The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t had the first half they were hoping for, as they’re currently 9.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and five games under .500. If the Phillies don’t get better soon, general manger Ruben Amaro could be forced to deal some of the organization’s top players.
While it’s still unclear if guys like Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon will be on the trade block this summer, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that one player who is likely to get dealt is Young. The shortstop-turned-third-baseman is currently in the final year of his contract with the Phillies.
If Young does become available, expect the Red Sox to be making some calls to Amaro’s office. An industry source told George A. King III of the New York Post, “They want him badly.” This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Boston has been watching Will Middlebrooks fall on his face for most of the season.
In 53 games, Middlebrooks was hitting .192/.228/.389 with nine home runs, 25 RBI and a 27.8 percent strikeout rate. He was basically forcing Boston’s hand to send him down. After a brief stint on the disabled list, the Red Sox gave the third baseman a few more tries at bouncing back.
Boston sent Middlebrooks down to the minors on June 25, and there is no indication as to when he’ll be back in the big leagues, if at all, this season. The main reason is because Jose Iglesias has done a fantastic job filling in. Iglesias is really a shortstop, but he took the new opportunity in stride and has really succeeded.
Through 39 games, Iglesias is hitting .409/.455/.530 with one home run, nine RBI and 23 runs. But the best part about Iglesias is that he’s been phenomenal defensively. The guy had played third base, like, never before a few weeks ago. He makes plays in his sleep that Middlebrooks couldn’t make on his best day.
But if Boston is going to go after Young, Iglesias won’t be out of a job. Instead, Boston could start Iglesias at shortstop—his natural position—and have Stephen Drew, who’s signed to a one-year deal—come off the bench. Drew is basically only good for his defense, anyway.
Drew is sporting a .233/.313/.409 slash line in 66 games with five homers and 31 RBI. No one expects him to hit for average in 2013. While Boston already has the best offense in baseball in terms of WAR, per FanGraphs, adding a better bat couldn’t hurt.
While Young hasn’t been too sharp at third base this year for the Phillies, he has been a big part of the team’s offense. He’s hitting .287/.344/.409 with five home runs and 21 RBI. While that’s somewhat close to what Drew has done, I’d rather have the guy who gets more hits and is on base more often than the guy who won’t commit an error.
It wouldn’t be a costly expenditure for Boston, as Philly shouldn't demand much in return. Young is owed $16 million this season, and the Rangers are paying $10 million of it, according to Cot’s Contracts. That means the Phillies only owe $6 million, and since the year is halfway complete, only around $3 million is left to be paid Young’s way.
That’s chump change for the Red Sox.
The real person Cherington will be keeping an eye on while monitoring Young’s availability is Middlebrooks. In 10 games with Triple-A Pawtucket, he’s hitting .289/.386/.605 with four home runs, 11 RBI and just six strikeouts. That’s certainly an improvement, but it’s anyone’s guess how that’ll translate in Boston.
Right now, Middlebrooks has yet to prove that he can be an every day third baseman in the major leagues. He’s been horrible this year and hasn’t earned a second chance yet. The jobs are Iglesias' and Drew’s to lose at the moment, and, in my opinion, Middlebrooks’ minor league numbers shouldn’t threaten them.
The Red Sox need to put the best combination of players in the lineup in order to stay atop the AL East and try to make the postseason. That combination doesn’t include Middlebrooks. In the coming weeks, it might not even include Drew. Iglesias is the only one who is 100 percent keeping his job.
If Middlebrooks starts to slump in the minors or gets called up and starts striking out twice per game, expect a big move from the Red Sox. Acquiring Young would send a message to Middlebrooks that he must improve or he’s not going to have a job in the future. It’s very simple to understand.
For the time being, there’s no hurt in trading to acquire Young. At least he gives the Red Sox some leeway in case Drew or Iglesias gets injured in the second half. Consider him a $3 million insurance plan. He’s a good hitter who will help the Red Sox win games. That’s all that should matter to Cherington and Boston right now.