As always, the wisdom of any trade for Michael Young, which the Dallas Morning News reports is in advanced stages, will depend entirely on two key details: the salary the Phillies are taking on, and the talent with which they are parting. According to Rangers beat writer Evan Grant, the Rangers would assume more than half of $16 million. For the trade to make much sense from the Phillies perspective, they would likely have to eat WELL more than half, as any salary approaching $8 million for a player who hit .277/.312/.370 in 651 plate appearances simply would not make sense, especially if a free agent like Kevin Youkilis could be had for the one-year, $12 million contract that the Yankees have reportedly offered him.
As for the talent departing, I can't imagine it would be much more than a B.J. Rosenberg or Michael Schwimer type, although if the Rangers eat all of the salary that might change.
Now that we have all of those caveats out of the way. . .
In a vacuum -- that is, without consideration for the cost of acquiring and paying Young -- the move makes sense for two reasons. The first is the obivous one: the Phillies simply do not have many good options to man the hot corner. Young is hardly known for his defense anymore. He started 25 games at third base in 2012 and 39 the year before. The last season he played the position regularly was 2010, when he started 155 games.
But the Phillies already feel like they have a solid defensive option in Freddy Galvis. Look at him as the fallback plan. If Young were to show that he can't play the position defensively, then they could always revert to Galvis.
But the Phillies have to diversify their offensive options at the position. Even in the worst year of his career, Young's numbers still dwarfed the ones Galvis posted as a rookie second baseman: Batting average (Young .277, Galvis .226), On Base Percentage (Young .312, Galvis .254), Slugging percentage (Young .370, Galvis .363). And while Young hit just .257/.291/.352 against right-handed pitching, Galvis hit just .208/.231/.331.
The Phillies did sign Kevin Frandsen to an $850,000 contract, but he has many of the same questions as young, particularly on defense. While Frandsen his .338/.383/.451 in 2012, he did so in only 210 plate appearances. For his career, Frandsen is a .267/.322/.364 hitter. In other words, Frandsen's career numbers are similar to the ones Young posted in the worst year of his career.
It is hardly a perfect situation at the hot corner, particularly because the Phillies would have three options who all are far better against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching. On that note, Young did hit .331/.371/.423 against lefties last year, which is much better than either Galvis or Frandsen did.
The second thing you have to consider is Young's ability to play second base. In fact, at the right price, acquiring him to provide some insurance behind Chase Utley might make sense all by itself. Again, those numbers that Galvis posted last year came almost entirely at second base when Utley was missing for the first two months of the season. As good as Galvis was defensively, the drop off in production at the plate between him and Utley was one of the big reasons why the Phillies couldn't seem to buy a run for their pitchers the first couple months of the season.
I would not be surprised if the Phillies are exploring this deal knowing full well that Michael Young might not be an everyday third baseman anymore. But if they figure he can get at-bats at second base against lefties to give Utley a rest, as well as first base to give Ryan Howard a rest, and get the rest of those at bats at third base, he could cobble together 400-500 plate appearances. Of course, that would require Charlie Manuel to rest Utley and Ryan Howard against some lefties, something he has been reluctant to do in the past.
And we haven't even mentioned the upside, which is that Young was still a pretty good hitter as recently as 2010 and 2011. He will be 36 in 2013, but you never know.
Again, this all comes down to the money that the Phillies will end up paying, and whether that money makes more sense than the money they would have had to pay Youkilis, or the money it would have cost to convince Jeff Keppinger not to take a three-year, $12 million deal from the White Sox.