Huh? – Baseball : Braves make trade for Ortiz, sign Byrd

The Sporting News reports — nobody else has it yet — that the Braves have signed Paul Byrd to a two-year, $10 million contract. Assuming this is true, I don’t get this one unless Jason Marquis is about to be traded. It’s widely expected that Greg Maddux will accept the Braves’ arbitration offer on Thursday, in which case the team would find itself with six starters.

Byrd, of course, was with the Braves in 1997-98. The Braves, in one of the most shortsighted and inexplicable moves they or any other organization made in recent years, waived him so they could add Norm Charlton to the 40-man roster. He was rapidly picked up by the Phillies and was a league-average starter for them in 1999 (actually, he was very good and made the All-Star team in the first half, then faded) before having some injuries. In 2001 he was traded to the Royals, where he’s pitched very well for some very bad teams, winning 17 games last year.

Byrd wanted to return to the Braves. The Phillies made a far more lucrative offer — one more year and twice the total money — but he turned them down. It’s nice to be wanted, and at that money he should be an asset.

21 thoughts on “Huh?”

  1. My partially comical ranting over at Primer aside, don’t you think that $10M over two years is too much for a #5 starter?

  2. Larry: that would be great, but (1) Montreal has said that they expect trade partners to take on Tatis as well. Tatis is an improvement over Vinny, but that seems too expensive. (2) assuming it could happen, who is the fifth starter? Or fourth and fifth in the unlikely event Maddux says no to arbitration? Smoltz maybe, but that makes him more expensive, and the Glavine dividend is basically already spent.

  3. If Maddux re-ups, the Braves’ starters would be:


    If he doesn’t, then they keep Marquis, or turn to Hodges. I posted over at FanHome that this might mean that Maddux has indicated to the Braves that he’s turning down arbitration. Or that a Marquis trade, or moving Ortiz on somewhere, is coming.

    $5 million a season is a lot for a fifth starter. But it’s not a whole lot more than Albie got for the same role, and Byrd is a far better pitcher — or at least he doesn’t keep losing his job. And with Hampton not a sure thing, and Ortiz possibly needing an adjustment period, having a fifth starter you could shift into a regular slot would help. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Braves junk the four-and-a-half man rotation and start everyone equally, at least to start the season, to give Hampton, and Maddux if he stays, extra rest.)

  4. There are several truths that I hold to be self-evident.

    1. Player performance is affected by ballparks ~ JS, in my opinion, placed way too much emphasis on this in getting Hampton, opining incorrectly that his good performance wasn’t affected by Shea / Astrodome, but his bad was purely a Coors problem. Then, he completely forget this premise in the Ortiz deal.

    2. Young players improve, old players decline ~ functionally, we are shutting aside Marquis (23)for Byrd (32), not a feather in JS’s cap.

    3. Players who have their best year rarely get better ~ Byrd has exactly one season with an ERA 10% better than the league norm with even 60 innings pitched and that was last season. Elevator is going down Mr. Schuerholz.

    4. Mid tier free agents are rarely worth the draft pick that it costs to sign ’em, but here I don’t know if the Royals offered arbitration or not, so I won’t yet mark this down as another strike against JS.

    Its still early, but I think the Braves pitching is markedly worse than it was a year ago, the hitting hasn’t improved and the club is staring .500 right smack in the eye.


  5. When I saw the Braves signed Byrd only a few hours after announcing that they traded for Ortiz, I immediately thought… there’s another trade coming or Maddux is saying “no” to arbitration and they’re going to let him walk. Maybe the Braves are stocking up in an effort to land the bat the lineup desperately needs?

    I personally don’t want to see Marquis go… he has a huge upside, but took major strides backwards last season. The Braves rotation keeps getting older. I like to think that every rotation should have a young guy in the mix so that he can be seasoned by the veterans and ready to step in when it’s his turn. If Maddux takes arbitration, I don’t think there is any way the Braves will send Marquis to the pen. He is very valuable trade bait, alongside Giles could make the foundation for a big trade.

  6. I think another move is coming. Some in the Braves newsgroup have pointed out that JS could turn around and trade Ortiz again. I think it might be millwood, though.

  7. Jeez, I hope you’re wrong about that Colin. Hampton and Byrd are just as capable of having a train-wreck season as a good one next year, and if Millwood departs the rotation looks like a crapshoot.

  8. I don’t like this signing. I don’t hate it either, its just not one I can get excited about.

    Not that Byrd is bad, he’ll likely give us 200+ innings of something around league average work. I just don’t understand paying 10 mil over 2 years to get that. Especially when you have minor league pitchers likely capable of the same performance at a tenth of the cost.

    Unless JS pulls off another trade to get us some GOOD bats at the corners, I am going to have to write this offseason off as JS stumbling around drunk in a bar picking up any beer he comes across.

    Now the only thing I can figure is he realized Glavine wasn’t worth the money. Then took off his glasses and stopped analyzing things. Ughhh! I HOPE that he has another Sheffieldesque move up his sleeve…

  9. Colin-

    I agree with you. I would not be at all stunned to see Millwood be the guy that goes. He is going to have a higher salary than Marquis and may have more value. My biggest fear is we end up with a firstbaseman named Young, Lee, Casey, or (now very unlikely) Snow; Or someone like Shea Hillenbrand.

