Inside the Phillies: Pickup of Michael Young was Phillies' best offseason move
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Phillies' best offseason move was the trade for Michael Young.
In need of a third baseman, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. looked at the crop of free agents and was understandably unimpressed. The only free-agent option aside from Mark Reynolds, with his all-or-nothing swing, shoddy defense, and first baseman's body, was Kevin Youkilis.
Would you rather have Young or Youkilis?
That's an easy one for two reasons: durability and adaptability.
Young plays more and is also more likely to be a positive influence in the clubhouse.
The 36-year-old Young has played in 155 or more games in 10 of the last 11 seasons, including 156 last year. Youkilis has never played in more than 147 games and he has not played in more than 122 the last three seasons.
If Young can continue his string of durable seasons, he certainly will be welcomed in a place where Placido Polanco averaged 115 games during his three seasons with the Phillies.
Young's primary position the last two seasons was designated hitter, but he did start 33 more games in the field than he did at DH. He has played first base, second base, third base, and shortstop, and he believes his defense will be better in 2013 because the Phillies want him to concentrate only on third base.
"I definitely prefer being on the field every day," he said. "Knowing I can put all my work in one spot is good because I want to work as hard as I possibly can, and to be able to put all my work in one spot I think will prove to be beneficial."
Young is coming off his least productive offensive season since 2002, and whenever a player struggles at his age, the natural inclination will be to blame advancing years. He is, however, only two seasons removed from leading the American League with 213 hits and driving in a career-high 106 runs.
Money, of course, is another reason Young was the best move. The New York Yankees will pay Youkilis $12 million this season. Young will make $16 million, but only a little more than $6 million will be paid by the Phillies as part of the trade agreement they made with the Texas Rangers.
The Phillies had to give up bullpen arms Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla to make the deal, but the team believed it had enough quality in that area.
There is no way to exactly measure someone's character, but it is still taken into consideration by every front office.
"We think about it a lot," Amaro said. "That's particularly true with our team because we're built to try to win. The more winning-type-attitude players we can bring to our organization, the better. Talent is the most important thing, and performance, but a close second is what their motivations are."
Just before the team came south for the start of spring training, Amaro equated Young's departure from Texas to Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, or Ryan Howard leaving the Phillies. Stories in the Dallas newspapers have been written about the loss of Young's leadership since Texas opened spring training in Arizona.
Watch Young take a round of batting practice with Utley and it's obvious he is already fitting in.
He showed his unselfishness over and over again in Texas, moving from second base to shortstop after Alex Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano. He moved from shortstop to third base to make room for young phenom Elvis Andrus. And he moved from third base to roving infielder after the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre before the 2011 season.
Young had a strained relationship with Rangers general manager Jon Daniels his last two seasons in Texas, but by all accounts those problems never leaked into the clubhouse or affected his relationship with his teammates or manager Ron Washington.
Youkilis, on the other hand, often rubbed his former Boston teammates the wrong way because of his ultra-intense personality. His relationship with former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine crumbled quickly last season.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel loved the idea of Young at third base the second his name came up at the December winter meetings and felt even better after his first conversation with the seven-time all-star.
"He says, 'Charlie, I can play third, but I don't want to talk about it, I'll show you,' " Manuel said. "The way he said it, I didn't worry. I walked away and knew he could play it."
Contact Bob Brookover at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @brookob.