Pirates acquire Byrd, Buck from Mets

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 2:27 p.m.

One day after putting playoff tickets on sale, the Pirates on Tuesday added two players who might ensure the club reaches the postseason for the first time in 21 seasons.

The Pirates acquired right fielder Marlon Byrd and backup catcher John Buck from the New York Mets for minor league infielder Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later.

Byrd and Buck are expected to join the team in time for Wednesday's game against the Brewers.

To clear spots on the 40-man roster, minor league outfielder Russ Canzler was designated for assignment and pitcher Kyle McPherson (elbow surgery) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

The Pirates still must make moves to get Byrd and Buck on the 25-man roster. It's likely catcher Tony Sanchez and outfielder Felix Pie will be sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Mets will send what a Pirates official termed “a small amount” of cash — a fraction of the combined $1.25 million still owed to Byrd and Buck — to the Pirates in the deal. Byrd, who will turn 36 on Friday, and Buck, 33, will be free agents after this season.

The Pirates might not be done dealing before Sunday's deadline to set playoff rosters. According to a team source, the Pirates remain interested in Twins first baseman Justin Morneau.

Having perhaps the finest season of his 12-year career, Byrd was on the Pirates' radar even before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The Mets decided to deal him and retool for next year after star pitcher Matt Harvey went down with a season-ending injury.

“We're not looking for (Byrd) to be the savior,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “But we're looking for him to be better in (right field) than what we've been getting there so far.”

A right-handed hitter, Byrd is batting .285. He led the Mets with a career-best 21 home runs and 71 RBI.

“Byrd's a middle-of-the-lineup bat,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's going to get an opportunity to swing that bat and make a difference for us. We're a better team now than we were before.”

Pirates right fielders have been the least productive in the National League. The group — which includes Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones and Travis Snider — ranks last in the NL in batting average (.232) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.665) and is 13th in RBI (44).

Tabata will continue to start in left field while Starling Marte is on the disabled list with a sprained ligament in his right hand.

Huntington said Marte will be out “at least” until Tuesday.

Byrd finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2004, when he hit .303 with a .784 OPS with the Phillies. Three years ago, he batted .293 with a .775 OPS for the Cubs and was named to the NL All-Star team.

Byrd was suspended 50 games last season after testing positive for tamoxifen, which blocks the effects of the estrogen hormone. After being suspended, Byrd said in a prepared statement that his tamoxifen use was connected to a non-baseball-related surgery he had a few years ago.

“Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance-enhancement reasons,” Byrd said. “I made an inexcusable mistake.”

Byrd played in a total of 47 games for the Cubs and Red Sox last year. He had a career-worst .210 average and .488 OPS.

Buck is batting .215 with 15 home runs and 60 RBI. He's in the final season of a three-year, $18 million contract but became expendable when the Mets called up top prospect Travis d'Arnaud to take over as their everyday catcher.

“John's a good catcher. I've seen him do his work,” Pirates catcher Russell Martin said. “And he's got thunder in his bat. He's a threat.”

Note: Huntington was asked during Tuesday night's game broadcast by the team's announcers about an exchange he had with a fan at a VIP function earlier in the day. Huntington acknowledged that a fan asked him whether fans' reaction to the player to be named later in Byrd-Buck deal would would be “who” or “ouch.” Hungtington said “ouch.” “The Mets are getting two quality players in return,” Huntington said.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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