Phillies Kick Tires, Inquire About Michael Young

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Phillies contacted the Texas Rangers to discuss Michael Young. Nothing happened, but the idea is at least interesting.

The Philadelphia Phillies recently contacted the Texas Rangers to express an interest in infielder Michael Young, three Major League Baseball sources confirmed to ESPN.com. But the trade talks failed to yield much common ground, and discussions between the clubs are no longer active.

One source said the discussions were “brief” and amounted essentially to “tire kicking” on the part of the Phillies.

Should the Phillies have any interest in Young, who is owed $16 million in each of the next three seasons? Young has played at least 2,500 innings each at second base, third base, and shortstop over his 10-year career. Additionally, he is right-handed and has some power, two features that are noticeably absent now that Jayson Werth plays for the Washington Nationals.

Jimmy Rollins is currently in the last year of his contract and becomes a free agent at the end of the season. The Phillies may feel that Rollins’ best years are behind him given his recent struggles in terms of production and simply staying on the field. Young could supplant Rollins at shortstop, but even an injured and struggling Rollins is comparable to Young in a typical year.

Is Rollins finished, though? I debated with Mike Petriello about the issue at Baseball Prospectus.

Despite the injuries last year, Rollins was about as good as the average National League shortstop. His triple-slash line was .243/.320/.374 compared to the average .266/.325/.388. He will have had nearly four months to recuperate and should go into the 2011 season 100 percent healthy. With even a moderate bounce-back year, Rollins should find himself among the league’s top shortstops (still light years behind Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki, of course).

Young’s average triple-slash line over the past three seasons is .295/.346/.451, much better than Rollins. Young’s offensive WAR, per Baseball Reference, ranged from 2.7 to 4.2 while Rollins was 1.1 to 1.5 in the last two.

Rollins, however, makes up the difference with his defense and his base running. In over 13,000 defensive innings since 2002, Rollins is at +5.3 per 150 defensive games. Young has tallied over 6,700 innings at shortstop but earned a depressing -10.2. Assuming UZR reflects actual defensive talent (which is not at all clear), the 15.5 run difference amounts to about one and a half wins.

Rollins also picks up some extra runs with his ability to run the bases.

On average, Rollins adds about an extra half-win per season than Young just by running the bases well.

In order for a Rollins-to-Young transition to work for the Phillies, Young would need to come at an amazingly low price or he would need to provide a substantial upgrade in terms of production. Neither is true.

Young could also play third base, but is he better than Placido Polanco? Young is slightly better offensively (his career .346 wOBA beats Polanco’s .334) but is, as usual, a mess defensively. Polanco earned a +11.3 UZR/150 at third base last year and has a career +10.7 mark. Young was -5.8 last year and -7.5 for his career. Even accounting for UZR’s unreliability and making a super-conservative  estimate, Polanco is at least one win better just on defense.

Over the last three years, FanGraphs has Polanco at 2.8, 3.1, and 3.7 WAR for a total of 9.6 and an average of 3.2. Young earned 2.4, 3.9, and 2.7 WAR for a total of 9.0 and an average of 3.0.

Polanco is also signed to an economically-friendly contract through 2012 with a mutual option for ’13. There is no reason to push out Polanco for Young, especially when such a maneuver would involve taking on more money and giving up useful prospects and Major League players.

The only conceivable way Young fits with the Phillies if he takes over in left field, but he would provide only a marginal upgrade over Raul Ibanez. Furthermore, Young has never played an inning in the outfield during his Major League career.

Ultimately, the idea is fun to think about, but highly unrealistic. Young is a useful player but his contract makes him an undesirable trade target.

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30 comments

  1. Bob

    February 09, 2011 08:00 PM

    Bill,

    I agree with all of your points about Young, except covering the potential for Young to be an uber utility guy. Given the Phils advancing age, weakness against lefties, and some inevitable injuries, the Phils could probably convince Young (to waive his no trade) that he could start 100 to 120+ games and be the late inning pinch hitter against lefties for Brown in games in doesn’t start. All for a contender.

