Michael Young Phillies Rumors: Trade Would Do Nothing to Solve Team's Issues

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Michael Young Phillies Rumors: Trade Would Do Nothing to Solve Team's Issues

The Philadelphia Phillies must figure that acquiring Michael Young couldn't hurt.

Maybe they're right. But if they're expecting Young to actually help, they better not get too carried away with their expectations. 

But first, the proposed deal between the Phillies and the Texas Rangers to bring Young to Philly has to actually go through. That hasn't happened yet, and it may not if Young doesn't want it to.

Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News was the first to report that the Phillies and Rangers were in "advanced talks" about Young on Wednesday. In the proposed deal, the Rangers would likely acquire a reliever and a low-level prospect. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has said that the Rangers could eat as much as $10 million of Young's $16 million salary for 2013.

Young has no-trade protection, so he doesn't have to go east if he doesn't want to. According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Young's approval is the only thing this deal needs in order to happen:

Young should accept the trade. There's not going to be much regular playing time for him in Texas in 2013, whereas Philly has a starting job to offer him at third base. 

It won't be a bad deal for the Phillies if they only give up a reliever and a prospect while paying a fraction of Young's salary—especially given the dwindling number of third base options on the free-agent market (Jack Hannahan, anyone?).

The only way it's going to be a great deal, however, is if Young reverts back to his old self and gives them some quality production at the dish.

Nobody should count on that happening. Young's age is progressing forward, and his hitting is progressing backward.

Young is a career .301 hitter and a .299 hitter over the last three seasons, but the latter number is largely skewed by the .338 average he posted in 2011. He hit .284 in 2010 and .277 in 2012.

Those numbers aren't bad as far as batting averages go, but they shouldn't be taken as excuses to label Young as an above-average offensive producer. He's at best an average producer at this point, in large because he lacks the plate discipline to be a high on-base guy.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
A swing and a...well, probably not a drive.

Young's plate discipline was never great, mind you, and it's only getting worse with time. He's seen fewer and fewer pitches per plate appearance each of the last three years, bottoming out at 3.44 pitches per plate appearance in 2012. Only Erick Aybar and Delmon Young consistently had more quick at-bats than Young among AL hitters.

The bright side is that Young doesn't swing at too many pitches outside the zone, and he actually achieved a new career-low with a 10.8 strikeout percentage in 2012, according to FanGraphs. So at least he was putting the ball in play.

When Young did put the ball in play, though, he did so with little authority. Over half the balls he hit were on the ground, and his ISO—or Isolated Power, a stat that measures a hitter's power—tumbled to a career-low 0.93.

That suggests pretty strongly that Young's bat speed is not what it once was, which makes sense. He is 36 years old, after all.

In theory, getting to play in Citizens Bank Park half the time could boost Young's power. But it's not like we're talking about a guy who would be coming from AT&T Park or Safeco Field. Young would be coming from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, which was more friendly to power hitters than CBP in 2012.

Plus, it's hard to up your power totals when you have a hard time getting under the ball. That's been a major problem for Young each of the last two years, and 2012 saw his fly-ball percentage and HR/FB rate dip to new career lows.

At this point, it's best to think of Young as a Placido Polanco clone at the plate. He won't strike out or walk much, and he won't do a ton of damage when he puts the ball in play. As such, there's a strict limit to how much value he'll be able to provide with his bat.

At least Polanco is a good fielder, though. The same cannot be said of Young.

Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
This may not have ended well.

Young has played all over the infield during his career, and he has failed to establish himself as a capable fielder at any one position. That includes third base, where he has a minus-19.8 UZR and a minus-35 Defensive Runs Saved for his career, according to FanGraphs.

So if the Phillies' plan is indeed to play Young at third base on a full-time basis, they'll have to live with below-average defense. They also won't be able to count on Young providing an excess of value on the basepaths, as he's more of a station-to-station guy at this point in his career. 

Whether you consult FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference.com, Young posted a negative WAR in 2012. If his plate discipline doesn't improve and his power doesn't return to him, he could very well do so again in 2013. His bat is the only real source of value that he has, and it's only going to continue being an effective source of value if the hits start falling like they did in 2011.

If this trade goes through, some will no doubt rationalize it on the basis that Young's intangibles will be worth the trouble for the Phillies. Rangers manager Ron Washington said pretty much the same thing this year when he was forced to defend Young's consistent (and undeserved) presence in his lineup.

But playing Young just because of his intangibles won't fly as well in Philadelphia as it did in Texas. He was surrounded by capable hitters who could easily account for his poor production in the Rangers lineup, and that won't really be the case if he joins the Phillies.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are shells of their former selves, Jimmy Rollins' production comes and goes, and Carlos Ruiz probably can't be counted on to post a .935 OPS again. Beyond these guys and the newly acquired (and quite powerless) Ben Revere, the Phillies don't have much.

Philly's lineup needs hitters who can produce results, not intangibles. If the club's deal for Young goes through, the Phillies could potentially find themselves with a black hole at third base just like the one they had in 2012. Phillies third basemen combined to post a .672 OPS this season, and that number may not go up in 2013 if Young is inserted at the hot corner.

Can the Phillies do better than Michael Young at third base?

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Not that the Phillies need a ton of offense to win games, of course. They'll be able to win games based on the strength of their starting pitching staff in 2013 if everyone stays healthy.

But pitchers need steady defense in order to succeed consistently, and that's an area where Young won't be able to help the Phillies. As such, he's not a great fit for them on either side of the ball.

I say again: It won't be an idiotic trade if it goes through, as the Phillies won't be giving up much and won't be paying Young much. If his bat were to come alive again, they'd get some good (not great) value out of him.

They're just more likely to get no value at all out of him. Young's best days are behind him.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.


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