De-Pissing the Cornflakes: A Defense of the Delmon Young Deal

Christian Petersen

Yes, he can't run and doesn't walk. Yes, he plays defense with the grace and precision of a nose tackle doing the fox trot. Yes, he seems to have all the charm of Donald Trump at Obama's inauguration. But the Delmon Young signing almost surely isn't the disaster you think it is, and it could even prove a huge win for the 2013 Phillies.

Let me stipulate three things up front:

  1. I'm not one of those innate contrarians who takes the other side of an argument for the sheer perverse balls of it, and it gives me no pleasure to disagree with my Good Phight brethren and sistren who detest and deplore this move.
  2. I take the point, made not just by my compatriots here but by David Murphy on philly.com, that Ruben Amaro has shown a seriously distressing and depressing tendency to acquire position players who don't do most of the things we associate with successful baseball, like get on base or mash home runs at particularly high rates or, with the exception of Ben Revere, cover a lot of ground in the field and catch most of what they can get to.
  3. Delmon Young might not be an irredeemable asshole, but the preponderance of the evidence sure seems to lean that way. Not only has he run afoul of the law both on and off the field, it seems fairly clear that he hasn't worked to get the most out of the physical abilities that once made him the first overall pick of the 2003 draft.
All that said, I can't quite believe just how much people hate the Phillies' signing of Young for $750,000. I think the most likely outcome by far is that Young proves more or less a non-factor in 2013, getting 300-400 plate appearances and hitting a bit better than his career averages of .284/.317/.425, being worth maybe half a win, and then moving on after the season to continue his multi-year drift toward quad-A status. The next most likely outcome is that he does what a fair number of guys do in their age-27 season, putting up something like career-best numbers. In his case, that came in 2010, when his triple-slash line was .298/.333/.493 with 21 home runs and 112 RBI. For $750,000, that would qualify as a hell of a good deal.

But maybe the bigger point is that Young represents arguably the best from a bad set of options, and the right strategic choice for a team in an unenviable situation. Amaro's critics haven't yet identified the high-OBP, solid-glove, model-citizen outfielder on the right side of 30 who was out there for a reasonable cost. The other similar options this winter that wouldn't have cost eight figures and a first-round draft pick, or a huge haul of prospects that the Phillies don't really have, were Cody Ross (age 32, signed a three-year, $26 million contract, and is evil incarnate) and Scott Hairston, who's going into his age-33 season and just signed a two-year deal with the Cubs. For the relative costs and durations, I'd rather have Young's upside.

There was another way for the Phillies to address their corner outfield concerns this winter: sign one of the big-ticket free agents, like Josh Hamilton (five years, $125 million), B.J. Upton (five years, $75 million), Nick Swisher (four years, $56 million), or Michael Bourn (unsigned as yet; originally was rumored to be asking for five years and $70-90 million). All but Upton are over 30, and all would have cost the Phils' first-round draft pick as well as represented yet another high-dollar contract to an aging star. And with the possible exception of Hamilton--who comes with his own set of serious risks--none of them would have re-established the Phillies as favorites in the NL East.

Finally, there's the idea that Young's acquisition unfairly blocks Domonic Brown and/or Darin Ruf. I probably have more emotionally invested in Brown's on-field success than any Phillie who wasn't a World F. Champion or named Roy Halladay. If they're competing, I'm pretty sure I'd rather he get "first shot" at a job than Young. But it's just wrong to assert that he's "earned" anything more than the chance for playing time that he'll have this spring. He also hasn't exactly been the embodiment of health these last few years. As for Ruf, he was a great story in 2012 and clearly merits a shot to play himself into a bigger role--which, with Charlie Manuel writing the lineup card, I'm confident he'll get. But a year ago, he was an afterthought even in the Phils' lightly regarded system, and his odds of emerging as a playable defensive outfielder are about the same as Young's. Oh, and he's sixteen months younger than Young.

I wrote last month that there really isn't an easy fix for what ails the Phillies right now. If you want to blame something, I suggest, one, the 2007 and 2008 first-round draft misses on Joe Savery and Anthony Hewitt, and two, the Ryan Howard contract extension. The draft whiffs helped ensure that the Phillies would face this need, and the Howard deal severely restricted their financial leeway to address it.

With an expensive, aging core trying to stave off decline and a mostly depleted farm system just maybe-hopefully starting to yield a few green shoots, the Phillies will need a lot to go right to win in 2013. Good health and vintage production from the lineup veterans and three remaining aces, quick maturation from the youthful bullpen arms, and a few upside surprises. Delmon Young was once the consensus top prospect in the game. He's entering his age-27 season and about to join his third team since 2011. His weight is as much of a joke as his conduct and his defense. He's literally playing for his livelihood: if he doesn't perform this season, it's fairly likely he's done as any kind of name in baseball.

Was this a masterstroke likely to push the Phillies over the top in 2013? Highly doubtful. But Amaro seems intent on steering a middle course between mortgaging the future and punting on the present, holding his cards close at least for a few months and preserving options both to go all-in if the team's in the race come summer, or to cash out some veteran assets if 2013 shapes up as a repeat of 2012. It's a smart way to go, even if it's not particularly satisfying, and entails rooting for an evident jerk like Delmon Young.
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join The Good Phight

You must be a member of The Good Phight to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Good Phight. You should read them.

Join The Good Phight

You must be a member of The Good Phight to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Good Phight. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker