Trading For Young is a Bad Move

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, December 06, 2012 12:00 PM | Comments: 28
Analysis, Posts


Could Young be a Phillie before the day is over?

When I hear the name Michael Young, it takes me back to summers in high school. There wasn’t a huge blogging community at the time and there wasn’t a whole lot even on official team websites – a lot of my information came from message boards, Beckett Baseball monthly to see who the newest prospects were (and their astronomical card values), and video games. MVP Baseball, at the time, was the first game to include Triple-A teams and more than 25 men per team. Each summer, as the All-Star teams were announced, I would pop in MVP into the Playstation and give some of the players I wasn’t able to see or see that often a test run. I had two favorites and they were both Texas Rangers: Hank Blalock and Young.

By the time those games came out, Young had established himself as a .300 hitter with some power and it showed in the game. I would override the computer to trade for him on my team, and in between jumping in the pool or playing Legion ball, Young was my secret weapon to get the Phillies their first World Series since 1980. Well, that and me also acquiring the exploding-on-to-the-scene Albert Puljos.

Eight years later, the rumors and reports suggest the Phillies and Rangers have begun talking about a deal that would send a “young, Major League reliever and a prospect” for Young and some cash. I have learned a lot in the last eight years. I have graduated from high school, college, and then got an advanced degree. I proposed, got married, and got a job. For most of those eight years, Michael Young was still a fine MLB player. However, that is not the case anymore.

Young Is Not an Upgrade

Let’s start with a simple question: which of the following lines would you prefer at third base next year?

.289/.335/.370, 5 HR, 0 SB, positive defensive value, regular third basemen

.277/.312/.370, 8 HR, 2 SB, negative defensive value, has not played third base regularly since 2010

How about if we did this?

.289/.335/.370, 5 HR, 0 SB, positive defensive value, regular third basemen. COST: ~$7 million

.277/.312/.370, 8 HR, 2 SB, negative defensive value, has not played third base regularly since 2010. COST: ~$16 million

Line A was literally a composite of everyone and anyone that played third base for the Phillies last year, including the $6.25 million mulligan that was Placido Polanco‘s 2012 season. The number of $7 million includes inflated and overly pro-rated salaries for Kevin Frandsen and Mike Fontenot to make the math easier. The second player is Michael Young.

As my colleague Corey Seidman pointed out at 2 AM this morning when the news broke, Young was not only “not good”, he was actually pretty bad. Corey wrote: “Young was 125th out of 143 qualifying players last year with a measly .682 OPS.” Some of the players who posted higher OPSs than Young? Delmon Young and Alberto Callaspo. Another head-scratcher: M. Young provided the least value among qualified first baseman in 2012.

The Phillies are currently only on the hook for a little over $550 K for Frandsen for 2013 – even if you assume the Rangers pick up more than half of Young’s deal, as was suggested by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Phillies are spending somewhere likely between $6 and $7 million on a player that is not a clear upgrade over a hastily assembled, motley crue of replacement-level players in 2012 that was below average to begin with (ranked 21st in the MLB in fWAR from third basemen).

Young Has Been Lucky Playing, and Lucky To Play, in Arlington

In 2011, Michael Young was an All-Star. In 2012, he was not. The biggest, jump-off-of-the-page, hit-you-in-the-face difference? His BABIP. Young’s BABIP took a 68 point dip in 2012 and, with it, fell his batting average by 61 points. Young, however, has regularly had very large gaps in between his BABIP numbers and his actual batting average, which could be a product of not striking out and not walking very much (13% and 6% respectively) or could be an indicator of being very lucky. Take, for instance the gaps in his 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons: 31, 51, and 39. These are unusually large differences between BABIP and BA that suggest Young in his best seasons, while excellent, had just a little bit of extra luck on his side.

It is also worth noting that Young has played in a line-up surrounded by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz in the fourth-most run-friendly park in the Majors last year but has always had fairly large home/away splits. Don’t get me wrong, over his career, Young has been a very solid player, and his road stats would have kept him in the Majors for sure (.283/.326/.410) but his home stats earned him his contract: .320/.368/.479. 37, 42, and 69 point differences, respectively. Young’s 2012 was different (he actually split the other way by about 30 points), but the larger trend is the one to keep an eye on. In case you are wondering, Citizen’s Bank Park ranked 19th on that list with a computation that about 81% of the runs scored in Arlington would likely be runs in Philadelphia.

The Phillies Have Great Pitching, They Need a Great Defense

Yes, Eric Chavez is off the board and no, Mark Reynolds is not a good fit, but neither is Michael Young. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels pitching three out of every five days, I would much prefer an all-glove, no-hit third baseman to a sometimes-hit, no-glove third baseman. Young has not only not played that often at third base since 2010 but has also been particularly bad at the position over his career. The Young-at-third-base experiment for the Rangers began in 2009, and since he cost the Rangers almost 20 runs at third. He has been bad, but not as bad at first base, costing the Rangers about three runs over the last two years.

