Mets Sign Marlon Byrd

The Mets finally have a legitimate MLB outfielder on their roster. Sort of.

By signing Marlon Byrd, the Mets have someone reporting to Port St. Lucie who played at least one full season as a starting outfielder at the Major League level.

I know, I know — experience is overrated. And in this specific case, I agree. Other than the experience of 1100+ games as a Major League outfielder, including a handful as a starting center fielder, the 35-year-old Byrd doesn’t have much to offer. He had an adequate season in 2011 with the Cubs, but after a rough start in 2012 was dealt to the Red Sox on April 21. He played in 34 games for Boston before being released in mid-June. Though he hit .270 for the Bosox, it was all singles — 24 to be exact (out of a total of 27 hits). His OBP was .286 (he walked only twice) and his OPS .606. Once the owner of above-average speed, he was caught stealing twice without swiping a base.

Interestingly, not even PEDs could help keep him in MLB; shortly after his release, it was revealed that he failed a test, testing positive for Tamoxifen.

Byrd’s statement went like this:

“I made an inexcusable mistake,” the statement said. “Several years ago, I had surgery for a condition that was private and unrelated to baseball. Last winter, I suffered a recurrence of that condition and I was provided with a medication that resulted in my positive test. Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance-enhancement reasons.

I believe Byrd when he says he did not use Tamoxifen (a.k.a., Nolvadex) for performance-enhancing reasons. He probably didn’t — at least, not directly. Tamoxifen / Nolvadex is a drug used primarily for two reasons: by women in treatment for breast cancer, and by bodybuilders for maintaining various chemical levels when cycling off steroids. It’s similar in that latter way to Clomid and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG); some of you may remember hCG was the banned substance for which Manny Ramirez tested positive (the first time).

I suppose it’s possible that Byrd’s “private condition” was breast cancer, and it’s his business to keep such a thing private, but, color me pessimistic. Maybe it’s the fact that I know all too well about why muscle heads at Gold’s Gym use Nolvadex. Maybe it’s because Byrd worked closely with BALCO founder Victor Conte — and was the only MLBer still under his “care” as recently as 2011. Maybe it has something to do with that blip in his career — 2009, in Texas — when he doubled his previous career-high homerun total. Hmm … Nelson Cruz and Pudge Rodriguez were also on that ’09 team … and Sammy Sosa and Jerry Hairston, Jr. were his teammates in ’08 … ahh, probably just a coincidence.

By testing positive, Byrd was suspended from MLB for 50 games. However, he had already been released, and didn’t catch on with another club. If he happens to make the 25-man roster out of spring training, does that mean he must serve his suspension for the first 50 games of 2013? Or is the fact he didn’t play after June of last year considered “time served”?

Also, is it just a coincidence that the Mets announced the signing of a PEDs user on a Friday night? That’s the PR person in me; it’s standard, in any industry (other than possibly the NFL), to release news you want to get “buried” on Friday night, knowing that less people are paying attention and by Monday, when people are checking news again, will have several more headlines sitting atop whatever happened on Friday night.

Beyond my wild conspiracy theories, I wonder if Byrd’s signing means the Mets won’t be pursuing any other outfielders — such as Michael Bourn. My guess is that Byrd’s presence is irrelevant, and if another decent outfielder wants to join the fun in Port St. Lucie, the Mets will welcome him with open arms (if closed pockets).

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. TexasGusCC February 2, 2013 at 2:06 am
    I know it’s just a minor league contract, but why not bring in Carlos Lee and give him these spring training at-bats? Marlon Byrd??? Really? I know Lee had a bad year last year and hit .206 against lefties for some reason. But, he hit .348, .276, and .325 the previous three years, respectively. Lee is one year and one month older than Byrd, and look at his track record. We sign Byrd over even the very last real major league bat available??? Sandy, come on!!!!
    • Joe Janish February 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm
      I don’t think Carlos Lee has interest in playing for the Mets. From what I understand, he cares far more about his cattle ranch in Texas than baseball. That said, he likely is waiting for the Astros or Rangers to make an offer, so he can remain close to his ranch. At this point in his life, after playing 14 years in MLB and making well over $100M in his career, he doesn’t have much motivation to play baseball — he’s going to take a deal that makes him most comfortable and fits in with his interests outside of baseball.
      • derek February 4, 2013 at 9:58 am

        You are correct. Carlos loves his cattle down here….and prob will make more on that ranch then any contract a MLB team will offer him at this time in his career..

  2. meticated February 2, 2013 at 7:52 am
    hey bro….the most promising element here is that Byrd lost forty pounds and fired up his legs by studying Muay Thai …thats gotta rejuvenate any 35’yr old
    • Joe February 3, 2013 at 6:18 pm
      Is that you Joe Benigno?
  3. Izzy February 2, 2013 at 8:55 am
    when did his suspension take effect? Was his 50 games counted when he wasn’t on any roster, or does it start whenever he makes a big league team or the Mets?
    • friend February 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm
      The consensus seems to be that after testing positive, he was placed on the restricted list (as a free agent), and served his 50-game suspension, ending in August.
      • Joe Janish February 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm
        Remarkable. Then why did Manny Ramirez have to serve his “reduced sentence” after retiring for a year? Doesn’t seem congruent.
        • friend February 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm
          Maybe retirement is treated differently from being released. Maybe the new CBA treats it differently than the old one.
  4. DaveSchneck February 2, 2013 at 9:59 am
    I has stooped to this. No offense to Marlon, but really?
  5. The King February 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm
    Where is The Stork when you need him?
  6. AC Wayne February 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm
    Is this signing really necessary? Oh, I get it, this is another one of Sandy’s jokes pertaining to the OF, haha, you really are a cut-up Alderson, a 35-year OFer who was banned for 50-games and is now going to be the missing piece to your inexperienced OF

    Byrd was signed to be a possible PH, right? Not your starting CFer, I can’t imagine Byrd earning an everyday job out of ST

  7. Joe February 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm
    Thinking it’s just another 4th OF worthy signing.

    The latest thing is talk about Brandon Lyon.

  8. Dan B February 3, 2013 at 10:33 pm
    I am beginning to think I care more about Carlos Lee’s cattle ranch ranch then the Mets, also.