popularity to keep fans around following the team’s recent run of futility.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear right now. I am in no way advocating a trade for Byrnes, nor am I saying the Yankees should claim him on waivers as part of the DFA process. There is one, just one scenario in which the Yankees should look at Byrnes, and that’s if the D-Backs’ are unable to trade him within the ten day window, he clears waivers, and they release him. That’s the only way, period. In that case, Arizona would be on the hook for Byrnes’ entire $11M salary in 2010, less the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum, which is what whatever team signs him would have to pay. That’s it, that’s the only way the Yankees should even think about bringing Byrnes aboard.

So why should the Yanks even have interest in Byrnes in the first place? Well because they’re looking for a righty hitting outfielder for under $2M, and Byrnes fits both criteria. He’s been limited to just 482 plate appearances over the last two seasons because of hamstring issues and a broken hand suffered on a hit by pitch, during which time he hit just .218-.271-.382. Certainly it’s nothing to get excited about, and any team that picks him up would be banking on Byrnes returning to his pre-2008 levels, when he was moderately productive.

Prior to the injuries and extension, Byrnes was a .268-.330-.452 hitter in his five full seasons, good for a perfectly average OPS+ of 100. However, he excels at hitting lefties, posting a .284-.354-.511 batting line against them during his career, and the small sample size data from 2008 and 2009 actually drags those numbers down a bit. Byrnes isn’t going to walk a ton (236 unintentional walks in 3,170 career plate appearances) but he won’t strikeout a ton either (16.7% of his plate appearances have ended with strike three), and in general we know what he is. He’s at best a league average offensive performer, perhaps less now as the hand injury and hammy trouble has presumably slowed him down.

Defensively, Byrnes has been superb in left and center fields throughout his career, posting +5.6 and +11.1 UZR/150’s, respectively. Jeff Zimmerman’s age-adjusted UZR projections have him at +5 and +4 UZR in those spots next year, though the Fan’s Scouting Report isn’t as kind. You probably already know that Byrnes is a complete nut job, and will run into pretty much anything on the field to make a play. For the sake of argument, let’s assume he’s now slightly below average defensively in left following the leg issues.

On the bases, Byrnes been an extremely successful basestealer, swiping 128 bags in 151 attempts (84.8% success rate, which is amazing). Baseball Prospectus’ stats say he’s been worth just about 4.5 runs on the bases over the last four years in non-SB baserunning situations, which is very good. Again, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Byrnes is just a league average baserunner now because of the injuries, however remember that running from bag-to-bag has more to with instincts that just raw speed.

So, after all that, we’re saying that Byrnes is a bit below average both offensively and defensively, and just about average on the bases. That’s basically a one win player, which has a lot of value at the league minimum. If Byrnes were to rebound somewhat, he might even be a bit of steal since the D-Backs are footing the bill. He’d be a fan favorite, and give the Yanks a bit of insurance in case Brett Gardner and/or Jamie Hoffmann poop the bed in Spring Training. And the best part of all is that there’s zero strings attached. The Yanks could sign Byrnes, give him a nice long look in camp, and if they don’t like what they see, they can cut him loose with zero consequences. There’s no risk at all, and frankly I don’t see why anyone would be against bringing Byrnes about under those circumstances.

Photo Credit: Chris Park, AP

Gaudin, Logan file for arbitration
A-Rod sought out Gaborik for reassurance about hip surgery
  • Hughesus Cristo

    I endorse. Would be a great option at 4th OF.

    • Joe B.

      Except we already have a 4th OF. Two of them, even.

      • whozat

        …except that we probably know what Byrnes is: a 1 WAR player. Gardner, and especially Hoffmann, could easily turn out to be replacement-level or below.

        Byres is lower risk. At the right price, he’d be perfect.

        • RalphieD

          defense and baserunner alone gardner is a 1 win player at the bareeeeee minimum

          • RalphieD


          • whozat

            Not necessarily. I firmly believe he’s good defensively, but people tend to extrapolate from his defensive SSS in the bigs and believe it’s valid to say “well, he had X WAR in 60 games (or whatever) so he’d CLEARLY be worth Y over 150 games!”

            It’s not valid to assume that. And, frankly, he COULD turn out to be enough of a nightmare with the bat that he’d get benched. We don’t know. And Hoffmann is a totally unknown quantity.

            Having Eric Byrnes in camp as another option at <.5MM can only help. At WORST, he's a guy who we can be pretty confident will be average on D and will hit lefties pretty well.

            • Salty Buggah

              While I agree with you that Byrnes is better bet, I don’t think it’s likely that Gardy becomes worse than at least 1 win player.

              • The Three Amigos

                Agreed, but if he was really only in for a platoon against tough lefties it would probably limit his injuries and make him and gardner a valuable tandem in LF. Speed, Defense, and pray for a league average bat.

  • Angel


  • Crazy Eyes Killa

    He should only be considered after everyone we’ve already talked about on RAB which is a lot of people, meaning Byrnes is not in play…ateast I hope not

  • DP

    What a sneaky way to keep your “Left Field Closing Argument” promise.

    • Slugger27


  • pete luciano

    Eric Byrnes is washed up, period, no way.

    • Drew

      I don’t see why you’d be so against signing a guy who has a career OPS of 857 against lefties, at the major league minimum.

