Earlier today, the Chicago Cubs ended what seems like a multi-year search for a center fielder. If everything falls into to place, Marlon Byrd will roam center field at the friendly confines through the 2012 season. Byrd, 32, will receive $15 million for his three years of service.
After spending a few seasons bouncing around the NL East, Byrd latched on with the Texas Rangersin 2007. Since then he has posted three above average seasons offensively, while rating about average defensively playing all three outfield positions. He settled down in centerfield for most of 2009, and will do so for the Cubs going forward. Byrd did enjoy playing his home games in Arlington, which might concern some, but career wise has been as an average to a smidgen above average hitter with the latter being true in recent years.
Carrie Muskat tweet's that the deal is slighly back loaded, however when the entire contract is worth $15 million dollars total, moving dollars around doesn't mean much. Over the past three seasons, Byrd has averaged 2.8 WAR. Even if you take some precautions for regression items like leaving Arlington and creeping toward age 35, Byrd should still be a 2-2.5 WAR player; especially next season.
With that in mind, 2010 will almost certainly look like a bargain for the Cubs when you figure in that Byrd's salary next year is just $3 million. If you regress 0.5 WAR annually going forward, it's not far fetched to assume that at age 35 he will most likely be 1-1.5 WAR player making $6.5 million dollars; he becomes less of a bargain, but nothing that will hold the Cubs hostage.
With a $15 million dollar investment, the Cubs are asking for roughly 3.5-4 cumulative wins over the three seasons. Byrd is expected to exceed that, but probably won't blow the ivey off Wrigley's outfield wall with his play. My initial feelings were lukewarm on the deal, but taking all things into consideration, I think the Cubs come out with a good deal and Byrd gets some financial security towards the later stage of his career.