I was at work when the news broke that Vic Black would be the player to be named in the Marlon Byrd deal, but here's my take on the trade now that we know the Pirates are getting Byrd, John Buck and $250,000, while giving up Black and Dilson Herrera.
From a WAR perspective, this probably isn't a good trade. Black has terrific stuff, and he clearly seems to have the potential to step into a high-leverage bullpen role within the next year. He'll probably do fairly well once he gets there. Since Black is a reliever, there's a limit to how much value he can provide, but over the long haul, he alone is a great bet to provide more value than Byrd and Buck possibly can in a month. Dilson Herrera, too, is also a good prospect and a potential everyday player.
In other words, if I were a Mets fan, given the position the Mets franchise is in, I'd feel fantastic about this deal. They gave up five weeks of a 36-year-old outfielder they signed on a minor-league contract, along with a catcher who has serious contact issues and who'd already been replaced by a much more interesting, much younger player (Travis d'Arnaud), and they turned those them into a potential late-inning reliever and a potential everyday second baseman who they can keep around for years. That's a huge win for them.
The reason contenders and non-contenders make such good trading partners, though, is that it's possible for both teams to come out ahead. Yes, the Pirates are probably going to lose WAR in this deal, but the wins, or fraction of a win, they stand to gain down the stretch is extremely valuable, more valuable than the extra win or so they might lose in 2016. They're in the midst of a pennant race, and ending up with a wild card spot is just an awful outcome compared to actually winning the division, because your chances of winning the World Series get chopped in half as soon as you add a one-game playoff to the mix. The end of the season is in sight. These wins are very important, and we know it. This is a high-leverage month. This is why teams use their closers at the ends of games, not at the beginnings. And it would seem like a shame to build a farm system as good as the Pirates' and not take advantage of an opportunity like the one they have in front of them.
When Neal Huntington said after the deadline that he had been willing to do something "stupid" but not something "insane," this is the sort of trade he was talking about. If you treat the value of wins as static, then this trade probably is "stupid." But if the value of wins is dynamic, then this kind of stupid makes a ton of sense.
We should be skeptical of Byrd's breakout season so far, because of his age and because it was out-of-character, but he's still a big upgrade in the outfield. That's especially true if Starling Marte is out for awhile, as it appears will be the case. Buck isn't much more than a veteran throw-in, but he provides the Pirates with additional catching depth, and it's not totally out of the realm of possibility that he could hit a big homer or three down the stretch. But whatever we might think about Buck, Byrd looks like he'll be a significant help. Given where the Pirates are right now, in the midst of a three-team race for the right to bypass what is essentially a first-round coinflip, Byrd was an upgrade worth paying for. You might even say he's an upgrade worth overpaying for.
Besides, to return to Huntington's "stupid" comment, this trade just isn't "insane." The Pirates didn't give up Gregory Polanco or Josh Bell or someone who has a significant chance at becoming a star. Sure, maybe Dilson Herrera becomes one if everything breaks right for him, but I was in an email chain with Wilbur earlier today where he compared Herrera to Ronnie Belliard, a solid starting second baseman with good overall offensive numbers but without a ton of home run power. (I don't think Wilbur will mind me sharing that.) If Herrera becomes Belliard, that's a fantastic outcome for the Mets, and it would have been nice to have him as a successor to Neil Walker. But the chance that Herrera actually becomes a Belliard is pretty slim, and even Belliard was little more than a good complementary player. Meanwhile, Black is a reliever, which means he won't really come back to bite the Pirates unless he becomes Greg Holland or something, and as with Herrera, that's pretty unlikely.
In other words, the Pirates gave up a lot, but no one who's really likely to come back to bite them. Usually when a trade involves a PTBNL, that player turns out to be insignificant, and I was hoping that was the case with this one too. I was disappointed to hear it was Black. But even so, it's very clear why the Pirates did this, and I can't argue with it. There's nothing to do now but pray it works.