Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/13/13
The cost of doing business in baseball's inflationary market manifested itself Tuesday in the form of a 36-year-old outfielder who was exiled last winter to Mexico. Marlon Byrd signed a $700,000 last-chance, minor-league contract with the New York Mets in February and was traded to Pittsburgh in August. He bashed 24 home runs in a 2013 resurrection. That made him attractive to the Phillies, and they acted with aggression. Now, Byrd is a $16 million asset. "There's not a lot of power out there; it's pretty simple," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It's difficult to develop and it's difficult to hold on to." So the Phillies signed Byrd to a two-year, $16 million contract that returns the 10th-round pick in 1999 to his roots. The deal includes a club or vesting option for 2016 and various bonuses. Amaro would not comment on the matter Tuesday at the general managers meetings in Orlando before the deal was finalized. It is a lavish contract for an aging outfielder coming off a career season and a commentary on this game's current prosperity. Byrd was suspended for 50 games in 2012 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He went to Mexico and played for the Culiacan Tomateros after both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox dumped him. The Mets, desperate for any outfielder, signed him two weeks before spring training began. All he did was produce an .847 OPS with 24 home runs in 2013 for New York and Pittsburgh. Those were both career-high figures. He is regarded as an average defender in right field. There is extreme risk in banking on a repeat performance given his lack of production before 2013 and his advanced age. Byrd hit 22 homers in 1,169 at-bats from 2010-12 before his 24 homers in 532 at-bats last season. The Phillies craved a righthanded bat for their outfield. They were connected to Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran, but apparently balked at their high demands. Byrd offered a shorter-term solution. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said he was not surprised at Byrd's price tag. "As you look at that outfield group, if you don't want to give up your first-round pick, Marlon Byrd is arguably the best available outfield bat," Huntington said. "Even as we went into the market, there were a half-dozen teams that talked openly about wanting righthanded power. Marlon is a great guy. He had a very strong impact on our clubhouse in the month he was there. He had a tremendous year. He was one of the better players on the market." That rise was remarkable. Byrd was one of the worst players in baseball in 2012, a season marred by his suspension for the drug tamoxifen, which is banned because it can reduce side effects of steroid use. He still trains with Victor Conte, the founder of Balco who served prison time for distributing steroids.
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