Amaro: Byrd improves Phils offensively, defensively
General manager likes what outfielder brings to the table against left-handed pitching
ORLANDO, Fla. -- With the acquisition of Marlon Byrd, the Phillies' 2014 lineup card is just about complete. Byrd and Domonic Brown will flank center fielder Ben Revere. Ryan Howard will play first, with Chase Utley at second, Jimmy Rollins at shortstop and Cody Asche or Maikel Franco at third.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. still has to re-sign catcher Carlos Ruiz or find an alternative, and further moves could always alter the landscape. But Amaro said Wednesday at the General Managers Meetings in the JW Marriott Grande Lakes resort that he wouldn't be afraid to go into the season with the position players he has now.
"It could be," Amaro said when asked if it was a what-you-see-is-what-you-get situation. "And that would be fine, except we're going to continue to try to improve it. We're trying to create as much depth as possible. Last year when we had breakdowns, we were playing infielders in outfield positions. I'd rather not do that."
Giving the 36-year-old Byrd, who started last season as a non-roster invitee in the Mets camp, a two-year contract worth $16 million plus a club/vesting option raised eyebrows across the baseball world, and the move underwhelmed Phillies fans who have become accustomed to more high-profile moves. But Amaro said the signing addressed a specific need.
"I think Marlon fit what we're trying to do," Amaro said in his first comments since the deal became official Tuesday night. "He's a solid outfielder. We've improved our defense, for starters. Good person. He has power. He can hit against left-handers. We were weak against left-handers last year, and he's been pretty consistent with his ability to produce against left-handers."
Between the Mets and Pirates last season, Byrd batted .344 with a .959 OPS against left-handed pitching compared to .268/.797 against righties.
"This is a guy we targeted as someone who could help us, and we decided to go get him because I think he was an important part of what we're trying to do, which is improve our club offensively and defensively," Amaro said. "So we went out and got him. The asking prices are tall as they always are. We just felt like we had some guys we wanted to target. We don't have unlimited dollars to spend. So we have to make sure we get the best bang for the buck.
"And I have to be cognizant of what the fans think, but we have to do what we can to improve the club, and this move, I believe, will improve our club."
Byrd is coming off a career year in which he hit 24 homers with 88 RBIs and an .847 OPS. The Phils are clearly hoping that was not an aberration.
"We talked to our scouts about how his swing path and approach changed," Amaro said. "He's worked on it. I have to trust my scouts on it."
Byrd has served a 50-game suspension for PED use. A second offense would result in a 100-game suspension.
"We did our due diligence," Amaro said. "We have some language in our standard guarantee provision ... plus the rules of the [Collective Bargaining Agreement] cover you."
Amaro scoffed at a rumor that had the Phillies trading Brown to the Blue Jays for veteran Jose Bautista.
"Everyone is looking for the same thing, and that's young controllable players," Amaro said. "And so there's no reason for us to be moving any of them."
Another apparently bogus rumor in circulation Wednesday had Philadelphia looking at Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia. While Arencibia may be available, there is no indication that the Phillies are focusing on him at this time. The Phils also need pitching.
"You can't cover for everything," Amaro said. "If you have four or five guys go down, you just can't cover it. You can cover two or three pieces, but you can't always cover all of them.
"You want to try to stay as flexible as you can be. It's not about spending, but about getting the right people and pieces. There are a lot of things that Marlon brings to the table other than his ability to hit left-handers. At some point, we have to have faith that Howard and Revere are going to come back and play and be effective. We have to let the players play."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.