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Second-degree Byrnes?

While our new management team are pretty good at getting rid of players, they seem rather more questionable when it comes to signing new ones. Damion Easley? Jason Grimsley? And now, Eric Byrnes, a career .259 hitter, whose Range Factor in CF is 1.94, compared to the league average of 2.42. Ouch. Our resident Devil's Advocate, nihil67, mockingly says: "I can't wait to see how everyone defends this move." Well, while I can't say I'm particularly enamoured of it, I like a challenge. :-)

  • It's only one year. More evidence that we're building for 2007. Under previous management, he'd probably have been given a three-year deal, with a full no-trade clause.

  • He's a right-handed hitter. In a lineup very heavily skewed towards lefties, it's necessary to have some balance, otherwise any team will call up a left-handed pitcher from Double-A and murder us.

  • Left of center? In his career, Byrnes has played almost twice as many games in LF as CF. He can certainly be used to spell Gonzalez if necessary, and possibly also whoever plays RF. Think of him as replacing McCracken on the roster - as we'll soon see, he's an upgrade there.

Besides, who else is available? Here's the list of remaining free-agent outfielders. Filtering for those with significant experience at CF (more than 20% of career games played there, with a minimum of 100), and removing left-handed hitters like Terrence Long and Timo Perez, we get:

Name Car. BA Car. OPS Career CF
Range Factor
Eric Byrnes .259 .762 1.94
Hiram Bocachica .217 .635 1.88
Roger Cedeno .273 .710 1.98
Juan Encarnacion .268 .757 2.37
Marquis Grissom .272 .732 2.33
Richard Hidalgo .269 .835 2.30
Quinton McCracken .276 .712 1.78
Bernie Williams .298 .762 2.39
Gerard Williams .255 .711 2.48
Preston Wilson .264 .811 2.33

Apart from demonstrating how awful McCracken was, there simply doesn't seem to be much else out there, as far as viable candidates go. The only ones better with the bat, judged by OPS, are Richard Hidalgo and Preston Wilson. Hidalgo earned $5m last year in Texas, and Wilson $12.5m playing in Colorado and Washington (and 2 1/2 season in Coors no doubt also inflated his numbers nicely). Compared to those wages, $2.2m for Byrnes doesn't seem terrible, especially since six teams were apparently after him.

And it's not blocking Quentin, except indirectly - Quentin is tagged as a right-fielder, not a center-fielder, so it's Green who'd occupy his spot, not Byrnes. If Byrnes is blocking anyone, it's Chris Young, but he'll start the year in Triple-A, since by most reports, he's not quite ready for the big leagues yet.

Overall, I'm not ecstatic about this, given the current roster, but I'm not convinced Byrnes will start in CF on Opening Day. As has been noted, we may see further moves between now and then, and despite previous comments from Josh Byrnes, I suspect Green may still be in CF. Of that turns out to be the case, making Byrnes 2005's version of McCracken (except better), then this is okay.