So, looks like Eric Byrnes will be patrolling left-field for three more seasons, as noted in the diaries. The poll so far pegs most fans as happy with the signing, in sharp contrast to the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that can be found in some other forums. I have to admit, I'm surprised at this development: it's not that long ago, we were being told that talks had been broken off for the season. But, hey presto, just in time to boost attendance for a home series against some seriously crappy teams, the deal is announced. Coincidence? Apparently, the deal was proposed after the Braves series.
Put me on those who are mildly pessimistic about this one. It seems to leave the team with nowhere to play Carlos Quentin, with the expectation that the everyday lineup next season will be Byrnes, Young and Upton. Nor does it appear to leave much room for another top prospect, Carlos Gonzalez, though I think he probably won't be ready for the bigs until maybe late 2009, or 2010, the final year of Byrnes' contract. It doesn't seem to me that Byrnes gave the team much of the "hometown discount": 10m/year seems to be about par for the course. However, a three year contract is probably a bit shorter than he would have got as a free agent, and I'm pleased it's not a five-year deal.
It certainly appears that there was more to this trade than just Josh Byrnes: it seems that the ownership, and in particular Jeff Moorad, played a significant part in getting this done. That is ominous, given the precedents of long-term deals given to the likes of Russ Ortiz and Sean Green: how did those work out? :-( The key question, however, is which Eric Byrnes do we get for the next three seasons? The one who posted OPS+ of 95 and 75 the past two seasons? Or the one this year, at a career-high tying level of 118? [Albeit before the widely-predicted second-half slump - his August stats appear to have fallem off a cliff, albeit in five games]
Of course, OPS doesn't take into account some aspects of his game, such as the stolen bases: he's on pace for 40 this year. Or the PR value - or, perhaps more significantly, the negative PR value of letting the "face of the franchise" walk away at the end of the season, for the second year in a row. But I have to wonder if the $10m would have been better put towards other organizational needs: outfielders are not something we appear to be short on, compared to, say, starting pitchers. But then again, what would $10m per year get you on the 2008 free-agent market?
I really hope this organization knows what it's doing. However, we probably won't know the answer to that for another year or so, at least. Best-case scenario: Byrnes continues to hit, Carlos Quentin returns to form, and we trade the last couple of years of the Byrnes contract to the Cubs for Carlos Zambrano. :-) Worst case? Eugh. Let's not go there: for today, let's accentuate the positive, and revel in being two games clear atop the National League West. Plenty of time for recriminations between now and October 2010, as and when appropriate.