I was reading SamNY's post entitled "So when do we start the bidding war for Marlon Byrd?" and I wanted to take a really detailed, in depth look at what the Mets could potentially get as a return for Marlon Byrd.
The first comparison Mets fans will probably make is the Carlos Beltran trade for Zack Wheeler. Obviously, Beltran was and is an elite outfielder, and the Mets got back an elite prospect. Byrd is not as good as Beltran, so to expect a return like Wheeler would be ridiculous.
I realized that the Mets were able to parlay Collin Cowgill, a struggling AAAA outfielder, into the 23 year old A+ player named Kyle Johnson. Although he is old for his level, and perhaps old for a prospect in general, he has put up nice stats in the minors and could potentially be a fourth or fifth outfielder in the majors one day. I thought this was a nice trade for the Mets. That being said, Marlon Byrd is obviously better than Collin Cowgill, so I realized that perhaps I was setting the bar a bit low for Byrd.
I tried to think of recent trades where veteran outfielders were sent packing. I wanted to find a trade where the outfielder was better than Collin Cowgill, but worse than Carlos Beltran. I realized that a very good comparison is the Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees trade.
Before being sent to the Yankees, Ichiro was hitting .261/.288/.353 with a 1.7 WAR for the Mariners. He had a .276 wOBA and a 77wRC+.
Byrd is hitting .259/.313/.491 for the Mets with a 1.2 WAR. His wOBA is .341 and his wRC+ is 121.
The reason Ichiro's WAR was higher is due to his UZR, which was around 15.2 at the time, as compared to Byrd's 1.2 UZR.
Ichiro had a better track record than Byrd, and his 2011 season was better than Byrd's 2012 season, however, Ichiro was also making much more money than Byrd is set to make. Due to this, I think Byrd is of similar value to Ichiro at this time last year.
In return for Ichiro, the Mariners got D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Farquhar was never expected to be anything more than a perhaps average middle reliever, so he was just a toss in to the deal. The main piece of that trade was D.J. Mitchell. He never really had very good stats in the minors, but he always did have good stuff, with a good sinker and a fastball that could reach the mid 90s. Mitchell hasn't done anything of any value since the trade, and has since found himself pitching for the Las Vegas 51s in AAA, but hey, hindsight is 20/20. At the time, Mitchell did have decent upside. Some scouts thought he would project to be a middle of the rotation pitcher, which wouldn't be terrible. Based on the scouting reports I've read from around the same time as the trade, it seemed like he had upside to fit the mold of a Jake Westbrook or Shawn Marcum. The scouts also thought that if starting didn't work out, Mitchell would be a good reliever. He never panned out, but at the time, it looked like a decent return for the Mariners.
That being said, I think we can get a good prospect back for Byrd. Not a top 100 prospect obviously, but a good prospect with some potential. I think a team like the Pirates would be a good fit for Byrd. They currently rank 20th in the majors in runs scored and MLB.com lists the Pirates as only having three outfielders on their roster. Two of their prospects I like that could be a fair return are Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes. Prior to the 2013 season, John Sickels ranked them as 8th and 11th in the Pirates system, respectively. Baseballprospectnation.com ranked them as 10th and 12th respectively. Here are their scouting reports, from <a href="http://baseballprospectnation.com/2013/02/07/2013-pittsburgh-pirates-top-15-prospects/">baseballprospectnation.com.</a>
"Kingham lacks the ceiling of some of the other pitchers ranked higher on this list but he has a much higher floor as well. With a durable build and clean delivery, he projects to eat tons of innings and keep his team in the ball game every five days. His fastball works in the above-average to plus range deep into starts and he shows a good change-up that plays well off his fastball. He needs to improve his curveball to reach a mid-rotation ceiling, but even with a fringe-average breaker, he should still be a quality fourth or fifth starter."
"There’s a trend developing here as Holmes is yet another massive right-handed pitcher. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds he, like Nick Kingham projects as a quality innings eater that sits in the third or fourth spot in a big league rotation. His fastball bumps the 94-95 range on occasion and sits in the 92-93 range with good leverage. He has a strong curveball that should be a plus pitch for him down the line. The road to the show may be a little longer for Holmes as he transitions from thrower to pitcher, but he has big-league potential."
Kingham started the year in high A ball and pitched well enough to warrant a promotion to AA, where is also pitching well, posting a 3.50 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. He has also maintained a career SO/9 rate of 8.1, and it has been 9.5 this year. He seems to be adapting well as he goes higher in the Pirates minor league system. He looks like he could be a nice middle of the rotation starter and I think he compares very well to D.J. Mitchell.
Clay Holmes is more similar to Danny Farquhar in that his value is not as high. He was drafted out of high school and is still just 20 years old, so he does have upside, but he is not even close to a sure thing. In 67.1 innings at high A ball this year, he has an ERA of 5.08 and a WHIP of 1.65. He has never been a strikeout pitcher, as his SO/9 in his minor league career is just 5.5 Another concern is his control. Last year his BB/9 was 4.4 and this year that number has jumped up to 6.3. He has walked more than he has struck out this year. That is obviously a major issue. He has also hit 10 batters in just 67.1 innings. Statistics aside, some scouts still think he can be a back end of the rotation starter of a quality reliever, as he is big and durable, at 6'5'' and 230 pounds. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and he has a strong curveball. At just 20 years of age he is way too young to give up on.
Would it be a stretch to expect both of these players for Byrd? Maybe. D.J. Mitchell did not rank in John Sickels' top 20 Yankees prospects in either 2011 or 2012, although he did earn honorable mention both years. Another thing to keep in mind is that not many teams could afford to take on Ichiro's contract, and he also had a no-trade clause, so the Yankees did not have to give up much for him. The market for Marlon Byrd could be bigger, so I think the Mets can realistically expect a decent C+/B- prospect with slightly above average upside and an attainable floor. I think Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes would both be realistic and fair trade targets for Byrd, based on the Ichiro trade, and I would be very happy if the Mets could get one or both of them.