MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Marlon Byrd #23 of the Boston Red Sox makes a catch in center field against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
The Red Sox picked up Marlon Byrd last Saturday, in exchange for Michael Bowden and a player to be named later. Without knowing the PTBNL, this appears to be the Cubs way of giving away Byrd, a notion reinforced by the fact they are paying nearly all of the $6.5 million owed to him in the last season of his contract.
There's more to wanting to clear Byrd off of the roster than the 3-for-43 start he had for the year with Chicago. Byrd began the 2011 season well enough, hitting .308/.346/.419 over his first 44 games and 182 plate appearances, but then he took an Alfredo Aceves pitch to the face. This, besides being a scary moment, knocked Byrd out of commission until the start of July. From his return onward, he hit just .255/.311/.380 with 21 extra-base hits in 300 plate appearances.
Combine that with the early-season scuffles -- as well as the fact the Cubs top prospect is outfielder Brett Jackson -- and you can see why Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer wanted to move Byrd along just to have the roster spot back. (It's all business, but the Red Sox being receptive to receiving Byrd from a pair of old front office buddies couldn't have hurt. Ask Dan Duquette how relationships can help or hurt you in transactions.)
In his first series with the Red Sox, Byrd eclipsed his hit total with the Cubs, smacking four singles while making multiple impressive catches as the team's new center fielder. Jason Repko might have impressed Bobby Valentine with his defense in the spring, but Byrd is better, and has more of a bat even in his post-face-trauma state.
Those four hits don't mean that Byrd is over whatever struggles he was dealing with, but there's something to be said about a fresh start on a new team. Byrd is now playing for a club that is supposed to win, and it's all they've done in the short time he's been in town. Maybe a change of scenery was the kick start he needed to get back to being who he's capable of. Or maybe it's just been three games, and we'll all be disappointed soon. The 34-year-old has not looked slow, though, either at the plate or in the outfield, so maybe there's something to his solid first series as a Red Sox.
The good news is, either way, Byrd is just meant to be a starter for something like two months. Once Jacoby Ellsbury is back, Byrd is a useful bench piece, as it's unlikely he'll unseat either Ryan Sweeney or Cody Ross in one of the corners should Carl Crawford fail to make it back in a timely fashion due to his elbow. He might not be Jacoby Ellsbury -- or even the Marlon Byrd of a few years ago -- but he just has to be better than Jason Repko. That's certainly within his power, whether he rebounds or not, and it gives the Red Sox more of a chance to win than they had without him.