Wounded by 2½ weeks of poor pitching, spotty at-bats, clubhouse controversy and one critical injury, the Boston Red Sox on Saturday morning were close to acquiring outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Chicago Cubs, according to a report out of Boston.
As the first weeks of the post-Terry Francona/Theo Epstein era threatened the long-term health and stability of the current Bobby Valentine/Ben Cherington era, the Red Sox sought to cover for the shoulder injury suffered by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Boston Globe reported the Red Sox were near a deal for Byrd, but had not yet completed the transaction.
Byrd was not in the lineup for the Cubs’ Saturday afternoon game against the Cincinnati Reds, either a sign the trade was indeed close or that manager Dale Sveum hoped for more than a .070 batting average out of his center fielder. Byrd, 34, has three hits ‐ all singles – in 43 at-bats.
In the week since Ellsbury subluxed his right shoulder, Valentine has used Cody Ross and Jason Repko (who injured his shoulder Friday) in center field and Darnell McDonald primarily in left. Carl Crawford, Boston’s regular left fielder last season, is recovering from wrist and elbow injuries in extended spring training and at some point will begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment.
Byrd is owed $6.5 million in 2012, the final season of a three-year contract with the Cubs. He batted .276 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs in 119 games last season. The Cubs appeared likely to acquire right-hander Michael Bowden in exchange for Byrd, according to reports.
A trade would be the first between Epstein, who left the Red Sox following their September collapse to become president of the Cubs, and Cherington, his top assistant who succeeded him in Boston, though the Cubs did compensate the Red Sox for Epstein.
Neither organization has started well. The Red Sox are 4-9, last in the AL East. Valentine has been booed at Fenway Park, in part for being critical of fan favorite Kevin Youkilis. The Cubs, under Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and Sveum, are 3-11 and in last in the NL Central.
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