The Mets announced on Twitter this evening that they've signed outfielder Marlon Byrd to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He'll clearly be in competition with Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Andrew Brown, and Mike Baxter for a spot on the team's Opening Day roster.
Last year was a rough one for Byrd. He hit .210/.243/.245 in just 153 plate appearances with the Cubs and Red Sox before he tested positive for Tamoxifen. ESPN Boston said of the substance at the time:
Tamoxifen -- its brand name in the United States is Nolvadex -- is a medicine that blocks the effects of the estrogen hormone in the body. It is used to treat breast cancer in women or men and is used by steroid users to prevent the growth of breast tissues in men and to stop post-cycle crashes.
Before his down year, though, Byrd — who hits from the right side, unlike many of the Mets' other outfielders — posted pedestrian numbers at the plate in 2011. He saw regular playing time and had success from 2007 through 2011, hitting .294/.350/.456 over that span, the first three years of which he spent with the Rangers and the last of which he spent with the Cubs.
Byrd is 35 years old, though, and isn't very likely to return to his old level of production. He's spent the majority of his career playing center field with a bit of time in the corner outfield spots. The defensive metrics have rated his defense is center as approximately average, while he's been a plus defender in the corners. It's impossible to draw conclusions from his performance in center with Boston, but the team saw fit to play him at the position 33 times last year, 26 of which were starts. Since the Mets don't have a top notch defender in center with a bat ready for the big leagues in house, it's possible that Byrd could win the job out of spring training.
Signing Byrd certainly doesn't qualify as a major addition for the Mets, but with the uncertainty about the team's outfield, bringing him in on a minor league deal — Major League Baseball's equivalent to a freebie — makes plenty of sense. In the event that he bounces back, the Mets will have found value at a position where they needed help.