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Red Sox acquire Marlon Byrd from Cubs for Michael Bowden, player to be named

04.21.12 at 5:59 pm ET
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The Red Sox acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Cubs in exchange for right-hander Michael Bowden and a player to be named, with Chicago taking on nearly all of Byrd’s salary, according to an industry source. The move helps the Sox to address their injury-ravaged outfield.

Byrd, 34, is in the last year of a three-year, $15 million deal and is earning $6.5 million this season. He is off to a dismal 3-for-43 start this year, having managed just three singles and three walks this season en route to a .070 average, .149 OBP and .219 OPS. For his career, however, he is a .278/.337/.416/.753 hitter, and in 2011, he hit .276/.324/.395/.719 in 199 games.

The right-handed hitting Byrd is also regarded as a solid defensive center fielder. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford both on the disabled list, the team has been scrambling to add to its outfield depth, with manager Bobby Valentine saying that he and GM Ben Cherington have talked “often” about finding reinforcements to its depleted corps. However, given the early stage of the season, fewer teams are motivated to deal a potential everyday outfielder than might be the case later in the year.

“Ben will try to get as good a player as he can get,” said Valentine. “Obviously it’€™s difficult to get if you’€™re looking in April, as we are.”

Given that reality, while Byrd didn’t represent the ideal replacement, he did loom as perhaps the best available option, with the acquisition cost more than reasonable given that the Sox will actually find themselves in a slightly better payroll situation than they did before the trade.

As for Bowden, he returns to the team for whom he rooted as a kid growing up in the Chicago suburbs. The 2005 supplemental first-round pick — at the time, the highest selection by the Sox of a high-school pitcher under former GM Theo Epstein — looked like one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox system for several years, but his performance plateaued in the upper levels of the minors, where he was moved from the rotation to the bullpen.

The 25-year-old, who is now out of minor league options, went 2-2 with a 5.61 ERA in 39 big league games for the Red Sox, with a 3.00 ERA and three strikouts in three innings this year. However, the Sox designated him for assignment last weekend when they needed to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, and so he will have an opportunity to see if he can find success while pitching in the bullpen in the National League, reuniting with a number of officials (including Epstein and former Sox director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod, who is now Cubs Assistant GM) who saw him at his best in the minors.

While the identity of the player to be named is not known, a source said that it is not left-hander Andrew Miller (currently on the DL). That being the case, the Red Sox will have to create a spot on the 40-man roster in order to add Byrd to the major league roster.

(One slightly obscure clarification: It was believed that the Sox could apply the money that the Cubs would send to them to improve their luxury tax situation, since the subsidy coming from the Cubs would exceed his average annual value. In the past, teams could end up with a lower payroll as calculated for luxury tax purposes after acquiring a player. However, according to an industry source, Major League Baseball closed that loophole in the last two years.)

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