How excited could the Mets be about Marlon Byrd?
Terry Collins can be forgiven for seeking shelter from the reality of the New York Mets outfield.
Whether it is defensively deficient Lucas Duda in left field, the untested combo of Collin Cowgill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field, or the comparably limited Mike Baxter and Andrew Brown in right field, the best thing anyone could say about them is probably that they're hard-working.
Marlon Byrd, who signed with the Mets this winter, is more of a known commodity than any of those other Mets. And Terry Collins likes what he sees, at least comparably.
“This guy was one of the best players in the National League not too long ago,” Collins told reporters about Byrd on Friday. “If he’s the same player he was in Chicago a couple of years ago, we might have found ourselves a right fielder. I know he’s that kind of talent.”
Presumably, Collins was referring to Byrd's 2010 All-Star selection. What that says about Byrd's 2013 isn't clear, though.
His 2010 wasn't even particularly exceptional. He managed a 105 O.P.S.+ in 151 games with the 2010 Cubs, which, if you're keeping score at home, is exactly the O.P.S. Jason Bay put up that year in his bitterly disappointing turn as the Mets' left fielder.
Byrd, unlike Bay, did so while providing the Cubs with plus defense in center field. But Byrd's defense has declined precipitously since then, as expected of an outfielder who is now 35. And Collins was talking about playing him in right field, anyway, where his now-disappeared defense wouldn't be as valuable if it still existed, while his 2010 hitting wouldn't play to league-average rates at the position.
And about that hitting: it has essentially disappeared in the years since 2010, too. His O.P.S.+ in 2011 was 96, below league average for any spot, let alone right field, and amusingly, lower than Jason Bay's 2011 O.P.S.+ of 97. And Byrd's 2012 O.P.S.+ of 33, in 153 at-bats, was lower than the 47 put up by Bay in 2012, the performance that convinced the Mets to pay Bay not to play for them anymore.
Byrd then tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, suggesting that he didn't think the Byrd of 2010 was returning naturally, either.
Look, if Byrd regains his 2010 form, he'll probably be a better right fielder than anyone else the Mets would put out there in his place. That's also true in left field. Or center field.
But a lot can change, and has changed, since 2010. In 2010, Matt Harvey, now in line to be the team's best pitcher, was still pitching college ball. R.A. Dickey began 2010 in the minor leagues, as did Ike Davis. Gary Matthews Jr. and Mike Jacobs were members of the opening day starting lineup.
The old Byrd is gone. And you have to wonder why the Mets wouldn't try a right-field platoon of Baxter and Brown, who may be capable of more than they've shown so far, over Byrd, who almost certainly isn't.