UPDATE 3/10/2011—– UPDATE 3/10/2011
Michael Young’s unhappiness and desire to be traded has been public for several weeks. Potential suitors have been reluctant to approach due to Young’s price tag and his “five-and-ten” impending status.
It seems that the Arizona Diamondbacks have renewed their efforts to acquire Young from the Texas Rangers, according to sources including FOXSports.com. One source says that talks faltered when the Rangers asked for a significant package of prospects and Major Leaguers. Moreover, it was not any sort of certainty that Young would approve the deal – all of which bodes unwell for teams interested in Young’s services.
Young has stated publicly that he is willing to be moved to any of 10 teams. The eight pre-approved teams are the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Houston Astros. The other two teams Young approved are the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs. Young will achieve 10-and-5 (ten years MLB service, 5 with one team) rights in May, so he can veto a trade to any team once he qualifies for that seniority. Young is scheduled to make $16 million in each of the next three seasons, which has scared off most potential suitors – including the Phillies who owe Chase Utley $15M through 2013.
Texas manager Ron Washington has stated that he would prefer to keep Young in Texas but as a DH and backup to infielders Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and his platoon of Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli at first base. Despite playing all four infield positions, Young would not get more than 400 AB as a supersub for the Rangers. This is precisely why he wanted to be traded in the first place!
Earlier on Tuesday, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reported that the Phillies have their top scout, Charley Kerfield, following the Rangers and Young. The Phillies are motivated to make a move because it’s possible that second baseman Chase Utley may miss significant time due to an injured knee. The Phillies have not disclosed a definitive statement regarding Utley’s knee but it appears to be more than tendinitis.
There seems to be quite a bit of obligatory buzz regarding the availability of Michael Young. As first reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the Phillies put in a call to the Texas Rangers to discuss their openness to potential negotiations, although talks were characterized as “brief.”
Essentially, this is Ruben Amaro doing his due diligence, which is both commendable and proper. The Phillies obviously are seeking some right-handed pop to insert into their lineup and Young qualifies. This serves to mollify the fan base as Amaro claims that he overturned every proverbial stone, but it has no real possibility of happening – or does it?
Amaro admits publicly that he would like to augment the existing Phillies roster with some extra right-handed pop in the wake of Jayson Werth defecting for Washington. Does Michael Young qualify? Absolutely. Young has been a perennial All-Star for Texas and sent 21 HR balls over MLB fences in 2010. In ten seasons, Young has averaged 600+ AB, 150 G, 90+ runs, 185 H, 15-20 HR and 80+RBI with a .300 AVG and .448 SLG hitting up and down the Rangers lineup. His productivity is not the issue, rather his price.
Young, 34, is owed $48 million over the next three seasons; a healthy number for someone that age. That’s an annual average of $16 million, or roughly $10 million more than starting 3B Placido Polanco is owed.
At this stage, Young’s defense is lacking and would not be considered an upgrade over Polly, who is also 34 (and coming off injury). Perhaps Young (who has played all 4 infield positions) would be versatile enough to work into the outfield mix and spell Utley, Howard or Rollins against tough lefties – and possibly platooning with Raul Ibanez in left?
Now you’d be looking at paying $16M for Young plus $10.5M for Ibanez. Raul posted 16 HR, 83 RBI and a .275 AVG in 2010 at the age of 38. One would think that for a combined $26.5M, the Phillies could do better than an aggregate 36-year-old platoon providing the same relative production of Pat Burrell. At least Young and Ibanez strike out a lot less than Burrell, who used to be down two strikes before he got into the batters box (those stadium vendors are always tossing around hot dogs and peanuts and can be very distracting)!
