Marlon Byrd is not returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 2014 season, instead he has signed a two-year deal worth $16 million with the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.
The Pirates acquired Byrd from the Mets in August, and the right fielder played a large role in their success down the stretch.
Pittsburgh was expected to pursue Byrd this off-season, as they have a hole in right field, but it was a two-year deal that may have prohibited them from signing Byrd.
Top prospect Gregory Polanco could arrive as early as the second half of the 2014 season. Even if he doesn’t arrive in 2014, he should be ready in 2015, and a two-year deal would block him.
Now that Byrd isn’t an option, the Pirates are faced with the question of who plays right field until Polanco is ready?
Garrett Jones and Travis Snider both saw playing time in right field last season, but both were most likely not going to be retained by the team. . He will be due a large amount of money in arbitration, possibly around $6 million. Jones had always been solid offensively, but a disappointing 2013 season left the Pirates doubting his future. Snider never panned out.
Another option could be Andrew Lambo and Jose Tabata. Lambo hit 33 home runs last year between the top two levels of the minors and the majors. Tabata has had his share of struggles, but he finished strong last season.
Neither Lambo or Tabata sound as good as Byrd, but it gives the Pirates a chance to see where both players’ futures lie.
Rumors that the Marlins could be willing to trade Giancarlo Stanton to the Pirates for Tabata and other prospects have surfaced over the last few weeks.
Worst case, the Pirates struggle for a few months in right field. This scenario is no different from last season and the Pirates had their best season in over 20 years.