The Cleveland Indians recently signed veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd. Although he was signed with a specific role in mind, could he be asked to do a lot more during the regular season?
Marlon Byrd’s contract was a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians essentially as an insurance policy. Though that is the case, it would be smart for the Tribe to look at Byrd as a possible spot-starter given the team’s issues in the outfield.
No, Byrd is not that power-hitting bat the Cleveland Indians need. That said, Byrd still provides plenty of production. Right now, Cleveland is looking at multiple young outfielders who could make the jump (potentially full-time to the majors), along with players at other positions who could play in the outfield.
Even though no date has been announced as to when he will be starting every day, the assumption is that it will not take as long as one first thought. To add to the good news, Tyler Naquin has been playing great and he could be the favorite to start in center field.
Sooner rather than later, Brantley will take his place out in left field like he always does. Adding Naquin (ideally every day) should also shore up a need. That leaves Rajai Davis, another one of the Cleveland Indians free agents signings this offseason, to potentially start in spot duty in center field (after Brantley comes back). He also could platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall.
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Prior to Brantley coming back on a regular basis, why not start Byrd in left? Every one of those players, including Byrd could also see time as the team’s designated hitter.
Since it would seem the outfield would be filled, what could Byrd realistically do for the Cleveland Indians other than sit on the bench and/or play at Triple-A? Actually, there is plenty he could do.
Outside of being an aforementioned “insurance policy”, Byrd’s production is something a team should not just discard and ignore. Yes, he could also replace injured players, but what if the outfield was Brantley, Naquin, and Byrd (at least on a platoon).
If Naquin struggles, Davis could play more. If Byrd is in right and someone else is struggling, say Carlos Santana or Mike Napoli, Chisenhall could go and play a little first base or be a more regular DH.
Byrd simply adds to the options for the Cleveland Indians. Yes, Byrd’s contract may say that he signed a minor league deal, but it would be very hard to imagine that he stays in the minors, if at all.
We all know what Byrd can do in the major leagues. Since Naquin is an unknown as a big leaguer and the Cleveland Indians have not come to grips that Chisenhall is not a starter basis, Byrd is even more of a benefit to the team.
The Cleveland Indians signing on Byrd is a buy low kind of deal, just like many of their current contracts are. A better player with more power is still needed, but when they play Byrd, remember Cleveland could do a lot worse.
Having Byrd around the team could improve the other outfielder’s level of play. Whether that happens or not, the Tribe can feel better now if/when a rookie or veteran struggles with Byrd now in camp. Byrd’s role may be set in stone sort of speak now, but that stone should break once the regular season arrives.