So Hey, Think About Michael Young, Starting At Second Base

young_2013-09-12

So says Ken Gurnick. So say we all.

The Dodgers let Mark Ellis, their starter at second base the past two years, leave as a free agent. They are trying to work out a deal to bring back Young, whom they acquired in a Trade Deadline deal, because he could start at second base if Guerrero isn’t ready or be a threatening bat off the bench.

Young was last a regular second baseman in 2003. He didn’t see any time there again until 2011, when he started 14 games (and 14 more the next year) as a utility type for Texas. I assume I don’t need to tell you how horrifying this scenario is, right?

Fortunately, Ken Rosenthal reports that Young is “strongly” considering retirement, and just because Gurnick is speculating otherwise hardly means it’s likely to happen. Still, the fact that we’re even discussing this on January 14 tells you a lot about how things stand. It’s not great.

Dodger Third Base Situation Isn’t Getting Brighter

young_sandiego_2013-09-22

Juan Uribe still hasn’t made a decision, and now reports have surfaced that the Rays had interest in him as a multi-positional type. I imagine Tampa is out of the mix now that they’ve agreed to bring back James Loney (for three years!), but it still doesn’t ensure that Uribe is coming back to the Dodgers, and the more I hear about the team’s frustration at how drawn-out this is getting, the more I believe it.

Unfortunately, the alternatives haven’t changed, and the rumors that pop up are frustrating at best. Kevin Youkilis? He wants to play on the West Coast, and most of the other West clubs are set at third, but his agent has reportedly not spoken to the Dodgers, at least as of a few days ago. Eric Chavez? Potentially a decent platoon option, though he’s garnering some interest as a bench player from several teams. Daniel Murphy? I don’t love him, and his third base experience is limited, but there’s something to the idea of sending a not-Zach Lee or Ross Stripling pitching prospect if things get desperate.

Things might just be getting to that point, since we’re now seeing things like this appear:

(Buster tweeted that at 3:18am pacific, which is exactly when Michael Young-related discussion should happen.) We heard something similar from Dylan Hernandez a few days ago, but I’m not ready to panic about it… yet. As usual, the rumor-related caveats apply; I’m not suggesting that I don’t believe Olney or Hernandez, just that it could be A) the Dodgers doing due diligence B) Young’s agent attempting to make other teams believe someone actually has interest in his client C) a tactic designed to apply pressure to Uribe to decide or D) all of the above.

Until Uribe actually signs somewhere, I’m not going to lose any sleep over the mind-bending thought of Michael Young, starting third basemen. If Uribe does sign in Chicago or Miami or wherever? Well, then I might be driving around the country trying to track down Reed and Lee and whomever else and trucking them down to San Diego for Chase Headley. (Joking. I think.) For now, it’s just more of an annoyance than anything. The season doesn’t start for another 99 days, and it’s not particularly important on what day the situation is resolved. It’s just important that it’s not Young when the first pitch is thrown in Australia.

2013 Dodgers in Review #13: 3B Michael Young

90topps_michaelyoung.314/.321/.392 53pa 0hr .309 wOBA -0.2 fWAR (inc.)

2013 in brief: Late-season acquisition made every single out in the playoffs. Every last one.

2014 status: Free agent, possibly headed to retirement.

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I’d been so terrified of Michael Young coming to the Dodgers for so long that not only had I been referring to him as “future Dodger Michael Young” for some time, I’d been making posts regarding the rumors for years. No, really: back in 2009, I compared him to Blake DeWitt. In 2011, rumors popped up and I decided I didn’t prefer him to Casey Blake, posting on it twice. (I might have been wrong about that one.) By July of this year I joked that it was inevitable; and then of course on August 31, it was real. All too real.

