Two injury plagued seasons had definitely taken their toll on Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes. Known as a high-energy player who became a fan favorite flying around the outfield, running into walls, he found himself on the outside looking in at the Diamondbacks roster.
From almost the first day of the 2009 off-season, the writing seemed to be on the wall that Byrnes would not return to the Diamondbacks for the 2010 season. That hunch became a fact with the team cutting ties with Byrnes when they signed infielder Adam LaRoche in mid-January.
When he was designated for assignment, the Diamondbacks had 10 days to either trade Byrnes or allow him to be a free agent. Obviously, no team was interested in trading for the outfielder and inheriting his $11 million contract for 2010.
As expected, Byrnes became a free agent and began marketing his services to the other 29 teams. He was not out of work for very long. Just 14 days after being designated, Byrnes signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners.
For most baseball fans, the off-season success is gauged by the number of times your team is mentioned in the media. With those criteria, the Mariners have had a very successful hot stove season. General Manager Jack Zduriencik has been building what on paper looks to be a very exciting ball club.
Byrnes will join the Mariners as a right-handed bat that can come off the bench and play all three outfield positions, relieving new left fielder Milton Bradley, center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, and when necessary filling in for right fielder Ichiro.
The spacious outfield of Safeco Field will mean that Byrnes needs to regain the speed and agility that has not been seen since the 2007 season with the Diamondbacks. After two torn hamstrings in 2008, many wonder whether Byrnes has the mobility to play the outfield on a regular basis. This is a question that should be answered quickly on the spacious turf in Seattle.
Byrnes signing is one of those low-risk, high-reward contracts general managers love. With the Diamondbacks paying Byrnes $11 million to not play for them in 2010, the Mariners only had to commit to a one-year contract worth the league minimum of around $400,000.
If Byrnes is able to regain some of his former skills this will look like a gem of a transaction. Of course, if Byrnes plays like he did the last two years for Arizona, Mariners fans will learn firsthand how frustrating Byrnes can be.
If nothing else, Byrnes has a new location for his defunct “Eric Byrnes Show” and perhaps an outlet store for his Byrnt clothing line. Regardless of whether Byrnes contributes on the field for the Mariners or not, that team just got a shot of personality adrenaline. The northwest is going to be a whole lot more hyper even before their first cup of coffee.