Why Not Target Marlon Byrd?

The Philadelphia Phillies might be the selling team with the most attractive movable pieces at the deadline, and conventional wisdom has been that the Yankees should target Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels.  The Yankees have lost four out of their five starting pitchers from the beginning of the season, so General Manager Brian Cashman has talked about targeting pitching. They have been in love with Lee for years and Hamels would give them an ace still in his prime.

However, the player that the Yankees should really go after hard from the Phillies is right fielder Marlon Byrd. Byrd is hitting .268/.319/.483/.802 with 19 home runs and 51 RBI for Philadelphia this season. His 122 wRC+ and .347 wOBA are also solid.

Yes, the Yankees still need pitching.  But if you haven’t noticed, their starting pitching has been stellar lately. Led by Hiroki Kuroda, Shane Greene, Brandon McCarthy and David Phelps, the Yankees had a 1.99 ERA from their starting pitchers over the last eight games prior to last night.  That clearly isn’t a sustainable number. However, the stuff McCarthy and Greene are showing looks legit, Kuroda has been a reliable pitcher yet again and Phelps has surprised many people by pitching like he belongs in the rotation. If they can get another mid-to-back end starter and have Masahiro Tanaka return, that might be good enough with an elite bullpen.

The Yankees still need plenty more from their offense to make the playoffs, as you saw in last night’s pathetic display against Texas. They are 14th in the AL in wRC+ (91), 13th in wOBA (.307) and 12th in OPS (.695). Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have all started to show glimpses of being the players the Yankees thought they were signing, but they will still need more help in addition to them keeping it going.

Byrd has outperformed every Yankee hitter this season and would lead them in home runs, RBI, OPS, wRC+ and wOBA. Right field is one of biggest positions of need for the Yankees right now with Ichiro Suzuki doing just about what anyone could have expected once he started receiving regular playing time. Don’t give me his .281 batting average because it is the emptiest average ever, and it’s only .259 since the beginning of June.  Ichiro went over two months from May 3rd to July 11th without even one extra base hit. He is 1-for-21 over his last seven games, and it’s more than just a slump. His production ever since he got regular playing time has been awful, both this season and last year.

Ichiro is just not a starting outfielder anymore. Going from him to Byrd would be a major upgrade and would allow Ichiro to go back to the role in which he was most effective at the beginning of the season. Byrd is just the power bat from the right side the Yankees are in desperate need of. Even as a righty, Byrd’s spray charts suggests that Yankee Stadium should not hurt him too much.

 

(Courtesy of Texas Leaguers)

The spray chart shows that six of Byrd’s 19 homers have gone to center or right field and his fly balls are pretty evenly distributed in the outfield, so he is not devoid of opposite field power. Nine of his home runs have been over 400 feet.  He hit two homers at Yankee Stadium playing for the Mets last season, so in a short sample he proved that his power could play well here.

Byrd is signed through next year, but at 36 years old it is tough to know just how much the Phillies will ask for him. Advanced age or not, he is a right-handed power bat in a league that is very short on those, so he should command a lot of suitors. The Yankees have not been rumored to be among them yet, so this is just an idea on my end, but he makes a ton of sense for them.

I am a journalism student at William Paterson University in New Jersey. I am an aspiring sports journalist who has had a huge passion for the Yankees since birth. Contact or follow me on Twitter at @RAYROBERT9.