Marlon Byrd has been a fun player to watch over the last couple weeks, hitting well-timed dingers and driving in all sorts of runs. He's found money. And he's just great for puns. "Marlon? I hardly even Marloff" is the only one I can think of right now, but I'm told there are several others. Ignore that Baseball-Reference says he's been slightly below replacement level since coming over (because of his defense), if only because it makes you feel better. He's been fine.
That written, there's a problem. If Byrd gets to 550 plate appearances, his contract vests, and the Giants will have to pay him $8 million next season. While he's been a valuable addition to the Giants, he shouldn't be a huge chunk of the offseason budget. The Giants need a few things, but they don't need a fourth outfielder making starting-outfielder money.
It's close. Real close. There are 28 games left. He needs 104 plate appearances. Per game, he's averaged 4.09 plate appearances, which would put him at 114 plate appearances and a guaranteed $8 million for 2016.
If you use plate appearances per team game played, though, he's averaged 3.32 PA. That would put him at 93 plate appearances, or just under. Except that's close enough to be affected by offensive surges and extra-inning games. If the Giants get on a roll offensively (and they're going to play some lousy teams), it's not unthinkable that Byrd would get five PA here, five there, and maybe even a delightful six-PA game in a blowout. It might not be likely, but it doesn't have to be unlikely.
Here's where we get the buried lede: The trade for Alejandro De Aza was just as much for 2016 as it was for this season, and the Byrd contract is a reason why. The Giants needed outfield depth, sure, and that's why Byrd is here in the first place. And De Aza was better than any of the internal options on the bench, both for the regular season and (lol) postseason. It made sense on a baseball level, too.
But if the Giants knew that Pence was going to be out longer than they first expected, and they found this out after they traded for Byrd, they probably panicked just a little. They crunched the numbers and figured that Byrd's option wasn't going to be a big deal as long as Pence came back with a couple weeks left in the season, so they made the deal.
Once they did that, there was no way for them to not play him, especially when he was hitting. Sitting Byrd for the last week of the season so that Justin Maxwell could play is a great way to get the MLBPA to file a grievance. It's not like the Giants could say, "Oh, we're really, really concerned about defense in the last week of this horrid season." It would be obvious that Maxwell was playing to save the Giants money, which would have been a contentious no-no.
The Giants had three options:
- Promote Mac Williamson and claim that they needed to get a good look at him and see if he can handle a starting role in 2016
- Get a left-handed complement to Byrd, one just talented enough to make sense in a lineup without Byrd
- Don't change a thing, hope it all works out
Really, the Giants got De Aza because he was supposed to help the team win games more than the person he replaced. That's the main reason. But when taking the cost-benefit analysis into account, the Giants had to consider that every inning De Aza played was an inning that Byrd might not be playing.
Now, it's still gross and weird to write about the money another adult is going to make, especially while saying "I hope he doesn't make that money!" But, well, that's sports for you. If the Giants are going to do the painfully obvious thing and go after a premium starting pitcher, they'll need to be creative with their payroll. An extra $8 million outfielder wasn't going to help that.
They're probably cool now. That's the hidden genius of the De Aza trade. Even if it didn't win the division in 2015, and even if it kept the Giants winless for the rest of eternity, it could help them in 2016. And we all know that's when the real stuff is going down.
- Tim Lincecum's 16-win comeback season
- Carlos Triunfel's 4.2-WAR year
- Angel Pagan's 17 homers
Et cetera, et cetera. Even year, y'all. With David Price in the rotation, everything just might work out. And that's the story of how Alejandro De Aza indirectly made sure David Price went to the Giants.
You appreciate him more now, don't you?