Phillies Sign Baez, Cubs Sign Byrd
The Philadelphia Phillies have signed Danys Baez to a two-year contract. The veteran righty reliever missed all of 2008 due to an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery, and came back last year to pitch in 59 games and post a 4.02 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 40 K in 79 IP. Without knowing the dollar value on the deal it’s hard to say whether it’s a great signing, but he is potentially a very good addition to the Phillies bullpen — he essentially replaces Chan Ho Park in the 7th-inning role, but with his closing experience could also move into either the job of setup man or possibly closer if Brad Lidge has more meltdowns. Before the TJ surgery Baez had electric stuff and once saved 41 games — as far as raw skills go he wasn’t far from K-Rod. His performance dropped considerably in 2006, and in early 2007 he began to complain of “forearm tightness”, eventually hitting the DL with that symptom — which is nearly always a precursor to an elbow injury. So it’s possible his woes in ’06 — his walk year — may have been due to a hidden injury.
In any case he threw enough last year to prove he was healthy. I didn’t see him first-hand so can’t comment on whether he still has the lights-out stuff. The numbers say “no”, but he was in his first year after TJ surgery, in the AL East, and not in a closer role — so who knows? It’s a good move for the Phils considering that they are not necessarily counting on him to be more than a middle reliever.
In other news, the Cubs signed Marlon Byrd to a 3-year, $15M contract. So far Jim Hendry has not been assassinated, which is amazing considering that this asinine decision comes a year after the equally ill-advised signing of Milton Bradley (and trade of Mark DeRosa). When Byrd first came up with the Phillies he was a “five tool” player but he never flashed all five tools at once. His career path is eerily similar to that of Gary Matthews, Jr.: toolsy youngster, never better than a 5th outfielder, suddenly erupts with a career year at age 31 in Texas under the tutelage of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo (and any other “help” ?) in a walk year, then signs a ridiculously over-valued contract. OK, Sarge Jr. got a stupid 5/$50M, but a 3/$15M for Byrd is nearly as irresponsible — was anyone else in the bidding?
Nothing against Marlon Byrd. He’s a nice enough guy, he might hit .285, and he’ll provide good defense, but my bet is the Cubs will rue this signing more than they celebrate it.