The Phillies believe they have found a third baseman in Michael Young, a 36-year-old veteran who has not regularly played the position in two seasons and posted career-worst numbers in 2012.
That says as much about the other options at third base than anything. On Sunday, the Young trade was made official, with relievers Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla headed to Texas. The Rangers will reportedly pay $10 million of Young's $16 million salary in 2013. The Phillies paid Young $1.2 million to waive his no-trade clause, a decision he deliberated for days, and will also grant him a new no-trade provision.
It was a hefty haul for Young, who was marginalized in Texas despite his tenure and respect.
"He has a tremendous track record," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sunday. "I know that last year was not his best year, but after talking to the scouts and discussing it intently with the rest of our front office, we felt like this is an excellent person to bring to our club."
Amaro did not return requests for specific comment. Instead, the team issued his responses through a pool reporter from MLB.com.
Left unanswered is why the Phillies think Young is defensively capable of handling third base on an everyday basis given he primarily served as designated hitter for the last two seasons with Texas. Young won a Gold Glove at shortstop in 2008 and played at third in 2009 and 2010. Advanced defensive metrics rated him among the worst at the position.
Young, a career .301 hitter, batted .277 with a paltry .312 on-base percentage in 2012. His 26 double plays hit into were second only to Miguel Cabrera's 28.
One metric, wins above replacement (WAR), rated Young's 2012 among the worst seasons in modern baseball history. There are only three worse seasons (minimum 600 plate appearances) than Young's minus-2.4 WAR since 1947, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The Phillies, of course, are banking on 2012 being an aberration. In 2011, Young batted .338 with an .854 OPS and led the American League in hits. He has been an All-Star seven times.
"You don't have a great year every year," Amaro said. "He's had some years where he hit .280 and others where he hit .330. But at the same time, even when his numbers aren’t extraordinary — and they were still pretty darn good last year, maybe better than anybody we had on our club — the fact of the matter is he's a professional hitter. He's a guy who we know will strive to be the best player he can be. And even when he's not having productive hits, I know he’s the kind of guy who makes productive outs. So there's a lot of pluses to this guy."
Young's leadership was often praised in Texas, where he spent the first 13 years of his career. "He's such a professional," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If there was crying in baseball, I guess I'd cry." Amaro described Young as "the ultimate team player."
The acquisition of Young leaves Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis as utility infielders. With one of the oldest infields in baseball, those two could serve as insurance policies. One could also become a late-inning defensive replacement for Young.
Amaro's two recent trades were aimed at saving money. Young and new centerfielder Ben Revere will make a combined $6.5 million in 2013. Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino made $15.8 million at those positions in 2012.
With a payroll that is approximately $20 million shy of last season's, Amaro has plenty of flexibility to add offense in the outfield.
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