The Giants and Dodgers are trying to one-up each other with old man strength. Yesterday the Dodgers traded for Chase Utley, and today the Giants acquired veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Reds for Double-A pitcher Stephen Johnson.
1. Why did they need an outfielder?
Other than Hunter Pence landing on the DL today with an oblique injury that could take anywhere from two weeks until the rest of the season to heal (Pence’s obliques aren’t exactly small, and you never know with obliques)?
Well, something had to give. Regardless of the cost, it couldn’t cost more to add a power bat off the bench than it would to lose Madison Bumgarner to some ridiculous injury he sustained while pinch-hitting against a guy throwing 100. So less than 24 hours after Bumgarner struck out against Trevor Rosenthal to end last night’s game, Byrd is heading to Pittsburgh.
2. Why Byrd?
Besides the obvious animal tie-in, Byrd — who turns 38 on Aug. 30 — hits dingers. He has 19 this year, 25 the previous season, and 24 the year before that. Overall he’s hitting .237/.286/.448.
He’s not a great defender according to Fangraphs, but he can play center field in a pinch (he’s played 30 innings there this season). He isn’t a slug either, he has a couple stolen bases and has only grounded into six double plays, although it helps that he hits fly balls over 39% of the time.
Also, he cleared waivers. That made it a fairly easy decision for the Giants.
2. How much is he making and how long is he staying?
He’s making a prorated $8 million this season, so he’s owed a little over $2 million this season. The Giants are getting cash in the deal, per Ken Rosenthal.
Byrd has an option for $8 million in 2016 that vests with 550 plate appearances this season. He’s currently at 388. The Giants have 42 games remaining, which means he’d need to average 3.86 plate appearances to reach 550. So it’s possible that he gets there if he starts every day, but with Nori Aoki coming back today and Angel Pagan returning relatively soon, that seems doubtful. It seems like the Giants would prefer to use him as a pinch-hitter off the bench — in other words, as a way to keep Bruce Bochy from sending Bumgarner to the plate against hard-throwing relievers (or anyone, really).
3. Who’s Stephen Johnson?
He’s a right-handed pitcher the Giants drafted in the sixth round in 2012. His control is a problem, as he’s walking 4.5 batters per nine innings and 4.9 BB/9 in his professional career. However, he’s also striking out 10.6 batters per nine innings this season and in his career.
4. Are the Giants only allowed to make trades with the Reds this season?