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Michael Young – A Fit for the Royals? No Way

Amid the hoopla regarding the Michael Young situation, some Kansas City talk has surfaced. Well, it’s only surfaced in Kansas City, but on the 610 morning show, Bob Fescoe (@bobfescoe on Twitter) said that he believes the Royals should acquire the second baseman shortstop third baseman DH/utilityman. His claim is that prospects are just that, and that while any of them could be All-Star talents, it’s almost a guarantee that at least one will not be a productive Major Leaguer. Michael Young is a productive Major Leaguer. Well, sort of anyway. I’m not going to use this space to rip on Fescoe too much, but I’ve always gotten the distinct impression that he’s a big fan of hearing himself talk, which is, in many ways, a good thing for a talk show host. I don’t think he understands, though, that Michael Young just isn’t that good.

It’s not just that he isn’t that good, but it’s that he’s not that good and he’s incredibly overpriced. In order to employ Michael Young, the Royals would either be on the hook for $48 million over three years or in order to get him at a much lower rate would have to give up some combination of prospects to the Rangers. The fact of the matter is that he’s not worth his current salary and wouldn’t be worth the prospects in order to get him down to a reasonable salary. The illusion that Young is a good offensive player is one that has been perpetuated for a few years now, and is based solely on a couple of truly good seasons.

Without factoring in his home/road splits throughout his career (which are fairly significant), Young has only had two truly outstanding offensive seasons in his career. The first came in 2005 when he hit .331/.385/.513 and the second was in 2009 when he hit .322/.374/.518. The rest of his career has been pretty nondescript. His first three seasons, he had an OPS+ of 80, 78 and 97 respectively before finally breaking the above average barrier with a .313/.353/.483 season for an OPS+ of 109 in 2004. After his excellent 2005, his OPS+ progression has gone 108, 106, 95, 128 and 105. To me, that looks like the profile of an average offensive player. Given the fact that he’s now 34, the odds of him improving are pretty slim. These numbers are perfectly acceptable for a player who plays good defense, but Michael Young simply does not provide good defense anymore. He may be an excellent first baseman, but that’s probably the one place on the diamond where the Royals have no need at all for an upgrade.

The other thing about Michael Young is that he’s painted as a fantastic teammate, and he might very well be, but his actions over the last few years have not exactly been those of someone who is a veteran leader. He came up through the minors as a shortstop, but was a second baseman in his debut because of a guy by the name of Alex Rodriguez at shortstop. Then the Rangers traded Rodriguez to the Yankees and received second baseman Alfonso Soriano in return, so Michael Young moved back to his original position of shortstop where he wasn’t great. Somehow, though, he won a gold glove in 2008. To the Rangers credit, they were not fooled and informed Young that he would be a third baseman in 2009 to make room for Elvis Andrus at shortstop. In his first bout with insubordination, Young scoffed at the idea and originally told the Rangers that he wouldn’t do it. Eventually, he and the organization smoothed things over and he became a third baseman, where he played in 2009 and 2010 at a roughly average to below average level.

Rumors began to swirl in this offseason that the Rangers had a backup plan if Cliff Lee decided to sign elsewhere, and that was third baseman Adrian Beltre. Well, Lee signed with the Phillies and the Rangers turned to their backup plan. Stories went around the internet that the Rangers were trying to trade Young in order to make room both financially and on the roster for Beltre. The Rockies emerged as a suitor, but the Rangers assured Young that they weren’t shopping him. To prove that, they signed Beltre without trading Young and decided that Young would now be the DH and the right-handed half of a platoon at first base with Mitch Mooreland. I’m not sure I’d be a fan of having Young as my DH, and the Rangers weren’t either, eventually trading for Mike Napoli.

Well, now Michael Young is angry. He feels manipulated and betrayed by the Rangers and badly wants out. My thought is that the team is paying you $16 million per year in order to play baseball. That includes being a full-time DH if they want, playing first base if they want, being a utility guy if they want or even being a bullpen catcher if they want. The Rangers got better than Michael Young can offer them, and now he’s not happy about that. I get that he’s frustrated, and I get that he’s upset, but I don’t understand how he can be looked at as a leader when he’s now thrown a hissy fit in two out of the last three offseasons about his role on the team.

Now to tie this all back to the Royals, you could argue that the Royals already have a very similar player to Young already on the roster. He makes about 1/32 of what Young makes, and is likely to produce very similar numbers to Young. You may have already been thinking this, but Mike Aviles does pretty much everything that Michael Young does with a couple of exceptions. He probably has a little less home run power than Young and he plays much better defense at this point in their careers. Both hitters are pretty heavily reliant on their batting averages and both hitters have offensive value as long as they’re defensively viable. Based on Michael Young’s splits, I’m not sure that you’d be able to expect a significantly higher slugging percentage than Aviles posted last year in a year where he was probably still battling back from injury for the majority of the season.

Add in the fact that there are two very strong infield prospects working their way through the system and it would be irresponsible to give up anything of value for Michael Young. Anything of value includes money. If Mike Aviles or Chris Getz ultimately can’t cut it for the Royals, they have Johnny Giavotella and Christian Colon in the pipeline to take over. Michael Young would be superfluous on the roster. The last thing the Royals need is a player in decline who doesn’t play defense, and at the very least should not be lauded for his attitude. Michael Young may be a fit on a lot of teams, but the Royals are most definitely not one of them.

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