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On Marlon Byrd and the Cubs

T.R. Sullivan says the Cubs still want Marlon Byrd, and the Rangers are still talking. He says the Cubs will part with Matt Murton, but the Rangers want young pitching instead, and the Cubs aren't willing to part with the type of arms the Rangers want.

And the Chicago Sun-Times said yesterday the Cubs are still interested in Byrd.

I'm starting to get a gut feeling that Byrd will be a Cub by Opening Day.

The Cubs consider themselves a contender, but right now, they have Felix Pie in centerfield, with no Plan B. Dusty Baker's reputation, of course, is as a guy who doesn't like playing young players, and even if Pie is the regular in center, the Cubs seem to want a righty to spell him. Update [2008-3-14 22:34:32 by Adam J. Morris]: -- Of course, as has been pointed out in the comments, that's irrelevant, since Baker doesn't manage the Cubs anymore. Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome aren't likely to spend significant time in center, Murton can't play center, and Sam Fuld is a lefty hitter who is a question mark himself.

I think when it gets down to nut-cutting time, Lou Piniella will get a veteran righty CF'er to share time with Pie, and the Cubs brass will part with a decent arm to get him one.

My guess is that the Rangers aren't really all that interested in Murton. The only way I could see a Byrd for Murton deal going down is if Jon Daniels can line up a deal with a team like the Padres to move Murton for what he thinks Byrd is worth.

I also think the performance of some outfielders in camp is making Daniels more comfortable with the idea of dealing Byrd. David Murphy has impressed folks this spring, Kevin Mench has come in and played well, and Josh Hamilton has been otherworldly. Jason Botts, meanwhile, has continued to hit.

I have to wonder if the Rangers might be more comfortable now with the idea of a Murphy/Mench platoon in left, with Botts and Cat splitting time at DH, than they were a month ago. Even with Milton Bradley sidelined, they could roll with a Murphy/Hamilton/Mench outfield until he's ready to play the field. And Murphy is, I think, a better defensive outfielder than Byrd anyway, and a better option in center as a backup to Hamilton.

The Rangers will no doubt be careful with Hamilton, who probably won't log more than 130 games in center, so having someone solid to spell him is important, and I imagine is a factor in the reluctance to part with Byrd. But with Murphy and Bradley both capable of handling center, Brandon Boggs on the 40 man roster, and Jason Ellison in the minors, one would think the center field depth isn't that big a problem.

So...it seems to me that Kevin Mench and Jason Botts having strong springs could well end up resulting in the Rangers getting another minor league arm before the spring is over...