D-Backs, Byrnes agree to deal

Updated: February 6, 2007, 8:29 PM ET
Associated Press

Eric Byrnes
Byrnes

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks and outfielder Eric Byrnes agreed to a $4,575,000, one-year contract Tuesday, avoiding arbitration.

Byrnes was the last Arizona player in arbitration. A hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 15.

"Obviously, it's a long process," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "It's nice to sit here and have salaries locked in and get focused on baseball."

Eric Byrnes called it "a fair deal."

"Unfortunately, it is a business," he said in a telephone interview. "In the process of arbitration this stuff does happen. It's not a delightful process, but whenever you can settle outside of the hearing room I would call it a success."

Byrnes hit .267 with career highs of 26 home runs and 25 stolen bases last season, his first with Arizona, to become the first Diamondbacks player to reach 25 homers and 25 steals in a season. Only three other NL players reached those marks last year.

But the Diamondbacks weren't interested in signing him to a long-term deal, their GM said, "primarily because I think our outfield numbers and young talent and prospect talent seems to be an area of strength."

In other words, Byrnes could be replaced by a youngster from Arizona's talent-laden minor-league system after this season.

He said he would like to stay in Arizona beyond this year but knows that might not be in the Diamondbacks' plans.

"That's their decision. That's nothing that I have control over," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, everything that I've ever gotten in my baseball career and essentially in my life is something I had to work for and something I had to earn."

The 30-year-old outfielder is a fan favorite for his scrappy, hustling play.

"Eric played great for us in 2006," Josh Byrnes said. "He's a rare player who can impact the game in a lot of ways -- with his power, with his baserunning, with his defense and certainly every day with his energy."

Eric Byrnes played center field last season but will move to left this year to replace Luis Gonzalez, probably the most popular player in the Diamondbacks' brief history. Gonzalez had been Arizona's left fielder since 1999 but left as a free agent after the Diamondbacks told him they had no interest in signing him. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"You can't replace Luis Gonzalez," he said. "None of us are going to be able to replace him. He's a once-in-a-lifetime type of baseball player and personality who comes in and takes over a city.

"He was my best friend on the team. He was my favorite player on the team, and I would never dream of trying to be Luis Gonzalez," he said.

With Eric Byrnes in left and youngsters Chris Young in center and Carlos Quentin in left, Josh Byrnes thinks his team will be strong defensively in the outfield.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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