    That may or may not be a better situation for him than in Texas, and it would obviously have to be a good value for the Phils, particularly given their salary load and a presumed apprehension to part with material prospects for a utility guy (however good). But if all of that were palatable, the question isn’t whether or not he’s better than Rollins/Polanco/Ibanez so much as the question is whether or not he is better than this year’s Wilson Valdez.

  2. Mike

    February 09, 2011 08:57 PM

    $16 million a year for a uber utility guy. You’re kidding right?

  3. B

    February 09, 2011 09:19 PM

    Not for nothing but the Dewan +/- didn’t love Polanco nearly as much as UZR. Which to me is a much more true representation of his actual play.

  4. Bob

    February 09, 2011 10:03 PM

    The presumption is that the Rangers eat a big chunk of that $16M, which would likely mean the Phils need to part with a couple of good but not great prospects. How would a $6M Young look with the departure of a couple of B+ prospects? I doubt the Phils have the $6M to spare or that the rangers would buy at that price, but my guess is that the tire kicking involved something along those lines.

    It was probably Amaro seeing if he could get good value and the Rangers sitting in ‘wait and see’ mode, to see what else is out there, and if the Young situation will escalate. You could be surprised if (1) the situation in TX becomes untenable (2) the Cardinals don’t step up due to Pujols $$$ concerns (3) Young wields a heavy hammer on his no trade clause, but adds the Phils due to contender status and (4) Amaro can find $5M to $8M under the seat cushions (trade Blanton). It’s a long shot, but it was described as tire kicking. I was merely describing another reason why the tires may have been kicked.

    So no, not kidding. But thanks for being condescending.

  5. hunterfan

    February 10, 2011 08:04 AM

    I’m with Bob. Young makes excellent sense if he’s much cheaper than the $16 mil/year. With a left infield all over the wrong side of 30, it can’t hurt to have a guy who can play all those positions with an above average right handed bat.

    The likeliest scenario to me is that Amaro kicked the tires to find out if the Rangers were desperate enough to unload Young that they would kick in a significant portion of his salary. The Rangers weren’t. Coversation over.

    I applaud Amaro for doing his due diligence. Young would have been a great acquisition if the Rangers were desperate enough to get rid of him for pennies on the dollar. Since they weren’t, Amaro moved on.

    Doesn’t this seem like a far more likely scenario than Amaro was a moron and actually thought Young would be an upgrade over Rollins, Utley, or Polanco?

  6. Dave

    February 10, 2011 11:25 AM

    The reason Young is asking to leave Texas is because he doesn’t have a position and will not see enough at bats at DH. Why would Young agree to a trade to Philadelphia to be a utility player? Doesn’t make much sense unless he can play in the outfield.

  7. FanSince09

    February 10, 2011 01:00 PM

    Young would be a great signing. Trade Ibanez for Young, then start Young at 3rd, move Polanco to 2nd, Utley to LF. Utley is injury prone and would be better served in a lower impact outfield position. Trade Rollins for prospects, since our farm system is depleted from all those trades, start Valdez at SS.

  8. melvin

    February 10, 2011 02:10 PM

    i said phillies dont need tostop trade and i want to keep jim rollins with phiilies for good,

  9. hunterfan

    February 10, 2011 02:15 PM

    “The reason Young is asking to leave Texas is because he doesn’t have a position and will not see enough at bats at DH. Why would Young agree to a trade to Philadelphia to be a utility player?”

    Maybe because he burned a bunch of bridges by calling the Rangers FO a bunch of manipulative liars?

    Just a guess.

  10. awh

    February 10, 2011 05:55 PM

    “With a left infield all over the wrong side of 30″

    Ummm, hunterfan, you DO realize that Young is on the “wrong side of 30″ also?

    He’s actually older than Rollins and Utley, and only 1 year younger than Polanco.

    Fansince09, you DO realize that Young would not be a “SIGNING”, no? In baseball parlance it’s normally called a “TRADE”. You do realize that Utley has never played a day in the OF. Never. What evidence do you have that indicates Utley would be even a remorely competent OF?

