You don't want weekly Marlon Byrd updates, but, well, it's not like I've listened to you before. There are 22 games left in the season, and Byrd needs an average of 3.72 plate appearances per game for the rest of the season for his $8 million option to vest. He's averaging 4.21 PA per Giants game since coming over.
So, yep. This might happen.
The Giants might want it to happen if they believe that Byrd and Norichika Aoki for a combined $13.5 million would be more cost-efficient than attempting to find a new left fielder through free agency. They might think that a Byrd/Aoki quasi-platoon would be more effective than just Aoki, too. More efficient and cost-effective? Seems like a pleasant chap, too. Here's how to order!
By subscribing to this strategy, the Giants would think that the only way to make left field better for 2015 would be to dish out a long-term deal to an Aoki replacement, or spend their little prospect capital in a trade. And, you know, they might be right. Left-fielders who would take a one- or two-year deal would be Byrd-level talents, most of whom wouldn't be thrilled with spending time in AT&T Park when they're trying to boost their value. Anything more than that, and you're spending Nick Markakis money, which isn't exactly desirable. And to get a Justin Upton-type, you're handing out really uncomfortable contracts.
So I almost see the allure of an overpriced Byrd. Almost.
Except all that assumes that left field is something that has to be addressed in the offseason. Which, maybe? I mean, I'll listen to the arguments. Aoki's defense has been benardian, and he's about as limited with his lack of power as Byrd is with his lack of discipline. But I can live with just Aoki if it means the Giants can afford to spend on the rotation. Heck, I'm fine with Byrd, too, if it means the Giants can afford to spend on the rotation.
I'm just not sure that's the case. Here's a table of the Giant's payroll over the last decade-plus, along with how much the payroll has increased from year to year.
|Season||Payroll (in millions, via)||Difference from previous season|
So about an average of 15 percent per year, lately. Often bigger in the post-championship seasons, but still pretty steady. This would put the Giants at about $198 million next year. Larry Baer might have just spit out his coffee after feeling a disturbance in the force, so I can't vouch for that number as anything other than a guess. It's at least semi-educated.
Where are the Giants for next year? I have tables for that, too! With the help of Baseball-Reference, here are the payroll obligations, with more semi-educated guesses as to the numbers for the Brandons and pre-arbitration players.
Adjust those Brandon totals if you want, but they're close enough. Those numbers are with Byrd's option. And with this roster, the Giants would need the following:
- One, possibly two, starting pitchers
- A backup shortstop
- An additional utility-type player
- One more reliever
If Petit is too expensive for the Giants' tastes, the Giants might need two more relievers. But if the Giants have one thing at their disposal, it's cheap bullpen labor. Josh Osich looks like a lock for next year's number, for example, and Michael Broadway, Derek Law, and Cody Hall could all fight the random minor-league free agents of the offseason (which the Giants do quite well) for just a spot, and that's if there's an opening. The backup shortstop and utility player shouldn't be much more than the league minimum, which brings the Giants up to roughly $156 million.
Edit: The original post had some screwy math because I used the wrong initial figure for the 2015 payroll. This mistake ... kind of ruined my thesis. I've updated the conclusion and left the original post below. My ombudsman is pissed.
With those numbers and an increase from their 2015 payroll by 10 percent -- on the conservative side in recent years -- the Giants will have about $34 million to get one or two starting pitchers. If they increase it by 15 percent, they'll have $42.5 million.
This is enough to buy the services of a mercenary starting pitcher. This is enough to buy the services of the best starting pitcher on the market, with maybe a Mike Leake left over.
Yeah, that's totally exactly what I expected to find. So I'm not sweating this Byrd thing. Even if it's not the best possible allocation of resources, there's at least a little logic to it. The benefits of Joe Panik and Matt Duffy emerging from the mists aren't just how well they play, but how they can help the Giants get better starting pitchers. While they live in a one-bedroom apartment in the Marina, living modestly.
The Giants didn't get Jon Lester last year, but one of the reasons they were comfortable being in that race is because they'll have some scratch at the end of this season. If Byrd allows them to forego a hyper-expensive outfield option and pursue a hyper-expensive pitching option, then their strategy makes a little sense, even if you disagree about the merits of Byrd.
The Giants have one thing to do this offseason. They can probably do it with or without Byrd, even if he'll make it a little harder.
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Edit: The original conclusion is here. Don't read it.
With those numbers and an increase from their 2015 payroll by 10 percent -- on the conservative side in recent years -- the Giants will have about $13 million to get one or two starting pitchers. If they increase it by 15 percent, they'll have $20 million. Edit: This is wrong.
If they stick with Byrd and increase payroll by 10 percent, they'll be in the Mike Leake range and need to count on Heston, Peavy, and Cain. Edit: This is also wrong.
If they stick with Byrd and increase payroll by 15 percent, they'll fall a few million short of that David Price/Zack Greinke level. Which is, again, just about the only thing the 2015 Giants will need, other than better health. They'll have Leake money instead, with some extra money to throw around on that backup shortstop. Edit: Also wrong, but at least it's not the point of the whole article.
If they don't have Byrd's salary up there, they'll have about $28 million to spend with a 15-percent increase. And that can throw a helluva party. That might get Price, or it could get Jordan Zimmermann and Leake, both. The Giants don't need to spread those millions around like they've done in almost every other offseason -- they have almost all of their priority roster spots filled. They need a starting pitcher. Maybe two. And they can devote almost all of their resources toward that need. Edit: filled with inaccuracies because I used the wrong number to do my stupid calculations.
Byrd takes a healthy portion of those resources away. Edit: Not untrue!
Soooooooooooo ... Edit: Not a full sentence.
With Aoki's concussion, it's just a little trickier to sit Byrd unless/until Hunter Pence comes back, but the Giants could still play Blanco/Pagan/De Aza against righties until then. They haven't shown any desire to do that yet. Is it intentional because they want to keep Byrd? Or are they doing their best not to get the MLBPA mad and litigationy against them? Edit: Boy I sure went on for a while.
I can see a spot for Byrd on the 2016 roster. I can't see how he would make the team better at $8 million, though, not with the Giants' needs so obvious. Hopefully the Giants have the same idea. Unless they're projecting a 20-percent increase because YOLO. That would be acceptable, too. Edit: Still okay with a 20-percent increase.
Welcome to the offseason. Somehow, the next 22 games has a lot to do with it. Edit: Sorry.