Another day, another team interested in Michael Young.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the latest team to express interest in trading for the disgruntled former All-Star.
“The Diamondbacks view Young as a possible upgrade over Melvin Mora at third base, but their talks with the Rangers have yet to escalate – and might not, according to major-league sources.
The D-Backs are in a similar position to the Marlins, another team that is pursuing Young but has only limited payroll flexibility.”
Yes, Young would be an upgrade over Mora, but not as big of an upgrade as many would like to believe. Young’s reputation as both a leader and hitter far exceeds his actual capabilities. After publicly demanding a trade; airing his grievances with GM Jon Daniels to the media; and having not one, but two temper-tantrums in two years after being asked to switch positions, it’s pretty clear to everyone (or at least it should be) that Young is not the team leader most of us assumed him to be. I’m not saying he’s not within his rights to be disappointed. In fact, he has every right to be upset. I would be as well. That said, a true leader swallows his pride, and does what’s best for the team. Young has had several opportunities to handle the situation with class and dignity, and he’s failed to do so every step of the way.
As a hitter, Young’s reputation is largely predicated upon two things: (1) his ability to hit for power, and (2) the five consecutive 200-hit seasons he produced between 2003 and 2007. While Young has retained his ability to hit for power, he hasn’t retained that same level of skill when it comes to getting on base. Young, never skilled at drawing a walk, was the type of player who reached base the old fashion way (getting a hit), and achieved a paltry 6.7% walk rate during his ten year career. As he aged, his ability to get on base, via the hit, regressed. Not surprisingly, without a high batting average to prop up his OBP, Young began creating additional outs, thereby limiting his ability to contribute offensively. As a result, Young has been a decidedly average hitter over the past four seasons, producing 9.3, 1.5, 27.6, and 8.0 weighted runs above average (wRAA). His four year wRAA total of 46.4 runs puts him in the same company as Cody Ross, Marlon Byrd, and Adam LaRoche. This shows that while Young is a solid hitter, he’s by no means elite.
While five consecutive 200-hit seasons might seem impressive, it’s really not when you consider the number of opportunities he was given (725 plate appearances per season, on average) to achieve that goal.* Young’s streak of 200-hit seasons was largely opportunity based, and frequently came at the expense of plate discipline and creation of additional outs. Furthermore, I don’t see how his five 200-hit seasons, the last of which occurred four years ago, have any bearing on his future performance. Over the last three seasons, Young has had ample opportunity to prove he was still capable of accumulating 200 hits in a season. Despite receiving similar number of plate appearances, he’s failed to come within reasonable striking distance of meeting that threshold. This is a clear sign that Young’s hitting abilities are in a state of decline. Considering his age, 34, and recent performance history, it’s pretty unlikely that Young will achieve another 200-hit season before his career ends. While it’s factually correct that Young achieved five consecutive 200-hit seasons that fact is largely irrelevant when discussing his expected future performance.
* I don’t want to devalue his achievement, but there’s an important distinction to be made here. The ability to hit is skill based. The ability to accumulate hits is opportunity based. In my opinion, Young’s achievement was largely based on opportunity. His position in the batting order, along with his inability to draw walks (6.7 BB% for his career), gave him considerable opportunity to compile hits. Hitters either more patient or hitting lower in the batting order would not have the same number of opportunities to compile hits as easily as Young; therefore, they’d like accumulate fewer hits as a result. The difference in hit totals doesn’t make them lesser hitters than Young. In fact, it’s possible they’re better than Young due to their ability to not only draw walks, but also create fewer outs. Still, most people will consider the player with the higher hit total (Young) to be a better hitter. Why? Most fans and sports writers don’t consider the context of the situation when making that determination.
As for a potential trade, the Diamondbacks are in the same situation as the Dodgers and Marlins. With little room for payroll flexibility, Arizona would likely need the Rangers to absorb a sizeable portion of the $48M remaining on Young’s contract. How much would they want the Rangers to absorb? I don’t want to speculate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were asked to eat anywhere from 50-75%. Additionally, the Diamondbacks are not on Young’s no trade exception list, so the two sides would need Young’s buy-in prior to completing a trade.
If you ask me, it sounds like the Diamondbacks are doing their due diligence by kicking the tires, which is something Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is famous for doing. In all likelihood, trade discussions will not progress any further.