D-Backs sign Byrnes to $2.25 million deal

Updated: December 30, 2005, 10:58 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Outfielder Eric Byrnes has agreed to a one-year, $2.25 million contract with Arizona and promises to bring energy and enthusiasm to the Diamondbacks.

Byrnes, 29, slumped to a .226 batting average in a nomadic 2005 season that had him playing for Oakland, Colorado and Baltimore. In 2004, Byrnes hit .283 for Oakland with 20 home runs and 73 RBI.

The Diamondbacks signed Byrnes to play center field, the position he loves most.

"The opportunity to play center field was just huge for me. I've never really gotten a ton of opportunities," Byrnes said in a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press. "I've always felt that was my best position."

Byrnes, who has a home in nearby Scottsdale, has a career .259 average in four-plus major league seasons. When he became a regular for the A's, he batted either first or second in the order.

His hitting fell off badly in the second half of last season.

"The obvious excuse would be that I bounced around," Byrnes said. "I think that had something to do with it, but at the same time, I think mechanically I was just a bit off."

Byrnes said he was working on the mechanical problems in the offseason.

"He fits the club very well," said Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes, no relation. "He provides a great deal of energy, he can play defense and run the bases and he hits left-handed pitching very well."

Eric Byrnes said he could promise fans two things.

"No. 1 is that I love baseball," he said, "and No. 2 is I'm going to give everything I've got every day I go out there."

He said he had higher offers from other teams but thought Arizona was the best fit.

"I didn't even want a two-year deal," the player said. "A couple of teams mentioned it but I didn't even think I deserved it. It was about getting an opportunity to prove that I was a lot better hitter than I was last year. I know I am, and I think Arizona has given me a vote of confidence."

The signing will allow the Diamondbacks to avoid rushing top prospect Chris Young into an everyday role in the majors. Young, considered the team's center fielder of the future, was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in the Javier Vazquez trade.

Josh Byrnes has engineered moves that have brought three new starters -- Eric Byrnes, second baseman Orlando Hudson and catcher Johnny Estrada.

Hudson and starter Miguel Batista came from Toronto in exchange for Troy Glaus. Estrada was acquired from Atlanta for relievers Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal.

Craig Counsell will shift from second base to shortstop. Chad Tracy will take Glaus' spot at third. Shawn Green, who played out of position in center much of last season, will move back to right.

"The direction of the team reminds me a lot of how the A's were when I came up with them," Eric Byrnes said. "It seems like they have a lot of good prospects just breaking in and obviously established veterans like Gonzo [Luis Gonzalez] and Shawn Green."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press