In the midst of a much-maligned August slump against the best in the National League, the defending World Series champions needed a shot in the arm for their offense.
Enter one Marlon Byrd.
The San Francisco Giants acquired the former Cincinnati Reds outfielder on Thursday, as a result of Hunter Pence visiting the 15-day DL earlier this week. Reportedly, the Orange-and-Black gave up AA pitching prospect Stephen Johnson in the deal – a right-hander who is currently 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA in the minor leagues.
The 37-year-old Byrd, who has 19 home runs and 42 RBIs on the season, will replace Pence in the outfield, while providing much-needed power hitting for a slumping Giants offense. He will be inserted into tonight’s lineup against the Pittsburgh Pirates, reportedly batting fifth.
With that in mind, the Giants were forced to free up a spot by optioning a player to AAA Sacramento. Who was that person, you ask?
Why, of course – it was rookie sensation, and owner of a no-hit performance against the New York Mets earlier this year, Chris Heston.
Naturally, many a Giants fan flipped their lid when the news first broke.
After all, it hardly seemed to make sense, at first glance – Heston has been one of their best hurlers in the rotation (11-7, 3.34 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 24 starts). So why send him down to the River Cats for an aging slugger who, with a .237 batting average, might not even help the Giants, long-term?
The answer is simple (to anyone paying attention): it’s to minimize his workload, and give him some rest.
The fact is, Heston hasn’t seen this many innings in his professional career – according to Rotoworld, he is on pace to top his previous high in innings pitched by 16.1 (194.2 IP) – and, in lieu of pushing the limit of a much-needed starter down the stretch, the team felt it would be best for him to get rested up before getting him back as a September call-up.
In that case – we’ll see you in September, Hesto Presto.
Meanwhile, Byrd can still contribute to a playoff contender down the stretch. After all, by proxy, he’s tied for the club lead in home runs with Brandon Crawford, and his glove in center field (according to Reds insiders) isn’t too shabby, either. He will be expected to hold the fort while Pence and Angel Pagan heal up for the September stretch. If he can put runs on the board more often than provide outs for opposing defenses, he will have served a vital role for a team still in the playoff hunt.
Besides, Byrd should feel rejuvenated with the trade to the City By The Bay – he will be joining fellow former Cincinnati SP, Mike Leake, who is expected to re-enter the starting rotation on Saturday. Moreover, the Reds – currently sitting at 17 games below .500 – felt that he should get a shot with a contender, as they get younger with a potential live bullpen arm in the 24-year-old Johnson.
Will this be a move of “Cody Ross/Marco Scutaro” proportions for the Giants? We will know in 40 days. And, as for Byrd? Welcome to San Francisco … now, get to slugging.