I'll make my point straight away: I say we forgo the offensive additions if we cannot get a consistently upper-tier to elite CF.
I’m still convinced that Hart is having nothing more than a career year, and will become prohibitively expensive next year; the same year when arbitration raises to our foundation players, including JJ, EOF, Prado, and Escobar, are due. The other problem is floor. Hart’s floor is Jeff Francoeur, circa 2008-2009. Under no conditions should we have such a guy on our hands next year. I don’t think that he is worth even Mike Dunn, let alone Mike Minor. For the same reason that many are for trading Minor (above-average unexpected performance), we should be against trading for Hart. A poster on Braves Journal (originally from Talking Chop EDIT: Credit for the stats to Alvaro Andres Pizza Varela ) used this as evidence that playing Hart is actually worse than playing a Hinske/Diaz platoon:
Corey Hart’s career wRC+: 113
Corey Hart’s career wRC+ against lefties: 129 (Worse than Diaz)
Corey Hart’s career wRC+ against righties: 107 (Worse than Hinske)
Matt Diaz respective UZR and DRS in LF: 7.8 and 3
Eric Hinske respective UZR and DRS in LF: -0.2 and -6
Corey Hart’s career UZR and DRS in RF: -11.6 and 4
So, to sum up a trade for Corey Hart:
1. We trade a pitcher or position player of value from our farm system
2. We receive a player who will play below the level of our current LF platoon.
3. We pay said player near 6 million in arbitration next year.
4. We receive a player who just may implode after playing so far above his head that he become Francoeur V2.
Byrd doesn’t offer enough of an upgrade this year (read: 3.8 % BB. That is worse than Francoeur-eque.) to justify paying him during the time when we need to make deals with our arb-eligible players. This team’s ability to take a walk is the reason that we have an above-average offense this year- we are below average in just about every other category. I don’t think that we should pay the price for a second-tier free swinger in Byrd and expect him to carry us; this type of player will get carved up by the likes of the Padres’, Reds’, and even Mets’ staff. Players who cannot take a walk can become utterly useless against pitchers who know what they are doing. For evidence, take the following link and arrange by Walk %, and take a look at the lines of players who are last in the league- http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2010&month=0
I read an interesting article a couple of weeks back outlining spending in free agency. This gist of the article was to never over-commit to second-tier players, citing examples of both Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf, if first-tier players are available. It is better to lose money and receive above-average performance from an elite player than it is to lose money and receive average performance from a second-tier player. The article examined the Yankees free agent signings to reach this conclusion. The Yankees usually don't over-commit to second tier players, and so they never have contracts that are huge busts. They always over-commit to elite players; players that have a strong history of elite results as compared to second-tier players who ride one season to big contracts. This way, they are always guaranteed to get at least some value out of their signings, with the high chance of receiving elite-level results. This is in stark comparison to teams that commit to second-tier players, who receive nothing out of the contract if the player plays below his career norms, and only marginal value if the player plays to his career norms.
I think that the same concept applies in trades. If you are going to have to give up talent, go out there and trade high-level prospects for extremely good players rather than give up second-tier prospects for second-tier players. You are going to get results out of the elite player, even if they play below their career norms; whereas, with the second-tier player, you may get nothing if they play below their career norms.
There is also a further point in this- second tier prospects (such as Minor) will always have a chance, no matter how low, to become elite players. Second-tier MLB players will rarely deviate enough to become elite players. Minor probably won’t become the next Wainwright, but I feel that he has a higher chance of becoming elite than Byrd or Hart have of outperforming other Outfielders and becoming elite themselves.
Which brings me to my final point- if you cannot go out and get an elite outfielder (as we do seem to be set at the other positions, for right now), don’t try to compromise. Find an elite player that you can trade for on the market, and go get him. For this, I suggest Cliff Lee. Do we have enough starting pitching? Probably. But can Cliff Lee make enough of a difference to turn us from NLCS runner-ups to World Series Champions? In my opinion, he can. That is also not something that you can say about Byrd or Hart.
Edit: I wanted to add this:
Look at Derek Lowe for 60/4, Randy Wolf for 29.750/3, Jason Bay for 66/4, Ryan Dempster for 52/4, Oliver Perez for 36/3, Milton Bradley for 30/3, Kerry Wood for 20.5/2, Edgar Renteria for 18.5/2, Aaron Rowand for 60/5, Carlos Silva for 48/4, Jose Guillen for 36/3, Luis Castillo for 25/4, even Torri Hunter at 90/5 to a certain degree, Carlos Lee for 100/6, Daisuke Matsuzaka at 103/6, Barry Zito for 126/7, Gil Meche for 55/5, Gary Matthews Jr. for 50/5, Juan Pierre for 44/5, Jeff Suppan for 42/4, and do I have to continue?
All of these guys, except maybe Jason Bay and Torii Hunter, rode mediocrity or mediocrity and one fluke year or early success followed by mediocrity to their contracts. And these were the guys who I could find in about three minutes. Even Jason Bay had WAR season of -.7, 2.9 with the Pirates in 07 and 08 before signing that contract in the 2009 off season with the Mets. Torri Hunter was riding 2.8, 2.3, 2.5, and 3.3 WAR seasons before signing that contract with the Angels. The Red Sox shelled out over 100 million for a guy with absolutely no MLB experience.
Overpaying for mediocrity will hurt your team, as will trading for mediocrity while elite talent is available.