Cleveland Indians outfielder Marlon Byrd has been suspended by Major League Baseball for 162 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. This is Byrd’s second time being suspended for PEDs, having been suspended for 50 games back in 2012.
Since Byrd is not appealing the suspension, it will take effect immediately and his time with the Cleveland Indians is almost certainly over. Byrd signed a one-year minor-league deal with the Indians prior to the season, and there is likely no way they’d resign him giving his age and suspensions. After making the club out of spring training, Byrd received a $1 million contract with up to $2.5 million in incentives. The Indians will not be required to pay Byrd while he’s suspended and he won’t reach any incentives, which means the Indians only paid Byrd about $333,000 this season (one-third a season).
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For their troubles, the Indians actually got some good production out of Byrd. In 34 games, Byrd hit .270/.326/.452 with five home runs, 19 RBI, 109 wRC+, and 0.9 fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement). In fact, according to Fangraphs, Byrd was the fifth most valuable Indians’ position player this season thru May, ranking behind only Francisco Lindor (2.1 fWAR), Jose Ramirez (1.6), Jason Kipnis (1.2), and Rajai Davis (1.0). Byrd split time in both left field and right field for the Indians, providing some veteran power for a club that has seen lots of injuries in the outfield with both Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall missing time.
The Indians have announced that Tyler Naquin will replace Byrd on the 25-man roster. As mentioned on Twitter earlier today, Naquin was notably absent from the Columbus Clippers’ lineup this morning in their game in Buffalo. Naquin was with the Indians earlier this year and hit reasonably well batting .317/338/.413 with a 105 wRC+ in 27 games. He had his issues and signs of regression but given the situation was the most logical option to be called up.
The Indians also announced that they have optioned right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong to Triple-A. Armstrong was recalled just yesterday taking the place of Ryan Merritt who was sent to Columbus. Armstrong did make an appearance in last night’s game, allowing one run in his one inning of work. Taking his place will be veteran left-handed reliever Tom Gorzelanny, who will take Byrd’s 40-man roster spot. Gorzelanny will be the Tribe’s sole lefty in the bullpen, which still stands at nine with the addition of Mike Clevinger, who moved from the rotation to the bullpen with the impending activation of Carlos Carrasco from the disabled list. Gorzelanny had a 3.38 ERA and 3.01 FIP in 19 games with the Clippers this season. He struck out over a batter an inning (9.16 K/9) but struggled with walks (5.30 BB/9).
The Indians are definitely going to miss Byrd but the good news is he was still only a role player and not an everyday guy. He joins Abraham Almonte as Indians’ outfielders to be suspended for failed drug tests. Ironically, the Indians likely signed Byrd due to the fact that they lost Almonte for the first 80 games of the season. For now, the Indians will hope Naquin and others can fill the void left by Byrd. Hopefully, the outfield will be getting another boost with the return of Brantley though when exactly that will be is still unknown.