Reds deal Byrd to Giants for pitching prospect
CINCINNATI -- The Reds pulled their first waiver trade of the season when Marlon Byrd was sent to the Giants on Thursday for Minor League pitcher Stephen Johnson.
Johnson is a right-handed pitcher at the Double-A level. He was assigned to Double-A Pensacola.
"We see him as a relief pitcher. He's got a big arm," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "But this is another case of an opportunity to get one of our veteran players to a contending club and a chance to help get a contending club to the postseason."
Byrd, who turns 38 on Aug. 30, was acquired by the Reds from the Phillies on Dec. 31, 2014, for pitching prospect Ben Lively. He was earning $8 million this season and had an $8.5 million vesting option for the 2016 season if he reached 550 plate appearances.
Because of a fractured right wrist suffered on June 2 at Philadelphia, Byrd is likely to fall short of his vesting threshold. In 388 plate appearances over 96 games for the Reds, he batted .237/.286/.448 with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs.
Cincinnati selected the contract of outfielder Ryan LaMarre from Triple-A Louisville to replace the roster spot that belonged to Byrd, who was scratched from the starting lineup vs. the D-backs. Byrd packed up his belongings at his locker and declined to speak to reporters before leaving. Skip Schumaker started the game in left field.
Since the Reds traded starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the club had been quiet on additional moves. Trades after July 31 are more challenging, because players must clear waivers first. Otherwise, deals can be blocked if another team puts in a claim.
Jocketty, who noted that there were no other suitors for Byrd, said he had nothing else currently in the works.
"This [deal] just came about the last two days," he said.
Johnson, 24, was 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 44 appearances for Double-A Richmond. In 58 innings, he allowed 45 hits and 29 walks with 68 strikeouts.
The Reds are already without injured center fielder Billy Hamilton, who went on the disabled list Wednesday with a right shoulder sprain. As for filling the void without Byrd, Brennan Boesch, Jason Bourgeois and LaMarre could all see time until the rosters expand for September callups.
Louisville outfielder Yorman Rodriguez, who is on the 40-man roster, has been on the DL since July 28. At Pensacola, top prospect Jesse Winker has been on a hitting tear this month. Jocketty recently said Winker wouldn't likely be brought up. Perhaps that could change now with Byrd's departure.
Shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who needs a spot to play next season when Zack Cozart returns from knee surgery, has been viewed as a possible left-field candidate in 2016. But Jocketty didn't expect Suarez to get any time there the rest of 2015.
"Not right now, no," Jocketty said.
This is the first big league callup for LaMarre, who was batting .257/.307/.400 with eight homers and 18 RBIs in 91 games for Louisville. It's been a long road for the second-round pick in the 2010 Draft, who was once a higher prospect before struggling the previous few seasons.
LaMarre played in only 17 games last year because of injuries and was released on Aug. 12, 2014, before being re-signed to a two-year Minor League deal. The 26-year-old was at big league Spring Training camp as a non-roster player.