Now I will say that part of my concern was that his overblown reputation would cause him to come in and immediate bounce the superior Juan Uribe from third base, hurting the Dodgers on both sides of the ball, but especially defense. To Don Mattingly‘s credit, that didn’t happen. Young started only five September games at third (along with five more at other infield spots) and not once in the playoffs, despite Steve Lyons spouting some garbage about how he was certain to. And since the bench obviously needed help and losing Rob Rasmussen was no big loss, you could at least see how the trade made sense.

But man, was Young brutal. Yes, he hit .314, though that only shows you how limited batting average is; since he walked only once and had three extra-base hits, that made him barely league-average in limited play with the Dodgers, and the lousy defense made him below replacement. In the playoffs, of course, he was horrible, collecting just one single in ten plate appearances and, in Game 1 of the NLCS, hitting into two double plays and putting up one of the worst playoff games of all time despite not entering until the eighth inning.

Young is a free agent, and he’s been rumored to retire, though nothing is yet certain. After years of worrying about his arrival and six weeks of watching it unfold just as we expected, I don’t think I can take any more.

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Next! You think watching Young was painful? It’s Luis Cruz!

Future Dodger Michael Young Is Now Current Dodger Michael Young

michael_young_philliesYesterday, I made reference to breaking Dodger news always happening while I’m out of town. A long-time commenter called me out for that joke getting tedious… and then Ned Colletti had to go out and acquire Michael Young, because of absolutely course he did. You’d think that a team that’s just destroying all of baseball and is going to easily win the division would lead to nothing but acclaim for the general manager, but then you wouldn’t think that anyone — in 2013! — would acquire Young and Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez in the span of barely more than a month, especially after giving all that money to Brandon League.

So here I am, hundreds of miles from home, borrowing a friend’s laptop so I can at least some thoughts out there. You may remember that the very thought of Young terrified me back in mid-July (among dozens of other times), when I wrote

Or maybe, just maybe, Colletti will identify Young as the upgrade this team has to have, as though adding a “good clubhouse guy” to a clubhouse that doesn’t seem to be a problem — and no, Young is not going to be the guy who talks sense into Yasiel Puig, so stop — will be more valuable than giving playing time to a declining poor fielder, and give up more than Young was already traded for months ago. No, that could never happen… right?

Rob Rasmussen goes back, and he’s not much of a prospect who was acquired for John Ely last year, so Young is basically a free part. So that’s nice, but really, I’m still struggling to find some good out of this. Is Young here because…

1) He’s a good clubhouse presence? Well, no. By most accounts he really is a solid teammate and all that, but so is Juan Uribe, who Young is most likely to take playing time from. So are Mark Ellis & Skip Schumaker, if he’s to see any time at second base. I don’t argue Young’s reputation, but the Dodgers are known to have a pretty good clubhouse, and you’ve lost your mind if you think Young is going to be the guy who commands Puig’s respect. I’ll bet $100 that Puig has absolutely no idea who Young even is. Nor should he.

2. He’s an offensive upgrade at third base? Not really. Young has a .321 wOBA, which is a little better than Uribe’s .317, but Young is also hitting just .244/.315/.348 since the All-Star break. That’s awful, and any possible advantage he might have is quickly given back by…

3. He’s a defensive upgrade at third base? Haaaaaa, no. I’ll just steal this from Jon Weisman for now:

Uribe 2013: .722 OPS., 103 OPS+, 25.8 UZR/150, 2.8 WAR
Young 2013: .722 OPS, 99 OPS+, -16.2 UZR/150, 0.0 WAR

Regardless of how you feel about defensive metrics, this passes the sniff test. Uribe’s defense has been excellent this year, as he’s made up for limited range with a strong accurate arm and a reliable glove. Every inning Young plays over Uribe is an inning the Dodgers are made worse. Imagine Young and Hanley Ramirez on the left side at the same time? Good lord.

4. He improves the bench? This is the only thing that might possibly make some sense, because the reserves are pretty weak. Ellis helps only with his glove, and Nick Punto has been awful offensively for months. Schumaker and Jerry Hairston are useful for their versatility, but neither offer much of a threat at the plate. So *if* this is about adding a guy with some versatility who can sorta still hit lefties — and offers veteran presence!! — at zero cost, there’s something to that.