    BTW, on what basis do you call Utley “injury prone”? The term “injury prone” has the connotation of wearing or breaking down. Of the three injuries Utley has had the last couple of years (hip, hand, thumb) two could be ascribed to freak occurences. The hand was hti by a John Lannan pitch. He tore the thumb tendon sliding headfirst into 2B. A 22 yr. old could have had either injury under the same circumstances. Only the hip could remotely be ascribed to wear and tear.

    I wouldn’t call that “injury prone”. I’d call it “unlucky”.

  11. Scott G

    February 10, 2011 07:08 PM

    AWH,

    I feel like you comment on here enough to know that FanSince09’s comments are usually 100% jokes.

  12. Matty B.

    February 10, 2011 07:53 PM

    The Michael Young speculation is driving me crazy. I look on other blogs and message boards and see tons of people suggesting replacing Ibanez in left field with Young.

    Why on earth would we do that? Young is a good hitter for an infielder, but when compared to Ibanez (let alone a good left fielder), his bat looks very mediocre.

    Young: 105 career OPS+, 105 OPS+ last season
    Ibanez: 114 career OPS+, 112 OPS+ last year

    And while Ibanez is pretty lousy defensively, why should we believe that Young, who’s never played the outfield, would be any better?

    And then you factor in the $48M he’s owed? Jesus.

  13. Scott G

    February 11, 2011 06:16 PM

    I reallly hate when the MSM talks about pitchers getting 20 Wins. Or any wins for that matter. It’s even worse when they preface their win statements with things like:

    You know, if Cole Hamels didn’t have some of the worst run support in the league last year, he could have won 18-19 games.

    How can you say all of that, and not question how terrible pitcher wins are at evaluating a pitcher?

  14. Steve-O

    February 12, 2011 02:18 AM

    @Scott

    The writers are caught between two worlds. In a sweeping generalization I’d say the casual or older fans think in terms of ERA, K’s, BB, and wins to judge if a pitcher is good. Some younger more stat smart fans know better.

    Last season I saw on some site (ESPN?) a stat I’d never seen before called “tough luck losses” and it seems Cole was leading the pack with 7 after his two gems against the Mess, both 1-0 losses in a week. I guess I’m saying I agree with the writer that he could have won 18 games and with better RS he possibly would have.

  15. SaganRand

    February 12, 2011 11:42 AM

    Polanco is a defensive luxury the Phillies can no longer afford with the departure of Werth. Who in this lineup is going to provide production from the right side of the plate? Young’s production numbers are far superior to Polanco’s so I’m not sure what kind of nonsense you need to mix-together in your spreadsheet to call them comparable, but here’s there 162 game ‘lines’ over their careers: Young .300 avg, 17 hr, 87 rbi, 99 runs. Polanco; .303, 10, 64, 91…and if you look at the last few years the gap in rbi is even wider. Sorry, but I’ll take 87 almost 25 extra rbi anyday. Again, who’s gonna proivde rh production? We are meandering into this season as if this is NOT a big deal. I promise you it is.

  16. SaganRand

    February 12, 2011 02:16 PM

    I’m finding it amazing the ‘straw-man’ arguments here, comparing Young vs Rollins, Young vs Ibanez. Does anyone actually NOT realize that the ONLY reason the Phils ‘kicked the tires’ on Young was the very weak offensive production from Polanco at 3b? When you combine Polanco’s weak production with the departure of Werth you have a huge offensie hole from the right side of the lineup. Third base is the ONLY place they can arguably address the lack of rh production. THIS mess they are dealing with is exactly the reason they should’ve moved Ibanez and Blanton in order to free up enough money to find a way to sign Werth. Ibanez is the weak/old link in the outfield. He’s way on the downside of his career. As it is now, they are sure to let Ibanez go after this season and be left with Victorino and 2 huge question marks in the of, I mean Dom Brown has not shown me anything at all yet to even remotely assume he’ll be as good as advertised. Good news is he’l have a lot of playing time this year to prove me wrong, but I’d be far more comfortable with him in the outfield if we’d kept Werth…

