Marlon Byrd have just about reached the end of the road as far as his MLB career is concerned.
That is, if he can’t go into the 2013 season with the New York Mets, anyway. According to a report from Mike Puma to the New York Post, the 35-year old outfielder has given himself something resembling an ultimatum, saying that “If [he doesn’t] make this team, [he doesn’t] see many other chances in baseball.”
It’s not the kind of words you’d normally hear from an 11-year veteran in the game, but Byrd’s candidness on the subject matter isn’t without a point.
Though Byrd has had a .278/.336/.413 career triple slash, and has little to be regretful about in terms his 16.4 fWAR career (top 60 among outfielders since 2002, his rookie year), the last couple of seasons have not been kind to the veteran.
After coming off an All-Star season in 2010 with the Chicago Cubs, Byrd has been through a series of misadventures, including being hit by a pitch five times in the span of 10 games in 2011.
One of those was a fastball to the face at the hands of future Boston Red Sox teammate Alfredo Aceves that not only took him Byrd out for over a 39-game span, but required him to come back to baseball with a special face mask.
He hasn’t been the same player since then.
Before the injury, the then 33-year old was putting up a solid .302/.347/.400 slash in the first half. After he came back, that had dropped to .253/.305/.390, good for a 52 point drop in OPS. The decline continue in 2012, as Byrd posted a career-worst .488 OPS, before being suspended for a violation of the league’s banned substances policy.
So that bring him to the Mets, with whom he signed a minor league deal with, needing a chance to prove not only to the league, but to Byrd himself that he can still play the game at this level.
Over his four games in Spring Training so far, he’s showing that he can.
Byrd is currently third on the team right now in hits, with five hits over 11 at-bats, including a pair on Friday against the Detroit Tigers that included his second double of the spring.
Considering that the Mets outfield is currently made up of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Mike Baxter with little behind them besides Jordany Valdespin, the .455 average that Byrd is posting right now should be good enough to win him a job as a backup – if not as a starter – out of spring.
For now, however, Byrd’s “goal is to try to be one of 25 men flying up to New York”. At this rate, he’ll find himself doing so in the lineup for Opening Day.
Not bad, for a 35-year old guy looking for his last gasp in the bigs.