Outfielder Marlon Byrd may have only been with the Pittsburgh Pirates for a handful of games, but in those games, he was made a lasting impression.
Going into 2013, the expectations for the Pittsburgh Pirates were high. In back-to-back seasons, the Bucs had suffered a second half collapse after being in a very good position to make a run for a playoff spot. So entering 2013, there was a lot on the line for the club.
On the other hand, you had outfielder Marlon Byrd, where the expectations were very low. Byrd was a former All-Star and put up a productive run as a Texas Ranger and Chicago Cub. From 2007 to 2010, Byrd had a .294/.350/.456 line, a 110 OPS+, and racked up +6 DRS with a 7.6 UZR. Overall, he averaged about 3.5 bWAR a season.
However, the veteran outfielder had reached the lowest point of his career in 2011 and 2012. In these two seasons, Byrd hit just .260/.305/.358 with an 81 OPS+. But bad production was the least of his concerns. Byrd was given a PED suspension in 2012 that limited him to just 47 total games between the Cubs and Boston Red Sox.
This led to Byrd’s value being way down by the end of the 2012 season. Byrd went most of the next offseason unsigned, and ended up having to settle with a minor league deal with the New York Mets with an invite to spring training. But the move might have been one of the most underrated signings of the off season. Byrd ended up bouncing back. Through his first 464 plate appearances of 2013, the slugger hit .285/.330/.518 with 21 home runs, and a 138 OPS+. Defensively, Byrd was everything the Mets could have hoped a 35-year-old could be. He posted +6 DRS, and totaled 7 outfield assists while in a Met uniform in right field.
Obviously, the Mets had right field on lock down for most of the year, but what about the Pittsburgh Pirates? Well they weren’t so fortunate to have as productive of a right field.
From the beginning of the year up until the start of August, Pittsburgh Pirates right fielders combined to hit just .247/.303/.387 with a 94 wRC+. Not too good for a team who was trying to make a run for the division title. So the Pirates solved that issue by trading for Byrd on August 27. In return for the right fielder, the Mets received from the Pirates infield prospect Dilson Herrera and relief pitcher Vic Black. The Bucs also got catcher John Buck with Byrd.
Byrd made an immediate impact with the Pirates by hitting a home run in his first game. Byrd’s tenure with the Pirates was short, but very productive. He hit .318/.357/.486 with 3 home runs, 9 doubles and finished with a 137 OPS+ in his 115 plate appearances. Byrd brought his stellar defense to Pittsburgh too, posting +2 DRS in right field in just 232 innings.
But Byrd made a lasting impact on the Pirates’ fan base during the postseason. In the legendary 2013 National League Wild Card game, Byrd got the Pirates out in front first with a solo shot off of Johnny Cueto to left field. That would be one of two home runs that inning with Russell Martin hitting the second a batter later. Although the Pirates lost the NLDS in 5 games, Byrd racked up 6 hits, including a pair of doubles, in 19 plate appearances.
Marlon Byrd might have only played a total of 35 games in a Pittsburgh Pirate uniform, but he was one of the big factors to the Pirates’ 2013 postseason run. From the beginning of September onward, he was probably the Pirates’ hottest bat not named Andrew McCutchen that got regular playing time. His acquisition by the Pirates might have been what kept them from facing a third straight collapse.