Not since the days of Corey Patterson have the Cubs had a clear cut center fielder. This search is finally over, with the Cubs singing 32-year-old Marlon Byrd to a 3-year, $15 million deal.
Byrd was arguably the top center field option on the free agent market this year, and at a cost of only $15 million over three years, could wind up being a great bargain. Yes, he's coming off a career year, however, he'll be working with the same hitting coach, as the Cubs signed Rudy Jaramillio earlier this winter. Byrd finished eighth in the AL in doubles in 2009, with a career high 43, and also set a career highs in hits, home runs, RBI and games played.
Byrd has played all three outfield positions well, starting at all three in 2009: 100 starts in CF, 35 starts in LF, six starts in RF. While Byrd isn't a standout defensive outfielder, he's solid, and can fluidly move around as needed. He's only appeared as a DH twice, both times with the 2005 Nationals.
The signing also allows Kosuke Fukudome to move back to right field, where he was a standout defensive player. Because the deal only pays Byrd $3 million this year ($5.5 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012), it leaves Jim Hendry wiggle room to look for a right-handed complement player for Fukudome, a right-handed veteran setup man, and possibly a back-end starter.
All in all, it's a solid signing. Not an amazing move, but a good one. Here's how the 2010 Cubs lineup projects now:
- SS Ryan Theriot
- CF Marlon Byrd
- 1B Derrek Lee
- 3B Aramis Ramirez
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- RF Kosuke Fukudome
- C Geovany Soto
- 2B Jeff Baker/Mike Fontenot.
Of course, Fukudome or Baker could bat second, and Soto could be moved up.