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Marlon Byrd's High Price Tag Means Missed Opportunity for Phillies

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Marlon Byrd's High Price Tag Means Missed Opportunity for Phillies
Michael Perez/Associated Press

According to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Phillies were expected to move Marlon Byrd by the MLB non-waiver trade deadline at 4 p.m. ET Thursday, but the final hours came and went, and Byrd was placed in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Nationals, per CSN Philadelphia's John Clark. 

Though NJ.com's A.J. Perez had the news that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was not looking for "top prospects" for the right fielder, several other outlets reported that Philadelphia's asking price was "extremely high," including CBS' Baseball Insider Jon Heyman

Amaro contends that other clubs "were not aggressive enough" in their talks with the Phillies, but it's not hard to see why Amaro's contract gave some teams pause. 

Meghan Montemurro of The News Journal had the details of Amaro's contract, which includes $8 million owed next season with an $8 million club option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed with 600 plate appearances in 2015 or 1,100 in 2014-15.

Byrd had a limited no-trade clause in his contract that involved four teams, including the Seattle Mariners, according to Heyman, and would only waive that clause if those teams picked up his 2016 option. It appears the $16 million price tag for Byrd was too much for the Mariners and other reportedly interested partners to swallow.

The Phillies and New York Mets were the only teams in the National League East that didn't move at least one player, per Perez. Shortly after the trade deadline passed, the hashtag #FireRuben was trending (h/t The700Level). 

Byrd is having a productive year for the Phillies, batting .270 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs in 106 games. But trading Byrd, who turns 37 next month, was a valuable opportunity to get younger and build for the future that Amaro missed out on. 

As if to underscore that point, starting pitcher Cliff Lee, who shares a birthday with Byrd and will turn 36, exited Thursday's game with an apparent elbow injury, per ESPN's Buster Olney, reinforcing the need for young talent on this club.

Bleacher Report National MLB Columnist Scott Miller and Phillies beat writers alike reflected the mood in Philadelphia Thursday. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb called the day's events a "damning commentary" on the "flawed roster" Amaro has constructed. 

It's not an unfair criticism. Amaro didn't impress with his offseason additions and has now missed his second opportunity to take this team into the postseason, instead setting the Phillies up for an early exit in September. Carrying three players worth $20 million or more with the third-largest bankroll in baseball and failing to balance the roster with young, inexpensive players who can produce is what creates a "flawed roster."

Failing to deal one of your most expensive—and most attractive—commodities is what constitutes a missed opportunity. 

Moreover, Amaro was taking a risk by betting on the health of star pitcher Lee, the linchpin holding this team together. With his elbow injury Thursday, the wheels just came off for Philadelphia. 

Gelb reported Thursday evening that Amaro "is confident" he will still be the team's general manger come winter but that he hasn't had any conversations with president David Montgomery. 

Montgomery, however, was quoted as saying in June that he didn't want the team to rebuild because attendance would fall, per Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times (subscription required), so fans hoping for an ousting of Amaro could be dismayed to find he and Montgomery are of a like mind. 

The Phillies and then-free agent Byrd agreed to the two-year, $16 million deal last November. This season, the San Diego Padres traded outfielder Chris Denorfia to Seattle for pitcher Stephen Kohlscheen and outfielder Abraham Almonte, while the Arizona Diamondbacks got outfielder Mitch Haniger and pitcher Anthony Banda from the Milwaukee Brewers for trading outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Moves around the league suggest the Phillies could have gotten a good return on Byrd had they lowered their asks. 

For now, fans will have to hope Amaro can make something happen in August, when the Phillies could try again by placing Byrd on waivers and hoping another team claims him. If that were to happen, the claiming team would be responsible for the rest of Byrd's contract, which would free up some money and allow the Phillies to get younger. 

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