The “What Else Would You Have Gotten?” Factor

I can’t help but think when comparing salaries what I would have done or tried to sign with the money allocated to players. For argument’s sake, let’s say Texas in this hypothetical trade kicks in $10 million and the Phillies pay $6 million. Let’s also acknowledge that the Phillies are on the hook for Frandsen at ~ $550 K. For the same price as a hobbled Polanco in 2012, the Phillies are taking a chance on a player who has not played third regularly since 2010 with declining stats, who has rather violent, just short of extreme, splits. Assuming Frandsen isn’t going anywhere, and he shouldn’t, I would absolutely use that $6 million somewhere else.

The Phillies have a lot of holes and their depth in the starting rotation isn’t likely as deep as they believe it is unless Vance Worley is healthy and Jonathan Pettibone is Major League-ready. While both might be true, it is curious, as my colleague Eric Seidman pointed out yesterday, that the Phillies weren’t even in the discussion for Dan Haren, who went to the Nationals at a bargain one year, $13 million price tag. There are plenty more bargains like that to be had across the free agent landscape. I can’t say for sure what I would have used my hypothetical $4-10 million for, but if I had that money, and did not have to give any cost-controlled, Major League talent to sign a free agent player, like a Kevin Youkilis, I would make that move 100 times out of 100.

The news and rumors of the Phillies and Rangers engaging in talks for Michael Young jolted and scared me. On paper, playing fill-in-the-blank, it has the potential to be one of the strangest, worst deals for Ruben Amaro Jr. at a time when they need a series of moves or deals to compete but also focus on bringing in affordable talent over the course of several years. What is the end game with Young? Meaning, if he was acquired and had a great season, would he walk? How large of a contract would he want? I don’t see any scenario on or off the field that makes this deal a win for the Phillies unless the Rangers cover 80% or more of his salary. And then that begs the question: if the Rangers are that willing to pack his bags for him, why should the Phillies want him?

Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 886 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

  • Posts: 271 Jeff of Nova

    Avatar of Jeff of Nova


    Great write up, I tend to agree with you on most of this, but if the Phillies give up a prospect not a top one, and the Rangers eat a good portion of the money, it is low risk, possible high reward if they catch lightening in a bottle for a year or 2.

    Great write up

  • Posts: 271 Jeff of Nova

    Avatar of Jeff of Nova

    He hit .338 with 11 homers, 106 RBIs and an .854 OPS in 2011

    that is what I think the Phillies will be hoping he can get closer to again.

    But once again everything depends on the production and health of the Big 3 Howard, Utley, Rollins.

  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    I agree. Michael Young was once a great player. Not so anymore. We will get the bat of Polanco without the glove. Bad move.

  • Posts: 0 Pops

    Back to the drawing board…

  • Posts: 0 Pops

    Nevermind… a fake Twitter account reported that Young vetoed the deal. Just read that we would be giving up Josh Lindblom… what’s not to like about that? Bottom line is its a one year deal. No long term commitment. He can’t be as bad as he was last year, can he?

  • Posts: 0 Dave

    If the Rangers pay a lot of the salary and they don’t give up a top prospect, I say do it. Might be good for a year until Asche is ready. Playing on a contract year tends to lead to better years sometimes. Maybe we get closer to 2011 than 2012

  • Posts: 0 Chris

    Lets get more into the details when comparing salary cuz obviously the Phillies won’t make the move Ness Texas is going to eat a big chunk which the rumor is about 10 mil so the salary would only be 6

  • Posts: 0 Chris


  • Posts: 0 Chris

    And lets not forget that young hit really good ib 2011 and wasn’t awful last year yes it was a slightly down year but still the ability is there

    • Posts: 0 Phillies fan from Germany

      Wasn’t awful? It was extremely awful!

  • Posts: 0 steve

    Can’t we finagle a trade for Beltre? Tex has a log jam at 3b, and Beltre would solve our 3B problem AND our right handed power dilema!

  • Posts: 0 Mike in NJ

    Young for Lindblom = I’ll drive Lindblom to the airport and pick up Young. Sure, I’d rather have Beltre, but I’m guessing Texas would want too much for him. I’m also guessing the Phils think Asche will be ready in 2014 and a guy like Young on a one year deal would be a better fit.

    His bat is definitely better than Polanco’s although his glove isn’t as good, but we’ll probably see a lot of Galvis at 3rd base in the 8th-9th innings, just like I don’t expect to see Ruf in LF much in those innings with a small lead. Young can also play 2nd when Utley makes his inevitable DL trip(s), and defensively he is better at 2nd than 3rd.

