The Phillies trade Marlon Byrd to the Reds for pitcher Ben Lively

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Ken Rosenthal reports that Marlon Byrd has been traded by the Phillies to the Cincinnati Reds. Rosenthal says that pitcher Ben Lively one of players headed to Philadelphia.

As we noted the other day, these two teams had a Byrd trade in place that “fell apart” recently, but now it’s obviously back together. Part of it may be because Philly is going to send Cincy some cash in the deal.

Byrd is owed $8 million in the final year of his contract and is coming off a season in which he hit .264 with 25 homers and a .757 OPS in 154 games. His plate discipline and defense has degraded tremendously, however.

Lively turns 23 in March. He was a fourth round pick of the Reds in 2013 out of the University of Central Florida. He’s 13-11 with a 2.58 ERA in 39 starts across two minor league seasons. He’s not a top prospect — he walks a tad too many batters — but he does have the potential to be a mid-level big league starter.

The big question here is what the heck the Reds’ plan is. Why pick up an end-of-career bat with some power potential like Byrd after dealing Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon? If you’re gonna make a run, why not do it with those two pitchers? If you’re not, why acquire Byrd?

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.