You can’t say that Frank Robinson didn’t give Endy Chavez a chance.
The Washington Nationals sent Chavez to the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday for Marlon Byrd in an exchange of backup center fielders. Chavez, who had spent all but one week of this season with AAA New Orleans and Byrd, who started for the Phillies for much of the past two seasons, are expected to report to their new teams on Sunday.
"We get an outfielder with exceptional speed and he brings lots of energy and doesn't strike out a lot," Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade said.
Chavez may not strike out a lot, but he makes outs in a lot of other ways, with a career OBP of .303, abysmally low for a speedy, non-power outfielder. Despite this, Robinson kept him in the leadoff spot for most of 2003 and 2004, hoping that he would all of a sudden “get it” and start getting on base more often.
All during spring training, Robinson practically pleaded with Chavez, both privately and publicly, to take more pitches and draw more walks so that he could take advantage of his speed at the top of the lineup. Chavez interpreted Robinson’s insistence that he get on base more often differently and started practicing bunting. Robinson was so exasperated that he sent Chavez down to AAA New Orleans to start the season, where he remained for all but a week.
In five games this year, one in which he has spent most of on the disabled list and in rehab in the minors, Byrd is hitting .308. While the Nats aren’t necessarily banking on him to keep that up, Byrd has batted over .300 in a full big-league season, hitting .303 with a .366 OBP in 135 games as the Phillies’ regular center fielder in 2003. He failed to keep up his performance, however, dropping to a .228 average in 106 games last year and he spent some of the year in the minors. Byrd is not the power-hitting outfielder the Nats supposedly have been trying to acquire, with career numbers of 13 home runs and a .377 slugging average. Still, if he can get on base at something close to the pace he did on 2003, the Nats will have pulled off a real steal
A player, almost certainly a pitcher, will have to be sent down to the minors to make room for Byrd. The Nationals are expected to announce who that is on Sunday.