Philadelphia Phillies sign outfielder Delmon Young to one-year deal
The plan for Delmon Young, as Ruben Amaro Jr. described it Tuesday, is bold. Young made just 29 starts in the outfield for Detroit last season, but Amaro wants him to be the everyday guy in right. That is a position he has not played in six years. He is not healthy; doctors performed microfracture surgery on an ankle 10 weeks ago and his availability for opening day is in doubt.
The former No. 1 overall pick is 27 years old, with a name forever stained by anger-management issues that prompted his throwing a bat at an umpire and a drunken anti-Semitic rant. He is at a crossroads in his career.
"I think he's motivated," Amaro said.
There is inherently little risk in the Phillies signing Young because of the financial commitment. They will pay him at least $750,000 and as much as $3.5 million if he reaches performance bonuses. If the experiment fails, the cost will be minimal.
Young's signing alters the mishmash that is the Phillies outfield. Ben Revere is locked into center. Young is penciled into right. That leaves Domonic Brown to fend off Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr., and Laynce Nix for the job in left.
There will be playing time for all come springtime. Young must relearn right field, his original position, without the benefit of being healthy. He had surgery Nov. 10, shortly after the Tigers lost to the Giants in the World Series, and said he expects physical limitations up to 16 weeks.
Both Young and Amaro preached caution, which suggests a delayed start.
"You want to make sure that you are 100 percent," Young said. "There's no reason to start a season with the type of injury that I came off of because it's going to set you up for disaster."
Amaro said Young rated as "probably a plus defender" in right field when he rose through the Tampa Bay system after being selected first overall in the 2003 draft. Young said he is most comfortable in right, although evaluators did not see it that way. He was moved to left by Minnesota in 2008 and was ultimately so ineffective that Detroit turned him into a 26-year-old designated hitter.
"I would always look across the field," Young said, "and want to come back over."
Young has a career .742 OPS in seven seasons. His last two years have been the least productive of his career. He was sharp during the Tigers' postseason run last fall, hitting .313 in 52 plate appearances. He was MVP of the ALCS and started Games 1 and 2 of the World Series in left field.
But only four players - Colby Rasmus, J.J. Hardy, Gordon Beckham, and Raul Ibanez - had a lower on-base percentage than Young's .299 over the last two seasons (minimum 1,000 plate appearances). He hit into double plays (20) as frequently as he walked in 2012.
But the Phillies are banking on his bat adding pop to a lineup that lacks it. Young hit 21 home runs in 2010, his best season. He bashed 18 in 2012 while "basically hitting on one leg," as he put it.
Amaro said the team did extensive research into Young's history. Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock was a part of the Tampa Bay front office that drafted and developed Young.
Young's misbehavior has surely cost him money; he earned $6.75 million in 2012. Young pleaded guilty on Nov. 7 to aggravated harassment after being accused of shouting an anti-Semitic slur and tackling a man outside a New York hotel in April 2012. Major League Baseball suspended Young for seven days and ordered him to undergo anger management and alcohol counseling. As a part of his plea deal, Young served 10 days of community service to reduce the conviction to a violation.
In 2006, Young was suspended 50 games for throwing his bat at an umpire while in the minor leagues. He was suspended three games in 2005 for shoving an umpire.
"Every year I feel like I have something to prove," Young said. Given the Phillies' plans for him in 2013, that is no ordinary task.
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