  17. SaganRand

    February 12, 2011 02:56 PM

    Since 2004, here’s the Young vs. Polaco 162g averages: Young; HR 19, RBI 94, Runs 101, Extra base hits 63; Polanco; 9 hr, 62 rbi, 85 runs, 40 extra base hits. For Young, that’s 10 more homers, 32 more rbi, 16 more runs, 23 more extra base hits. ‘Slightly’ better? LOL. I don’t need a graph to know any scout in baseball can see that Young is far superior offensively and whatever you lose defensively is the price you pay for losing rh production from one of your corner outfield positions. Corner of, 3b, 1b…historically, those are the places you get rh offensive production from. The Phils have ‘clogged-up’ the corner of wiht a prospect and an old man, and 3b with a defensive luxury. They need rh production or it could be a long year regardless of the big-4

  18. Danny

    February 12, 2011 03:59 PM

    should of kept scott rolen

  19. Max

    February 12, 2011 04:05 PM

    @Danny:
    Seriously? Should of kept David Bell/Wes Helms.

  20. Mark

    February 12, 2011 04:07 PM

    Who told WIP about this place?

  21. Tiffany

    February 12, 2011 04:49 PM

    Should of kept Jayson Werth. /SaganRand’d

  22. hk

    February 12, 2011 04:50 PM

    Michael Young has played his whole career in one of the best hitter’s parks in MLB whereas Polanco spent 4+ years in Comerica, one of the worst, and the rest of his career in worse hitter’s parks than Young. If you just look at their road numbers, Polanco’s the better hitter:

    Young (Away) .279/.322/.411
    Polanco (Away) .297/.341/.401

    Factor in that a cigar store Indian could play better defense than Young and it’s pretty clear why RAJ only kicked the tires on Young and decided to pass.

  23. pounded clown

    February 12, 2011 07:53 PM

    I just want a real utility man. Preferably RHed. Amaro does realize Valdez will backslide…doesn’t he?

  24. Cluck

    February 12, 2011 10:53 PM

    My first thought when hearing this was that Amaro was just getting a feel for what Texas was interested in for Young to keep in mind for a 3 team deal of some sort. A kind of Blanton to Texas, Young to 3rd team, Phils get some # of prospects. These types of trades do happen and somebody has to start by kicking some tires somewhere.

  25. Rex

    February 15, 2011 01:32 AM

    Late but funny . Both Carl Sagan and Ayn Rand would be a touch disappointed at SaganRands use of “logic.”

    Snap

  26. SaganRand

    March 06, 2011 10:00 PM

    Okay Rex, Max and whoever else. Fine. You disagree, however you fail to break down any logical counter argument. The basic concepts used in my original posts are long standing baseball standby’s used by those that actually work in the profession:
    1. “Power” typically comes from 1b, 3b, corner OF positions (Chase Utley and other expceptions to the ‘rule’ notwithstanding)
    2. Werth, Victorino and Brown (in my opinion) is a better outfield than Ibanez, Victorino and Brown. I say this for several reason, primary among them is that Werth is a five-tool player that I believe to be an overall better options than Ibanez, and also is a RH power bat that helps ‘balance’ the lineup a bit better than the alternative
    3. M. Young would provide more power than Polanco. Young gives you 10 more hr, 32 more rbi’s, 23 more xbh. Those are significant increases. As far as talking about TX being a ‘hitting’ park…uh, the ‘Bank’ aint too shabby in that respect and Polanco’s power numbers are a JOKE. Young, without a doubt, would provide more pop. Not to mention, with the Utley concerns there’s be plenty of games Young could take 3b and let Polanco give Chase a day off here and there. Frankly, I’ve had enough David Bell, Nunez, Feliz, and other 3b that playing ‘only’ defense. For my money, Young can boot a ball or two if I get a significant offensive upgrade from the right side. Who do you suggest is going to do that for us? Please try to make logical counter-points when you are ‘attacking’ the logic used by someone else. I bring 40+ years of baseball knowledge to the argument. Perhaps you broke into daddy’s lap-top and read a sabernonsense spreadhsheet or 2 and think you know more? Go for it. Outline your brilliant counter-argument.

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