Marlon Byrd gives the Pittsburgh Pirates a much better hitting option in right field. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Among the surprises from this year's historically muted trading deadline were the Pirates not making a deal to improve their right field situation and the Mets not cashing in on Marlon Byrd's fluke season. Both situations resolved themselves Tuesday afternoon, however, as the Pirates, who inquired about Byrd on July 31, finally acquired him along with catcher John Buck and cash from the Mets for minor league second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later, executing the deal just days before newly-acquired players will be ineligible for playoff rosters.
The largest immediate impact here will be Byrd taking over right field in Pittsburgh. The Pirates' right fielders, led by Jose Tabata and the injured Travis Snider, have hit just .232/.297/.369 this season. Byrd, who was a non-roster invitee with the Mets this spring after a miserable 2012 season that ended in a steroid suspension, has hit .285/.330/.518 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs on the season. Since May 29, he has hit .304/.350/.561 with 17 of those homers. That's a tremendous upgrade for a team that already ranks among the best in baseball and should make the National League Central race all the more compelling down the stretch.
Buck will be used to fill the hole on the bench created by backup catcher Michael McKenry's season-ending meniscus tear in his left knee, but it's worth noting that Buck hasn't hit much since his early-season home run barrage ended. Buck went deep ten times in the Mets' first 27 games, but has hit just .198/.282/.282 with five more home runs since May 5. It's not clear that he'll be an upgrade over rookie Tony Sanchez, who hit .288/.368/.504 in Triple-A this year and has largely replicated Buck's post-May 5 performance since replacing McKenry at the end of July.
As for Herrera, he's a legitimate prospect. Just 19 last March, he has hit .265/.330/.421 with 27 doubles and 11 home runs in the Sally League this year. Though he's small (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) and limited to second base, Herrera has a lot of pop in his bat and significant potential at the plate. He's not a blue-chipper, to be sure, but he does have potential as a starting major league second baseman, possibly even an All-Star. He's a long way from both the majors and the player he will eventually be, but SB Nation's John Sickels ranked him as the Pirates' ninth-best prospect coming into the season, and he's a nice get for the Mets for two players who will be free agents after the season, one of whom was a non-roster invitee in March.
Herrera is a good prospect, and there's another player heading to New York in this deal, but that's a price the Pirates can afford to pay as their pursuit of their first winning season and first playoff berth from 1992 represents a monumental opportunity for the franchise. They seemed well on their way to both accomplishments before this trade, but the addition of Byrd should give them momentum in the Central Division a day after they slipped into second place, a half-game behind the Cardinals, increasing their chances of reaching and succeeding in the Division Series.