D-Backs sign Byrnes to one-year deal

D-Backs sign Byrnes to one-year deal

PHOENIX -- For outfielder Eric Byrnes, signing with the Diamondbacks allows him to play in a city in which he owns a home.

But that wasn't the main thing that prompted the free agent to agree to a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Diamondbacks on Friday.

"More than anything coming into this season I just needed to find the best situation for me as far as playing baseball is concerned," he said. "That's what ultimately was the deciding factor more than money, more than location, more than anything else."

The best situation in Byrnes' mind is getting a chance to play center field on an everyday basis and that's the opportunity the Diamondbacks offered him. With highly-touted center field prospect Chris Young expected to start the year in Triple-A, Arizona was looking for a veteran that could handle the chores until the youngster was ready.

Enter Byrnes, a 29-year-old who plays the game with an all-out style that made him a fan favorite in Oakland when he played for the A's from 2003 until getting dealt to the Rockies and then the Orioles last year.

"It's a position that I've always thought was my best position," Byrnes said of center.

He was the A's main center fielder in 2003 when he hit .263, but after Oakland picked up Mark Kotsay to play the position, he played moved around a bit, but had his best year at the plate compiling a .283 batting average to go with 39 doubles, 20 homers and 73 RBIs.

"I think he's a player that can impact the game defensively and with the bat in his hand," said D-Backs general manager Josh Byrnes, who has no relation to his newest acquisition.

Center field at Chase Field is not an easy place to play. The big gaps as well as overhangs just to left and right of dead center make it more challenging.

"I've never even been there," Eric Byrnes said. "I just know there's a lot of room out there. [But] the way I look at things though the more room the better. I think I'm at my best when I'm running after balls and letting my speed make up for a wrong step that I might make now and then."

Byrnes is the second high-energy, high-enthusiasm player the Diamondbacks have acquired recently, with second baseman Orlando Hudson coming over from the Blue Jays in a trade earlier in the week.

The pair will help bring some life to a team that was criticized for not showing enough fire last season.

"These guys are probably two of the most unique guys in that their energy is visible," Josh Byrnes said of the pair.

Aside from filling a hole in center, Eric Byrnes, a right-handed hitter, also helps balance a lineup that is dominated by left-handed hitters.

The move seemingly caps Josh Byrnes' offseason makeover of the offense. Catcher Johnny Estrada, Hudson and Byrnes are newcomers, while Craig Counsell moves from second to short, Chad Tracy from first base/right field to third, which opens up a spot for youngster Conor Jackson at first.

On the pitching side of things, the D-Backs traded last year's Opening Day starter, Javier Vazquez, and let their No. 4 starter from a year ago, Shawn Estes, leave. In their place are Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and Miguel Batista, who both came over in trades.

The only obvious hole now is a left-handed specialist in the bullpen.

When Josh Byrnes went to the Winter Meetings in Dallas earlier this month, some were wondering if he was ever going to make a deal.

Now, after a month in which he's basically remade his team, the question is when is he going to stop?

"I don't think much is going to happen in the next few days," Josh Byrnes said. "I really don't anticipate any large changes to our roster from here on out. But you never know."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.