Every problem has a solution and in baseball (as in life) it is all about money. The Rangers have stated publicly that they have no place for Young in their 2011 lineup. They have moved Young (a shortstop by trade) from short to second to third to first, but now find themselves out of options. They signed Adrian Beltre and boast one of the best offensive and defensive double play combinations of Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. Chris Davis and Mitch Moreland will share 1B/DH… so it really leaves Young (the most tenured Ranger) without a place to play. Seems the Phillies have a similar salary situation regarding Ibanez ($10.5M) and Joe Blanton ($8.5M). Blanton’s deal runs through 2012 while Ibanez is in his final year. Still that is $27.5M owed to a soon-to-be 39-year-old DH in the National League and a 30-year-old professional gopher ball expert (AVG stats are 13-11, 4.30 ERA, 212 IP/34G=6.2 IP AVG per game, 59BB/137K, 24 HR). Should Texas be willing to take on the two-headed hydra of Ibanez/Blanton, Young could be sent to Philadelphia hopefully with an added player (preferably Matt Harrison, Michael Kirkman, Zachary Phillips or another lefty pitcher). Put yourself in [Texas GM] Nolan Ryan’s shoes for a moment. Would you trade Michael Young and young pitchers for Ibanez and Blanton? Does that deal make your team better and put you back in the World Series? Heck, even the spending frenzy “money is no object” Yankees are reluctant to consider trading for Blanton. Partially because they have other candidates in-house but mostly it is because Blanton’s price tag is too high and his effectiveness is in rapid decline. Has Blanton peaked at age 30? What about his abyssmal performance in the 2010 NLCS after being shelved for all of the NLDS?
The Phillies are resigned to the fact that they will very likely have to retain both Ibanez and Blanton through at least midseason. Depending on the perrformance of Ben Francisco, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Ross Gload, Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley and Jason Grilli in Spring Training, the situation could be extremely conducive to making a move either by choice or by apprehension. The hope is that some contending team will be desperate for a DH (Ibanez) or a starting pitcher to simply provide innings (6.2 per game for Mr. Blanton) but said team would be expected to give up prospects at the July 31 trading deadline. Texas has the most promising crop of young pitchers in the league (followed by Oakland, San Diego and possibly Florida). I don’t see a lot of baseball GM drooling over the prospect of selling the future to obtain Raul Ibanez or Joe Blanton but there have been worse deals at trading deadline. Ibanez is no worse than Matt Stairs or Jason Giambi while Blanton could be just as effective as the two Jakes Westbrook and Peavy for teams who are desperate to contend (and can afford the risk).
In all likelihood, Michael Young will not start the season in Philadelphia while both Ibanez and Blanton will. Do not be surprised if the Phillies actively and aggressively shop these two overpriced veterans around the league. Also do not be surprised if teams who are saying “Are you kidding?” in February might be burning up the phone lines come July. As the price of mediocre talent has risen exponentially in baseball, the availability of talent has declined.
Teams are coveting their young talent (as with Joey Votto in Cincinnati , Joe Mauer in Minnesota or Matt Latos in San Diego) and locking them up to save millions down the road (see Troy Tulowitzky and Carlos Gonzalez of Colorado). This makes the free agent market and the trading deadline market a hard-fought competition to scrap for whatever mediocre talent remains. Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, Octavio Dotel, George Sherrill, Kerry Wood, Kyle Farnsworth, Rick Ankiel, Jake Westbrook and Yuniesky Betancourt have all been swapped at deadline time to relatively marginal success. Most of their receiving teams actually missed the playoffs entirely.
For every Matt Stairs or Jamie Moyer (picked up for relatively no cost) there seems to be a Joe Blanton (traded 3 prospects, paid a lot of money with very few results). It is extremely rare and expensive to obtain a Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt as teams will only let them go in exchange for half the farm system. Oddly enough the Phillies have swung such deals the past couple of seasons (Moyer in 2007, Blanton in 2008, Lee in 2009, Oswalt in 2010). Speaking of which, the Phillies Phour Loco/Fab Four/Four Musketeers/Fantastic Four (or whatever we’re calling them) Plus One (Halladay$15M, Lee$20M, Oswalt$14M,
Blanton$8.5M all obtained to add to Hamels) cost the Phillies a total of 14 prospects and close to $48M per year. Kyle Kendrick just signed for $2.45 and has comparable stats to Blanton.
If YOU were Ruben Amaro and you had a budget, who would YOU try to trade? Tune in for the exciting conclusion of this ongoing saga as Spring Training and the 2011 season unfold.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org