Thoughts on Delmon Young

Amidst talks of the Phillies signing Scott Hairston or trading for Vernon Wells, they went out and made what could end up being a gem of a move.

Their one-year, $750K (with incentives for more) signing of Delmon Young is the definition of low-risk, high reward. If things don’t work out, they will not have spent a wad of money (Hairston is reportedly asking for 2 years, $8 million) or given up prospects.

I’ve seen comparisons of Young’s 2012 stats to those of former Phillie Hunter Pence.
While there are some reasons this is not a fair comparison (e.g. RBI, OBP, primary position), it’s an interesting argument.

Amazingly, Young had a better year in a few categories, but Pence will likely make far more than Young’s base $750K. With incentives, Young could get up to around $3.25 million, but one would rightly think his performance, if earning those incentives, will make it worth the extra cash.

Granted, Young was used heavily at DH last year, but if Young’s numbers can improve as he fights for the corner outfield spot, he will be well worth the contract.

If he improves in the right areas, he could also be good protection for Ryan Howard in the lineup, and a right-handed bat to split Chase Utley and Howard from whichever lefty bats in the 6 hole.

Three things Young will need to work at, whether or not he gets the starting job:

1. Plate Discipline
His career OBP is .317, and it was under .300 last year. He only walked 20 times in 151 games last year. He’ll need to learn when to take some pitches, especially if he is to be Howard’s protection.

2. Defense
Young is a slight defensive downgrade from Pence. His range factor and fielding percentage are slightly lower over his career, and he also didn’t play as much in the outfield last year.

3. Off-field Issues
I’ve listed this as “off-field issues,” but sometimes they show up on the field, too. Young would be best advised to keep a low profile and just work hard at the game. He’s made some mistakes, and he needs to keep his cool and not be a distraction in the clubhouse – or anywhere else.

It won’t be clear until the season starts to progress how good a move this is, but it’s the kind of minor move consistent with Ruben Amaro Jr.’s approach this offseason that has a chance to really improve the team.

Outfielder Shakedown

Over the past 24 hours, the free agent outfield market has become three names thinner.

1. Ross

First, 2010 NLCS MVP Cody Ross signed a three year, $26 million deal with the Diamondbacks.

It’s an intriguing signing, as the Diamondbacks already had considerable outfield depth. However, this does free up another outfielder (probably NOT Justin Upton) as a trade chip. While his numbers trended upward this year from 2011, he’s 32 as of today, and probably won’t be worth the money at the end of the deal.

In fact, the last time his WAR was above 2 was 2009. However, some of his numbers and accomplishments exceed those of players receiving deals almost as good (Jonny Gomes, Ross’s replacement, for example).

The deal has a club option for a fourth year.

2. Ibanez

During the evening we learned that former Yankee/Phillie Raul Ibanez signed with the Mariners for $2.75 million in 2013.

His postseason heroics, as well as the years he spent in Seattle, likely helped him reach the deal. With incentives, he could be worth $4 million. The most likely scenario is that Ibanez finds himself in a platoon, batting against righties.

3. Swisher

Nick Swisher accepted a 4 year, $56 million offer from the Indians.

I thought that if the Dodgers, Angels, or Yankees offered him something close he might take it. After all, postseason chances are no small thing. Apparently, though, the deal was sweet enough for his taste. Swisher has been a consistent bat, maybe worth $10 million a year, but the Indians wanted him enough to spend the extra money.

Where does that leave the outfield market?

4. Bourn

Michael Bourn is the last big name listed.

Not many teams are biting on Bourn. The Rangers are “interested in” Bourn, but that’s a fairly non-committal statement, and they’re early in the process. Given how this offseason has turned out thus far, the signs lead to Bourn signing for a one-year deal, recouping his losses and taking a shot in free agency again next year.

5. Hairston

On the second tier, Scott Hairston is still available. Hairston is being pursued by at least the Phillies, Braves, Mets and Yankees.

He’s a career .247 player who hit 20 HR for the first time in his career and only maintained a WAR above 2 in 2008 (when he played 112 games). He has yet to make 400 plate appearances. But perhaps he can play 140-145 games.
Especially with the three signings over the last 24 hours, it’s become a thin market, and that’s probably why Hairston is getting such a hard look from multiple teams. He may have more leverage in negotiations than he would have had yesterday.