Byrnes agrees to three-year extension
D-backs commit to energetic outfielder through 2010 season
PHOENIX -- When Eric Byrnes and the D-backs broke off contract talks a couple of weeks ago in Milwaukee, all signs pointed to Byrnes playing out the season in Arizona before moving on to greener pastures in the offseason.
Instead, sparked by a meeting with general partner Jeff Moorad last week that caught Byrnes off guard, he will continue patrolling the outfield in Chase Field for the near future after agreeing to terms on a three-year deal announced Tuesday, reportedly worth $30 million.
"I can't tell you guys how excited I am," Byrnes said. "When it came to trying to work an extension out with them, I really, really wanted to stay here. I really wanted to be a Diamondback as long as it made sense. What [general manager] Josh [Byrnes] and Jeff did and the entire ownership group is they made it make sense to me."
After losing to the Braves on July 29, Moorad called the outfielder into the office for a discussion that cut right to the chase. Both sides spoke very candidly, with Moorad presenting a deal that left both sides the impression it could get done.
Byrnes dropped his demand of a five-year contract, a length the D-backs did not want to commit to for the 31-year-old. The club, meanwhile, upped the annual compensation after previously offering a three-year deal for a reported $22.5 million.
"I think three years was probably the right number for both of us," Byrnes said. "I think three years is enough time to really go out there and see what this group can do. This is an exciting young team that I wanted to be a part of, and I think three years is perfect."
Josh Byrnes shared that view, saying it's hard to forecast what Arizona's roster will look like beyond 2010.
"We have a pretty good idea what our team should look like, not 100 percent, what this team should look like through the length of this deal, and that's a good feeling," he said. "This year we're right in it, and we feel like we're going to have a good team here the next three years, and he's going to be a big part of it."
Byrnes has enjoyed a career year in what would have been his walk year, hitting .303 with 17 homers, 64 RBIs and 28 stolen bases entering Tuesday, all of which have already surpassed or are within range of career highs.
With those numbers and the exploding market for outfielders, Byrnes likely would have commanded more money on the open market, although he said he couldn't care less about that.
"I never thought this thing wouldn't get done, and I don't think we could have signed a better guy to represent this team and this organization than Eric Byrnes," manager Bob Melvin said. "First and foremost, what he does on the field, he leaves it out there every inning and every game, and with the group of younger guys coming up, I think this is the perfect example to have for these guys to learn from. This market is a perfect fit for him, what he's accomplished here."
Byrnes has become a fan favorite in a Phoenix market that soured a bit after the organization's decision not to re-sign popular players Luis Gonzalez and Craig Counsell last season. Fans have written letters and put pressure on the D-backs to keep Byrnes regardless of the wealth of outfield talent in the system, which he thinks helped get the deal done.
"I'm just real excited to be here, and from the bottom of my heart, I just want to thank the fans of Arizona for being so supportive," he said. "I think it's the fans that helped keep me here, and I recognize that. ... I appreciate that."
With the deal, the D-backs keep the experienced Byrnes in the lineup and the clubhouse to continue to show the group of youngsters how to play the game the right way. As one of the few veterans in Arizona's lineup, he has also taken some of the younger hitters under his wing and kept the clubhouse loose with his laid-back personality.
"The energy and excitement that he brings in the clubhouse and out there on the field is something that's not replaceable by that many players, just the type of guy that he is and they type of leader that he is," said outfielder Chris Young. "If you just watch him on the field, he leads by example and plays the game how it should be played, and it shows us that we should never let up as well."
In the past, Josh Byrnes has spoken of the organizational outfield depth with Justin Upton, Young, Carlos Quentin and Minor League star Carlos Gonzalez as factors in the negotiations. With Eric Byrnes entrenched in the lineup for the next three years, likely to be joined by Upton and Young, that could put the futures of Quentin and Gonzalez with the club in question.
Still, the GM felt it was worth it for what Byrnes adds to the team in the present, as a combination of power and speed in the middle of the order, a versatile, all-out defender and a locker room leader.
"I don't think it's a stretch to say he's one of the best examples we have and part of the core leadership that's helped us have this success this year," Josh Byrnes said. "I'm really excited Eric's gotten to this point, and this demonstrably shows we view him as a key, key part of this organization."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.