  • Posts: 0 Landshark

    Why would we want to sign someone who doesn’t want to play here? It’s quite obvious he’s having second thoughts about moving his family out of Texas and coming to the east coast. If he wanted to come to Philly to be an everyday third baseman he would have agreed to it already….look somewhere else via trade. Young isn’t too “young” anymore. His name should be Michael “old”. We need good young talent at third. I’m tired of the phillies always signing older washed up players to fill that position. Eg: Bell, Feliz, polanco, wiggy. Last young stud we had at the hot corner was Rollen

    • Posts: 0 Double Trouble Del

      I have to agree. If the man’s heart isn’t going to be here then NIX the deal right now. Pun intended

    • Posts: 0 George

      It’s a massive speculation to say that Michael Young doesn’t want to play in Philly. He has a wife and family and has played in the same city for his entire career. That’s a tough decision for anyone to make; no one I can think of particularly wants to move himself, and when there’s other people like a sposue involved it makes it even harder. Kids have to be taken from their friends and familiar surroundings like schools and other activities. I’ve moved several times in my life, sometimes without wanting to, and I have had immense difficulties every single time.

      Michael Young may be eager to play in Philly. His wife and kids may not. A bad decision in a case like this can sometimes cause divorces.

      Give the man a break.

    • Posts: 5416 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Your statement that he doesn’t want to play here is presumptuous. I don’t know much about how MLB contracts work, but in my world once you “waive” a portion of your contract, it is stricken from the document for the length of the contract. Maybe Michael Young just doesn’t want to waive his “no-trade clause”? I would think that once a NTC is waived, it too is gone for good on this contract, and he doesn’t want to give that up. IMO that’s completely understandable.

      It is possible that Young’s agent saw the Jim Thome trade last year, and believes that accepting a trade to the Phillies, while no longer possessing a NTC could land him somewhere else that is undesirable to him during the season, and he would have no control over it. No one on this board knows where “his heart” is.

  • Posts: 556 Bruce

    Avatar of Bruce

    Please..PLEASE Michael Young…. say “NO” to the Phillies. That would be good news for Kevin Frandsen (and me too).

  • Posts: 5416 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Like it or not, (and I still like it) looks like it’s going to happen.


    • Posts: 0 EricL

      Not. Not at all. This isn’t 2005.

      • Posts: 5416 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        That’s funny, because your favorite WAR/$ guy Dave Cameron likes it. (Thanks to Ken Bland for the link)


      • Posts: 0 EricL

        I know, I read that. But while Cameron (not my favorite stat nerd, btw) is optimistic about Young and pessimistic about Frandsen, I’m the opposite. Young cannot field wortha lick, and hasn’t been able to for years, and put up basically Coco Crisps career line last year in an extreme hitters park.

        Even discounting advanced stats, people who watched him in Texas last year report that its painfully obvious his bat speed is in decline. That’s not the kind of thing you rebound from at the age of 35.

        Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley has a list of players who’ve posted years as bad as Young’s 2012 at his age or older. Their next-year performance was almost universally dismal. Ill see if I can find the link.

      • Posts: 5416 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I read Bill’s article today. (and saw your video)

  • Posts: 385 Publius

    Avatar of Publius

    Any time you can trade a reliever, a decent prospect at $7.2million for the worst player in baseball, you gotta make that move.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a gun I need to go eat

  • Posts: 0 Monti

    Kevin Frandsen; the young potential hard hitting third baseman who can’t throw accurately to first. Placido Polanco; the veteran great fielding third baseman that cannot hit for much power. Michael Young will be fine with the glove. He’s been in the game for too long not to be. His numbers are right in between Kevin Fransden and Placido Polanco; but that’s fine because only one third baseman can be on the field at a time. I think any fan would’ve wanted YOUK there anyway.

    AVG. KF: .338 // PP: .257 // MY: .312
    SLG% KF: .451 // PP: .327 // MY: .370

    • Posts: 882 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      Do you think Young is enough of an upgrade over Frandsen to warrant giving up two trade chips that could have been used in other trades (either now or during the season), and the extra $6 million that left that much less for a starting pitcher or other free agent?

  • Posts: 0 George

    Frandsen was not going to be the answer. At least Young came cheaper than Youkilis, a similarly declining player who unlike Young has had injury issues lately. Regret the prospects all you want, but remember, they are just prospects. Lindblom didn’t show any real promise in Philly, and Bonilla is years away.

    People think those two might have brought something better in trade, but no one says for what position of need. Corner outfielders with power aren’t exactly cheap these days, nor are Worley/Kendrick upgrades or set-up men. There weren’t a lot of other 3rd base guys out there. Young may not be a huge upgrade, but I think a move had to be made. Sometimes you just can’t get the David Wright or Chase Headley you might want, and you have to make a questionable choice.

    • Posts: 882 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      I (for one) don’t think Lindblom would have made a difference in 2013, and I agree that Bonilla is years away from helping the Phillies or any team, assuming he ever does.

      But that’s really neither here nor there. They were two trade chips with value on the market, and there was no reason to squander them (IMO) in a move that I think will provide little if any upgrade over Frandsen.

      In addition, the $6 million that will be paid to Young means that Phillies settle for a Lannan, instead of getting a better starting pitcher (Marcum, Jackson, Lohse, etc.), or even if they do sign Lannan, have $6 M less for another player.

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