    I hope we can get a young corner INF or somebody like JD Drew. Probably wishful thinking…

  10. Colin-

    I agree with you. I would not be at all stunned to see Millwood be the guy that goes. He is going to have a higher salary than Marquis and may have more value. My biggest fear is we end up with a firstbaseman named Young, Lee, Casey, or (now very unlikely) Snow; Or someone like Shea Hillenbrand.

    I hope we can get a young corner INF or somebody like JD Drew. Probably wishful thinking…

  11. Wow, quiet for a couple of weeks, and then a day like today. I got the impression from something I read recently that JS basically tried to get the Expos to take Castilla for Tatis. Maybe we’re about to see a blockbuster like Castilla, Giles, Marquis, Ortiz & PTBNL for Tatis, Vidro & Vazquez. Although there’s a lot of salary moving back and forth, this would still save the Expos about 10 million dollars, assuming the PTBNL is a minor leaguer. The Braves would have spent the entire Glavine “dividend”, and would have at least dumped Castilla’s contract, even if we’re taking on the “troubled” Tatis. Byrd’s salary is essentially the same as Albie’s so that’s a wash.

    I know this is an optimistic/wild & crazy scenario, but short of another trade or Maddux having decided to reject arbitration (which is possible, but most every source I’ve seen says he’s accepting), I just don’t see why else we’re acquiring so much pitching.

  12. Jim why do you think it likely that Byrd will give the Braves 200+ innings? He’s 32 years old and has done that exactly ONCE in his career.

    One year ago, he was exactly what the Braves specialize in — middle aged pitchers who haven’t quite gotten the best out of their talent and, with a minor tweak here or there can be valuable, but who are perceived to be failures.

    But now, the Braves, instead of trusting their ability to create the next Burkett, Hammond, Holmes, Remlinger, Bielecki, Liebrandt, etc. they overpaid to get last year’s version.

  13. Well you guys are steeling me for this in case it does happen, but I personally would be..i guess “shocked” is not the right word, but “heartbroken” is probably more on, if Millwood were to be traded away.

    He was consistently excellent last year, probably our best starter, and looked to me to be just hitting his stride. He was the one guy i had confidence in during the postseason. I have been expecting him to be the jewel of our staff over the next few years, especially as the Maddux era winds down (or abruptly ends). It would be quite a shame to acquire all these not-young new pitchers and let Kevin slip out the door after Glavine. Could we possibly lose our top THREE starters in one offseason?

  14. Bamadan,

    You are correct I should have said 200~ innings.

    Here’s why: Byrd has averaged a more than six innings a start since 1999. With little injury history and a low injury risk delivery/approach to pitching, you can assume worst case scenario he averages 6 IP/game and starts 34 games. Voila! There are your 200 innings. Additionally the Braves have had 3 200+ inning pitchers each of the last 3 years. (So somebody’s gonna throw 200) The only thing I see between Byrd and 200 innings is a bout with ineffectiveness.

    My guess: Byrd throws 215 innings next year.

  15. Pure speculation here:

    Millwood will probably make 7-8 million in arbitration. Marquis 500,000 max. If Maddux accepts arbitration I imagine Millwood goes for fiscal reasons. Maddux declines Marquis is the trade fodder.

    Who do you think has more trade value?

  16. >It’s still early, but I think the Braves pitching is markedly worse than it was a year ago, the hitting hasn’t improved and the club is staring .500 right smack in the eye.

    Way too pessimistic, esp. if Maddux returns.

    I’ll be depressed if they deal Millwood. Besides being my from my hometown (not that I was sad to see Helms go), I’d take him over all of the others, including Maddux at this point.

  17. Craig/Jim –
    If Maddux accepts arbitration, I can’t see the Braves going any other route except trading either Ortiz or Millwood, and Ortiz is the hot new guy, so that leaves Millwood. And like others here, I would be extremely saddened to see Millwood go. JS might see it as trading him while his value is high in the same way as he did Moss, but I think Millwood is likely to maintain his current level of performance. Sigh.

    Beyond that, my current spreadsheet has the Braves with $66m already commited to Chipper, Andruw, Sheff, Hampton, Smoltz, Javy, Ortiz, Byrd, Vinny, King and Homes for next year. If Maddux accepts, that puts the payroll up to $80m for 11 guys. Millwood likely gets $6-7m, so that puts it up to, say, $86m. With a target payroll of $90m and 13 more guys to pay for (including $4m combined for Ligtenberg, Blanco, Lockhart and Julio), the math doesn’t work without unloading somebody.

    If getting Byrd costs the team Millwood, I may cry. Or at least fume.

  18. Jim, He may not throw hard, but why do you say he’s got a low risk of injury? That 60 day DL trip in 2001 for shoulder problems kinda has me a bit worried that, in more ways than one, 2002 was a career year.

  19. I’d guess that he’ll be an adequate 5th starter: ERA between 4.25 and 4.75 in 150-200 IP. Nothing spectacular and not worth $10m/2y.

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