2009 Offseason: Should we bite on Michael Young?
January 12, 2009 3 Comments
The Texas Rangers managed to anger their 5-time All-Star shortstop Michael Young by calling him up and telling him rather plainly that he would be moved to third base so that young Elvis Andrus would have a chance to prove himself in 2009. Is Jon Daniels crazy? You don’t tell an established player something like that, you ask very politely. Young is said to be livid with the team, and has demanded a trade, though Daniels is trying to downplay that word “demand”. Hmm, a shortstop who can hit? And the Rangers have to unload him? This situation has the word bargain all over it; could Young be a fit for the Red Sox?
First, the good. Young is a career .300/.346/.442 hitter and is as durable as they come. He has topped 150 games in each of the past 7 seasons, which really says something at such a demanding position. He’s a 5-time All-Star with a Gold Glove, for what that’s worth. With the average AL shortstop hitting all of .266/.319/.375 last year, that jibes well with the Red Sox’ philosophy of aiming to be “average or better” at each position.
Young is a fair athlete and a great pure hitter with a career 25.1% line drive rate, and before last season had five straight years of 200 hits. His career BABIP suggests that he has good bat control and drives the ball where he wants to, which is great.
It is well-known that Young is a defensive liability at shortstop. Despite winning his first Gold Glove last season, UZR has him as a slightly below-average fielder last year (-3.9 runs), and a terrible one in 2007 (-10.1). Dewan’s Fielding Bible has him at -32 plays over the past three years. He actually came up as a second baseman, which tells you something about his range and arm.
Young is now 32 years old and has $62M remaining on his deal through the 2013 season. Of course, the Rangers will have to eat some of that salary, but that makes him 36 years old at the end of that contract. We have to think about that.
Lastly, his biggest asset, his bat, has also been slipping the past few years. He’s striking out more, and his power appears to be quickly fading. In 2005, he had a slugging percentage of .512, but in 2007 and 2008 it was .418 and .402, respectively. He also doesn’t work the count quite as much as the Red Sox like, with a career walk rate of just 6.7%.
What his 2009 might look like, based on the past three years:
.301/.355/.421 with 41 doubles, 11 HR and 10 SB in 660 AB
Young is a good, not a great shortstop at this point in his career. The ideal situation for him would be if he could shift over to second base, where he could be at least an average defender (he’s said that he would consider that, Omar Minaya and the Mets). He is a good contact hitter, but his contract is extremely bloated for someone whose power has just evaporated the past two seasons. I hate to bring up the “s” word, but you have to consider that as a possibility.
The Red Sox have denied any interest in Young a while back. But Young would provide more stability and a little more power than Jed Lowrie, and he’s certainly better than Julio Lugo last season. In that sense he would be an upgrade for Boston. Still, you have to consider the cost in prospects and salary. His reputation means that he will likely cost more than we want to pay. And remember that Young is signed for five more years; for those of you already familiar with my rants about signing aging position players, you know what I’m going to say. With Dustin Pedroia inked long-term, what do we do with him in two years, when he’s a .290 singles/gap hitter who can no longer cover the hole? It only makes sense for us to go out and get him if the Rangers eat a whole lotta salary (or at least take Lugo’s contract).
It’s a nice thought, Red Sox Nation, but my answer is a firm no on this one.