Monday, January 21, 2008

Marlon Byrd Rumors

One of the few things Rangers' fans really got into last year was Marlon Byrd. He came to Spring Training a relative unknown following disappointing runs with the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals. After being assigned to AAA Oklahoma out of Spring Training, Marlon proceeded to tear up PCL pitching to the tune of a .983 OPS in 44 games. Byrd earned his call up to the Big Club on May 26, 2007 and wasted no time showing management and fans that he had no intentions of returning to Oklahoma. His hustle, clutch hitting, and last name made him an immediate fan favorite. It wasn't long before fans were flapping their arms like birds every time Marlon came to the plate. This Winter, Byrd agreed to a one year, $1.8 million contract for the 2008 season which allowed him and the Rangers to avoid arbitration.

Now the out of nowhere, fan favorite is the subject of trade rumors involving the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have already made their big off season splash with the signing of Japanese right fielder Kosuke Fukudome. It looked like they might make an even bigger splash when rumors circulated about a huge deal that would have netted the Cubs both Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard of the Baltimore Orioles. With that rumor seeming more and more unlikely, it now appears the Cubs have turned their attention to finding a platoon partner for Felix Pie in CF.

This is where the Rangers and Cubs become possible trading partners. Felix Pie, the Cubs 22 year old CF, struggles mightily against LHP (he hasn't done too great against RHP either in his brief Major League appearances). So, the Cubs are now searching high and low for someone who can platoon with Pie and fill the 4th OF role. Their in house options lack experience (Sam Fuld) and versatility (Matt Murton). Byrd's value lies in his right handed bat, his ability to play all 3 OF positions, and his career year in 2007. The Cubs have also had success with former Rangers coming off of career years with the ability to play multiple positions. Mark DeRosa has quickly become a fan favorite in the Windy City just as Marlon Byrd has in Arlington. But now for the most important question to Rangers fans.

What's in it for the Rangers?

Matt Murton: The 26 year old has decent OBP potential, but lacks the power you would like out of a corner outfield spot. He also is below average in RF and really his defense only plays in LF. A new luxury the Rangers have, however, is an above average offensive CF in Josh Hamilton which might have them willing to take on Murton despite his perceived lack of power.

Ryan Dempster, Jason Marquis: At this point, neither one of these guys is an upgrade in the bullpen or the rotation and it would seem they have no real value to the Rangers.

Sean Marshall, Sean Gallagher: Marshall, 25, is a LHP who might be intriguing as an option for one of the last two spots in the rotation that look like they will go to Brandon McCarthy and Kason Gabbard. He isn't going to blow anyone away, but he has good control and a 6'7" frame to work with. Gallagher, 22, is unlikely to be dealt by the Cubs in a move for Byrd alone. He could be stashed in Oklahoma by the Rangers and added to their stable of young arms. If either one of these guys is offered for Byrd alone, one would have to think Jon Daniels would waste no time getting the deal done.

Bottom Line:
There is a reason Marlon Byrd was so popular with the fans, players, and management in 2007. He plays the game the way it should be played. Marlon is a walking cliche in that he goes 110% all of the time. It would be a hard pill to swallow for fans and players alike, but it would also be a prime example of selling high. I, for one, would hang on to Byrd if Matt Murton was the only return. And Ryan Dempster or Jason Marquis would garner no interest for me. But if the Cubs were to offer Marshall or Gallagher, it would be near impossible to say no to. Both of these guys are young, capable arms the Rangers would be lucky to have. This should either get done or die down within the next week or two so now it's just a waiting game to see if JD can squeeze an arm away from Chicago.

marlon byrd photo courtesy of
all other photos courtesy of