Pirates add Byrd, Buck in deal with Mets
Bucs satisfy need for power-hitting outfielder, veteran backstop
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Tuesday satisfied both of their biggest September stretch needs, dealing for outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the New York Mets.
The two veterans were acquired, along with some cash, for Minor League infielder Dilson Herrera and a player to be named.
Byrd and Buck were not yet in PNC Park for Tuesday's opener of a six-game homestand against the Brewers, but they are expected to be in uniform for Wednesday night's game. Manager Clint Hurdle spoke briefly with both on Tuesday afternoon and sensed "they were as excited to be here, as we are to have them."
The Pirates added both players to the 40-man roster, but will have to make corresponding moves to accommodate them on the active 25-man roster.
"It will be interesting to see the dynamics of how they fit it," said Neil Walker, one of the team's elders. "It's not cut-and-dry. They'll replace two guys currently on the team, so are we happy? Can't say that. But I've seen them play, and they're great additions. Pretty neat, too. We probably didn't expect anything to happen so late, maybe closer to the Trade Deadline."
"We were looking to add to our offense, and at the Trade Deadline were disappointed that we weren't able to," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. "Byrd helps our offense right now. And it was important to have three catchers we feel very good about."
A veteran who joins his seventh team in a 12-year career, Byrd eased the blow of some discouraging news on outfielder Starling Marte. Dr. Tom Graham, the Cleveland hand specialist, examined Marte on Tuesday morning and said it will be two weeks before he can even begin holding and swinging a bat.
"With Marte's injury and a couple of guys struggling," Huntington said, "we felt [Byrd] would be a good addition to our club. We don't expect him to be a savior, but to be better in [right field] than what we've had so far."
Nine different players at that position have combined to produce a .232 average this season for the Bucs, with a dozen homers and 44 RBIs.
Byrd, who turns 36 on Friday, fills the need for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder with power. He was having a rejuvenated season for New York, hitting .285 with 52 extra-base hits -- 21 homers, 26 doubles and five triples.
Byrd could platoon in right with a pair of lefty-hitting options -- Garrett Jones and Travis Snider, who is finishing up a Minor League rehab assignment -- and brings an OPS of .980 against left-handed pitchers this season.
"A good pick up. Byrd is having a great year, swinging it," said Jones, who reflected on frequent conversations while stationed at his other position, first base. "Just from talking to him at first base, he seems like a good guy and good leader. He's gonna definitely help us. I get the vibe that he's intense, the type of guy we want and like to have on the team. He brings a positive air, for sure."
"A middle-of-the-lineup [player] can be impactful, and that's Marlon," Hurdle said. "He's got significant numbers against left-handed pitching, in some areas we've been looking to improve."
Over the last three months, Byrd ranks second in baseball behind former teammate David Wright with a .420 batting average against lefties, and places fourth behind Miguel Cabrera, Wright and Jayson Werth with a 1.147 OPS.
Buck provides the experienced backup help to regular catcher Russell Martin, who has been supported by prospect Tony Sanchez after Michael McKenry was lost for the season following surgery on his left knee on July 29.
"We love Tony," Huntington said, "but we were an injury away from being very shallow at that position."
Acquiring Buck before postseason rosters are frozen on Aug. 31 gives the Pirates the option of entering the playoffs with the veteran tandem of Martin and Buck. They are unlikely to carry three catchers in the postseason.
Byrd was a target of Huntington prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, although the executive's focus was on longer-term options.
"We laid some groundwork," the GM said. "He was one of the guys we targeted, but weren't able to come to an agreement. Circumstances changed, and both clubs felt better about the deal than in late July.
"It was nice [being able to answer two question marks with one move]. I guess you could say we were opportunistic. We gave up some good pieces, but felt we were at the right point in time to push the organization forward."
Herrera, a 19-year-old second baseman signed two years ago from Colombia, was batting .265 in 109 games with Class A West Virginia. Huntington's reference to "good pieces" implied the Pirates will decided on another player off a short list compiled by the Mets, a common practice.
Byrd signed a one-year contract with the Mets as a free agent on Feb. 1, a team-friendly deal at $700,000.
The cash included in the transaction will help cover the approximately $1.2 million remaining on Buck's contract, a three-year, $18 million deal originally signed with the Marlins in November 2010. The Mets acquired him in December from Toronto, where Buck had gone as part of the 13-player deal involving Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes.