Michael Young: Top 5 Reasons He'll Be a Distraction If Not Traded By Opening Day
In a strange twist of fate in Texas Rangerville, outspoken franchise CEO Chuck Greenberg is on his way out of town, and disgruntled star Michael Young—he of the trade demands and vitriolic accusations aimed at team management—is apparently staying in Arlington.
Young, angered after the team had ousted him yet again from his position with the team, sounded off on Rangers' management, especially GM Jon Daniels, accusing Texas brass of misleading him and treating him unfairly.
Of course, the Ranger infielder never fully elaborated on his accusations, but his comments aroused healthy doses of speculation as the team entered camp following its most successful season in franchise history.
Young cooled on his initial trade demands after it became apparent that the team wouldn't be able to accommodate him immediately, nor were they willing to simply for the sake of appeasing him.
As spring training has progressed, the Texas star and management have done their best to put on happy faces, espousing concerns with team success rather than dwelling on the drama bubbling just beneath the surface.
With Opening Day just two weeks away, the prior unrest appears to have subsided for now, but the possibility exists that it could once again rear its ugly head at any time, forcing the Rangers into moving the disgruntled star in an effort to restore harmony among the team.
Let's take a look at why the Rangers would do well to move Michael Young now, rather than waiting for another problem to arise.
Young Might Struggle To Produce Without a Clearly Defined Role
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Baseball players are creatures of habit. Throughout the history of the game, we have been told numerous stories of players eating or wearing the same things before every game and sticking to precisely the exact routine on every game day.
As such, professional ballplayers enjoy having a clearly defined role that they can focus on completely, knowing precisely what they're preparing for on a daily basis. Whether a position player or a pitcher, nearly every player in the game takes comfort in knowing what is expected of him each day. It takes a special type of player and person to evolve with each game and new situation.
Moving around the infield is nothing new for Michael Young, as he has already moved from second to shortstop, and then to third base. This time is different however, as he was notified and prepared for each of those moves well ahead of time. Approaching the 2011 season, Young is fully aware that he is moving once again, but this time it is to designated hitter, part-time first base and occasional utility infielder.
For a player that is accustomed to seeing his name in the lineup at a fixed position on a daily basis, this type of uncertainty has the potential to cause him distress, possibly even harming his productivity significantly.
We have seen it repeatedly that players who were once regulars find it difficult to adapt to the designated hitter role. Many obsess over their hitting to such a degree, without the rigors of defense to distract them, that they find they aren't the hitters they once were.
If Young has difficulty adapting, seeing his offensive production suffer dramatically, it likely won't be long before he wants out of town and a return to a regular, well-defined role in a new city.
Will His Defense Suffer Drastically?
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Let's be honest. Gold Gloves aside, Michael Young has never been a stellar defender, no matter what his infield position. This doesn't mean he's a bad infielder, but his offensive production certainly helped garner some votes for those awards. It happens constantly in baseball.
He was serviceable at each position he played; however, there was a reason that the Rangers were so willing to continually move him around the infield for superior defenders.
Now that he doesn't know what position he will play on a daily basis, how can he be expected to perform defensively from here on out? Of course, his versatility is a great attribute to possess, but considering he was already subpar with the glove, it is unlikely that he will fare any better while moving around the infield daily.
If Young notices a decline in his defensive abilities due to irregular play at any specific position, he certainly won't remain happy over the long haul of the 162-game schedule. He still considers himself an All-Star and Gold Glove-caliber player who has been relegated to the DH/utility role far sooner than he should have been.
What Happens If Beltre Struggles?
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Adrian Beltre is certainly a far superior defender at third base, and most of us, likely even Michael Young, can admit that.
However, Beltre has displayed an alarming inconsistency over his career. At times, mostly contract years, he has played like an MVP. Unfortunately, that doesn't occur regularly enough for fans to trust, so he has often left much to be desired from his play.
Some of his apparent struggles throughout his career can be attributed to playing in Seattle's Safeco Field, a place that Beltre clearly did not enjoy hitting at. His splits as a Mariner indicate that there was something about Safeco that detracted from Beltre's offensive potency, because he was a productive hitter elsewhere throughout his stint in the Great Northwest.
It stands to reason that Beltre will enjoy hitting in the friendly environs of the Ballpark in Arlington, a stadium known as a hitting paradise. Also, he will likely thrive in the loaded Ranger lineup.
However, what if he doesn't? Considering Beltre's inconsistency during his career, will we see the All-Star with the .919 OPS from last season? Or will we see the .266 hitter with a .759 OPS that he was over his Seattle career?
In all likelihood, Beltre will be a success in Arlington, but if he struggles out of the gate, fans will clamor for their long-time favorite Michael Young to return to the hot corner. After all, the Rangers made it to their first ever World Series with Young entrenched at third.
Of course, with Beltre making the type of money that he is, it's going to take some dramatic struggles for him to lose his spot at third, but if the situation arises, it could certainly create more headaches for Texas management throughout the season.
Young Is Not Going To Be the Everyday Designated Hitter
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The Rangers keep trying to say the right things, professing their respect for Michael Young and their plans to have him in the lineup everyday. They have repeatedly stated that they expect him to be in the lineup every game, likely as the primary DH, and occasionally as a utility infielder, allowing the regulars to rest.
As great as that sounds, the Rangers figure to have a busy rotation moving through the DH slot. They traded for Mike Napoli due to his ability to hit, especially against left-handers. Although he can play some first base, in addition to catching, Napoli is best suited for the DH role.
Also, considering the frequent injuries to potent offensive threats Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, those players will likely need to cycle through the designated hitter spot several times throughout the season. Hamilton has only played more than 133 games once in four years, Kinsler has topped 130 games one time in five seasons and Cruz has never played more than that in his career.
While Young has been a steady offensive contributor throughout his entire career, the fates of those three potent bats likely will determine how the Rangers fare moving forward. The Rangers would do well to attempt to keep that trio as healthy as possible, and one way to do that is to rest each of them with a DH day on a fairly regular basis.
If this occurs, it will undoubtedly detract from Michael Young's role once again, making him feel marginalized and disrespected. This is certainly not a scenario that the Rangers want to revisit time and time again.
Young May Have More Value as a Trade Chip Than as a Utility Player
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Let's face it, Michael Young is overpaid. He's not the only one; plenty of players are paid for past contributions or intangible value that isn't necessarily reflected in the production they provide.
Is it really feasible for the Rangers to spend $16 million a season on a designated hitter/utility infielder with a career .795 OPS?
There are other players on the Texas roster that may be able to replace or even surpass the production that 2011-era Young will be able to provide. With Chris Davis tearing up spring training, the Rangers have to be assessing his potential value to the team.
Mitch Moreland made an impressive debut in 2010 and might be prepared to assume the regular first base duties immediately. David Murphy, although an outfielder, possesses a career OPS of .803, better than Young's, and could figure prominently in the outfield mix, allowing the team to cycle oft-injured sluggers Hamilton and Cruz through the DH spot. Mike Napoli can provide a powerful alternative at DH and first base, essentially doing a lot of what Young is capable of, for about $10 million less per year.
Unfortunately, other teams are fully aware that Young is no longer worth $16 million a year, especially outside of Arlington. His standing as the longest tenured Ranger, a valuable team leader, as well as the face of the franchise doesn't necessarily translate to a new team.
To move Young at this point, the Rangers will have to eat a significant portion of his three years and $54 million remaining on his deal. It's always a difficult pill to swallow to pay a player to play for another team, but if that player can help net you a valuable piece to improve your chances of winning, then it certainly has to be considered.
With the recent revelations that Neftali Feliz has once again changed his mind, and wants to start rather than close, Young could very well be moved in order to bring in the experienced closer the Rangers would want to replace Feliz at the back of their bullpen.
Though Texas would likely have to eat potentially half of his remaining money, if doing so meant possibly returning to the World Series, they would likely make the move in a heartbeat.