The Diamondbacks have designated outfielder Eric Byrnes for assignment and it looks like the former star will soon be granted his outright release since no one is likely to claim him with his $11-million contract for 2010.
If he is released, the Cardinals ought to try to take a run at Byrnes for their open fourth outfield spot.
Byrnes was terrible during the last two injury-riddled seasons. He batted only .226 in 2009 but was hampered by a broken hand. But in 2007 he showed his upside with a .286 batting average and 21 homers. He also stole 50 bases that season, which could give the Cardinals an infusion of speed that they haven't had for years.
On one hand, it might seem like a tough sell getting a guy with a huge contract to settle for a fourth outfield spot in St. Louis. But 1) manager Tony La Russa finds at bats for players, and even if Matt Holliday, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus are healthy all year long (which is unlikely) he'll still find a way to get Byrnes 400 at bats. 2) Byrnes is going to be 34 and he may appreciate the chance at this stage of his career to play for a contender as opposed to going to the Marlins or the Pirates where he could have a chance to be a starter on a team that is going nowhere.
The Cardinals would be wise to take a chance on Byrnes if they can pick him up off of the waiver wire because they would only have to pay him the MLB minimum. Not only would he help the Birds in their goal of filling the remaining spots on their roster cheaply -- he can play all three outfield positions -- he also has a huge upside that a lot of other cheap players don't offer. It's worth taking a chance because he'd be so cheap that if he doesn't pan out, it wouldn't be too painful to let him walk.
On the other hand, Byrnes might be sold on what playing in St. Louis did to enhance Matt Holliday's value last season. One good year in St. Louis as an understudy could lead to another big contract in 2011. The Cardinals could also choose to let Ryan Ludwick and his ever-increasing paycheck go and keep Byrnes around to play right field in 2011.
I certainly think it is worth a try.
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