Byrnes has meeting on future with D-backs
Popular but oft-injured outfielder entering final year of contract
PHOENIX -- D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch had breakfast with Eric Byrnes on Wednesday.
On the menu was the outfielder's future in Arizona.
"We just wanted to sit down and lay out what's in front of him," Josh Byrnes said, preferring to keep the specifics of the conversation private. Eric Byrnes did not immediately return phone messages left by MLB.com.
Eric Byrnes signed a three-year, $30 million extension in August of 2007 as the D-backs were on their way to winning a National League-best 90 games and a berth in the NL Championship Series. He hit .286 that year with an .813 OPS (on-base plus slugging) and stole 50 bases.
"When he's been at his best, it's coincided with our team playing its best," Josh Byrnes said.
Unfortunately for both parties, Eric Byrnes has not been at his best in the first two years of the contract and neither have the D-backs. After a hot start in 2008, the team tailed off. And in 2009, Arizona finished in last place in the NL West.
After injuring his hamstrings in Spring Training of 2008, Byrnes' average fell to .209 and he played just 52 games.
After an intense rehab program on his hamstrings,Byrnes reported to Spring Training healthy in 2009 and played very well. He was not able to carry that over into the regular season, however, and a hand injury also robbed him of some playing time. He finished with a .226 batting average in 84 games.
Given the situation, it seems likely that Josh Byrnes laid out three options.
The team could trade Byrnes, though it would most certainly have to pick up most, if not all, of the $11 million remaining on his contract or take a similar contract back.
The team could simply release Byrnes and eat the remaining money on the deal, similar to what the D-backs did with Russ Ortiz in 2006 when it became clear he was not going to regain his effectiveness.
Or the team could elect to have him come to Spring Training and earn a spot on the roster and battle for playing time during the season.
If Conor Jackson returns successfully from his battle with the Valley Fever virus, it would seem that Jackson, Chris Young and Justin Upton would be the favorites to start in the outfield. Gerardo Parra played very well in place of Jackson last year and the team also has outfielders like Cole Gillespie and Trent Oeltjen in the system for depth. In addition, there are infielders Ryan Roberts and Rusty Ryal, who can also play the outfield if need be.
In other words, the outfield situation is a very crowded one.
"The roster crunch on Eric is pretty real," Josh Byrnes said the day after the season ended. "It's sort of a crossroads. We all know the story. His first two years here were tremendous. His last two years, not much has gone right. I think we have to make a determination of whether he fits for next year."
Wednesday's breakfast was likely the first step in that process.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.