Not many baseball players put up careers comparable in quality to that of Michael Young. Not many ballplayers get to stick around for more than a decade, compiling hits and runs scored while leadership oozes from every pore in their Good Face. Michael Young was not a perfect player, even at his best. He posted dramatic splits between home and away and created an odd cult of personality during his time in Texas.
That said, damning a player as a creation of his ballpark might be true but when his team extends his contract in such a way as to continue to reap the benefits of that creation, it is hard to fault them – over-payment or otherwise.
After suiting up for the Texas Rangers more than any other player in the history of the franchise, the Michael Young era comes to a close today, as Young agreed to waive his no-trade clause to complete his move to the Philadelphia Phillies. Not quite the storybook ending for long-time heart and soul of the Rangers, as the only Major League club Michael Young has ever known basically just paid the Philadelphia Phillies ten million dollars to make him go away.
Oddly, the Phillies did not simply absorb the remaining dollars on Young’s deal as an act of mercy. They freely exchanged two of their own players, reliever Josh Lindblom and minor leaguer Lisalverto Bonilla, in exchange for the deeply-discounted services of Michael Young. Phillies fans must now resign themselves to the fact that Young will play third base just about every day and there isn’t much anyone can do about it.
It is easy to forgot, with a -2.4 rWAR season in 2012 looming large, that Michael Young was downright respectable in 2011 and just about every season before that. Right about on league average, posting an average rWAR of 2.4 between 2007 and 2011. Michael Young’s problem wasn’t ever being bad, it was being overrated in the eyes of those who dished him MVP votes and ascribed him mythical status as a leader of men.
Defense was never Young’s strong suit, now at 36 he’s asked to return to the field every day. The Phillies are likely asking too much and risking too much to have a below-grade defender at the hot corner when his offensive contributions, even with some regression, simply won’t make up the difference. Young has never hit for much power away from Arlington and now is asked to prop an ageing team’s window open for one more year.
The Phillies clearly believe Michael Young can both play third base every day (for a while. MLBTR notes young Cody Asche might be ready to step in at some point in 2013) and rebound at the plate. Young may well be better than 2012 but by how much? A full return to his 2011 level, when he posted a .369 wOBA? Time will tell.
Are the Phillies completely hamstrung by the fat contracts they doled out like candy over the past three years? By committing so much money to their superlative starting rotation (and closer), they are essentially asking four players to carry the entire franchise to the playoffs – four players who don’t even bat.
Unless the entire infield in Philadelphia can slow the brakes on the ageing process for one more season, things are going to get worse before they get better in the Philadelphia. Much worse. Micheal Young won’t be the cause but he might just look like a symptom of Ruben Amaro’s inability to recognize the limitations of those players so crucial during a time of incredible prosperity, winning five consecutive division titles between 2007-2011. by the end of the 2013 season.
Or Michael Young will bounce back and Ryan Howard will mash homers and Chase Utley will stay healthy and all will be well and the Fightins will win the division going away. One of those two things.