      • Salty Buggah

        Yea, no harm in that whatsoever. Like not even a single bad thing in signing him. It’s a no risk/high reward situation.

  • Jack

    Sounds good to me.

  • Baseballnation

    I don’t endorse this.

  • RKelly39

    Eh … Baldelli is a much more interesting gamble, IMO

    • ledavidisrael


  • ledavidisrael

    What about Brian Giles he was way above average for ages. If he could play left field against RHP. He could really rake esp in YSII.

    He would provide back up for RF and DH.

    Also with Byrnes your banking on him rebounding from two horrible seasons. With giles, he was fantastic two years ago.

    • Angelo

      854 OPS in 2008…higher than I thought. But that was a bit high compared to the couple of years prior when he posted .777 OPS’s in both seasons. Aging outfielder/DH come off a bad year. I’d take my chances with someone else. He is also a below average defender at this point in his career…Cant believe he was a 4.0 WAR player as recent as 2008.

      Im going to bet against Giles having a productive season.

      But I guess I kind of see your logic. Just remember the guy isnt young anymore. He’s only getting older..

      • ledavidisrael

        Johnny Damon Career ISO .150
        Yankee Stadium 2 ISO .207
        previous career high .197

        Hideki Matsui Career ISO .191
        Yankee stadium 2 ISO .235
        previous career high .224

        Brian Giles Career ISO .212
        Career High ISO .324!!
        Yankee Stadium 2 iso ???

        Now while Giles is obviously no longer the same power hitter he was when he was in his prime.

        Even if we take his petco ISO numbers (exclusing last year) giles looks to have similar power as Damon.

        Sounds like a calculated risk to me. It wouldn’t take a tremendous miracle for Giles 2010 in ys to outslug 2009 matsui or damon. That is just my opinion. And for the record id taking his batting eye and glove over both Damon and Matsui’s.

        • Keanu Reeves

          Not to be a jerk or anything…but this isn’t the second version of Yankee Stadium. We’ve moved onto the third edition.

          Just sayin’.

    • Doug

      they’re looking for a righty bat, not lefty. however, if you want a lefty bench player, just it to miranda.

  • Angelo

    I like the risk because their basically is none. If Byrnes comes back healthy, who knows, he might be worth more than 1 win for the bare major league minimum.

    Very low risk for the chance of a high reward..Why not take the chance.

    Baldelli is a nice bet as well and Connor Jackson would be great, but that would require a trade, but I would give away Gaudin and McAllister for him. Its not like McAllister is anything special, not bad but certainly not special.

    Time will tell all. Hopefully the Yanks pick up somebody for insurance.

  • Doug

    Byrnes is certainly worth the gamble if he clears waivers and can be signed for the league minimum. Really no-risk, only reward.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Budget’s suck. This cheapness at the end is like having a brand new Bentley but using 83 octane gas in it so you can save some money. Come on Hal, let Ca$h Money Trillionaire but the good stuff in the tank.

    • pete

      i disagree. budgets (especially when they’re as big as the yanks’) force you to make intelligent maneuvers and consider multiple aspects of every move. I think they make the offseason all the more intriguing, to be honest

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        F#$% intrigue.

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  • Steve B.

    Mike, stop wasting your time and our time with these ridiculous LF options…just sign Reed Johnson for a 4th OF, who can play all OF positions. He’s a gamer. He can play defense well and he can hit LHP well….Then sign Jerry Hairston Jr. as our super sub.

    DONE !!..bring on pitchers and catchers.

    • Mater of all Trades

      When did Mike become the GM? He is just giving us the options that MAY be out there.

    • A.D.

      He’s a gamer

      Ohhh, well not its settled.

      • Zack

        gamer >> grit ??

  • Januz

    I still think that in the end, Johnny Damon will be the left fielder (Boras and the Yankees are playing games over him (Rumors over the Tigers being interested in Damon, or Jerry Hairston jr being signed as an alternative, are examples of this)). As for ACTUAL alternatives, it makes little sense to trade McAllister or other prospects for Jackson when all Damon will cost is $$$$$$$$$. As for Byrnes, if they could get him at the minimum, he would be nice as a role player, and he might accept that, because of Arizona paying his contract, while getting the chance to have a ring.

    • Zack

      I dont think anyone disagrees with wanting Damon back; but if Damon is unwilling it accept 1yr/5m or whatevr the money is, then you need a plan B (and C, D, E, F, G).

  • scoopemup

    I hope Hairston gets signed.If Rios gets designated and clears waivers,Yanks may bite.

    • Zack

      Alex Rios?

      • Steve H

        Armando Rios?

  • LarryM, FL.

    As I indicated yesterday, run don’t walk from Mr. Byrnes. There was a reply indicating that I was not objective in my decision. The way I wrote my comment, the reply was correct in my alleged lack of objectivity. The facts are in front of us. Mr. Byrnes would be my last choice with all respects to a player who has played at the major league level.

    The Yankees have a bottom line with money. So give Gardner and Hoffmann a real shot. There are a couple backups such as Hairston or Reed. We’ll be fine.

  • pete luciano

    This guy’s done, finished, stop the bs and just sign Damon.

  • Fud

    Just sign Damon. These guys stink