Note, 5:21 p.m. Friday: I just posted a new blog entry with quotes from Byrnes.
The Mariners just announced that former Diamondback outfielder Eric Byrnes has signed a one-year contract. So there’s the right-handed bat that GM Jack Zduriencik was talking about yesterday. We’re talking to Byrnes on a conference call soon, so I’ll make this quick. I’ll be adding to this momentarily, but I wanted to get something up.
Byrnes, who will turn 34 on Feb. 16, was released by the Diamondbacks earlier this winter. After breakout years in 2006 and ’07 that earned him a big contact (three years, $30 million that would have paid him $10 million this year, the final year of the contract; the D’Backs had to pay the remainder of his salary when they released him), he was hampered by injuries and hit hard times. Byrnes missed more than two months on the disabled list with a fractured left hand in 2009, and played only 52 games in 2008 because of hamstring issues in both legs.
The Mariners will only have to pay the $400,000 minimum salary, which will make it not difficult to release Byrnes if they don’t like what they see in spring training. But there’s definitely a left-field platoon role for him to seize.
Byrnes hit .226 in 84 games last year with 14 doubles, eight homers, 31 RBI and nine steals in 12 attempts.
To make room on the 40-man roster, Tommy Everidge was designated for assignment. The Mariners now have 10 days to trade, release or outright Everidge to the minors. Seattle claimed Everidge on waivers from Oakland on Jan. 15.
In 2007, however, Byrnes set new career highs in all but two offensive categories, ranking fourth in the National League with 50 steals to go with 21 homers and 83 RBI. He was also ranked one of the top three left field defenders by John Dewan’s Fielding Bible.
“We think Eric is a great fit for our team,” said Zduriencik. “He is a high-energy player with a veteran presence. We look forward to him competing for a spot on our roster when spring training starts.”
Byrnes was something of a character, and a fan favorite in Arizona (at least he was when he was performing well). Here’s what Nick Piecoro, beat writer for the Arizona Republic, wrote after Byrnes was released:
Eric Byrnes is gone, and some Diamondbacks fans couldn’t be happier.
We get it. The TV show could seem a bit much, especially the past couple of years. The somersault he’d do on throws from the outfield could wear thin on some. Certainly it did for the segment of online fans that nicknamed him Flipper.
And there were the pop-ups. Oh, so many pop-ups. Between Byrnes and Chris Young, you might have needed a chiropractor for the kinks in your neck after a series at Chase Field last season.
But we have better memories of Byrnes. As the beat writer who covered the team during most of his time here, I can tell you his personality was a joy to behold, and his skills as a conversationalist were unparalleled in the Diamondbacks clubhouse.
(Photo by Getty Images)