But that’s only if that’s how this plays out, and Young has never been a bench player in the past. It’s worrisome that his reputation could make him the starting third baseman, because the Dodgers will be worse for this if he is.

Can the Dodgers Pay More For Michael Young Than They Already Did?

michael_young_philliesAs I alluded to the other day, I’m absolutely terrified of the prospect of Ned Colletti going after Michael Young before the trading deadline. And why shouldn’t I be? He’s exactly the type of player we’ve seen this front office go after so many times before — “gritty,” a “good clubhouse presence,” and… not that good.

Young was for many years a valuable part of the Texas infield, being worth 2-4 wins every season between 2003-2011 other than 2005, when he was worth 4.4 WAR in what was his career year. The fact that he hit for a high average — .301 career mark — along with some pop — four years with 20+ homers — obscured the fact that he was generally a below-average fielder, but make no mistake: Young was a very good player for a long time, and he more than held his own in an incredibly talented 2003 Texas infield that featured Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, & Hank Blalock, none older than 27 at the time.

Of course, his reputation as a good teammate didn’t stop him from having a few public spats with Rangers management, notably when they asked him to move from shortstop to third base in 2009 to make room for Elvis Andrus, then from third base to 1B/DH in 2011 when Adrian Beltre arrived. Despite the fact that each were superior players, especially on defense, Young requested a trade twice. It didn’t happen until after a miserable 2012 when general manager Jon Daniels could no longer stomach Ron Washington playing a 35-year-old with a .277/.312/.370 line every day, and traded him to Philadelphia. (When he did, Mike Schmidt compared Young to Derek Jeter, and said that he’s “two or three years from being a first ballot Hall of Famer.” Uh, sure, Mike.)

Young has bounced back a bit with the Phillies, hitting .288/.344/.414, though that’s a nearly identical line as Juan Uribe has to go with inarguably worse defense. You could make a pretty good argument that the Dodgers are not better off with Young at third base every day than they are with Uribe, though the potential of Uribe getting some bench time that is currently going to Skip Schumaker or Nick Punto must be taken into account.

Anyway, that’s not really the point here. It will be no surprise if Colletti wants Young, and it will be even less of a surprise that I would hate it. The question is what Young might cost, because in a round-about way, the Dodgers have already traded for him once.

Last July, the Dodgers sent reliever Josh Lindblom and pitching prospect Ethan Martin to Philadelphia for Shane Victorino. After the season, the Phillies sent Lindblom and a mid-level pitching prospect to Texas for Young.

We know all about Lindlom, since he spent parts of two seasons with the Dodgers and had been in the organization since 2008. He’s a useful but hardly elite pitcher with some talent but continuing trouble with the longball, and he’s struggled in Texas as they’ve inexplicably attempted to convert him back into a starter. Basically, the kind of guy who is nice to have, but who you don’t miss at all once he’s gone.

If that’s what Young was worth to the Phillies for a full year of his services, then what is he worth to the Dodgers now that he’s a half year older and closer to free agency? You could argue that it’s less than Lindblom, which would really cut down the pool. That seems to make even Chris Withrow or Stephen Fife or Matt Magill too much, though I’m guessing that’s not how this exercise is going to go.

Of course, we all hope that if a deal with Philadelphia happens, it’s part of something larger for Cliff Lee or Chase Utley, which would make identifying the value for Young alone difficult. Maybe that’s what will happen; maybe it will be nothing at all.

Or maybe, just maybe, Colletti will identify Young as the upgrade this team has to have, as though adding a “good clubhouse guy” to a clubhouse that doesn’t seem to be a problem — and no, Young is not going to be the guy who talks sense into Yasiel Puig, so stop — will be more valuable than giving playing time to a declining poor fielder, and give up more than Young was already traded for months ago. No, that could never happen… right?