Baseball BeatJanuary 12, 2009
Young and the Restless
By Rich Lederer

Today is all about Michael Young and those of us who are restless waiting for the Hall of Fame results to be announced at 2 PM ET.

Young has requested a trade after being asked to move to third base to accommodate Elvis Andrus, a 20-year-old shortstop who could arrive in Texas as early as this spring. Andrus is a highly regarded prospect who hit .295/.350/.367 for the Frisco Roughriders in the Texas League (AA) last year. The Rangers acquired him from the Atlanta Braves as part of the Mark Teixeira deadline deal in July 2007.

As for the announcement from the Hall of Fame, there is no doubt that Rickey Henderson will be elected in his first attempt and little question that Jim Rice will make it in his 15th and final effort. What remains unanswered for now is whether Rickey can steal the record for the highest percentage of the vote total, if Bert Blyleven can leapfrog Andre Dawson and become the leading vote getter among holdovers going into next year, and will any other first-time candidates earn the required 5 percent minimum to stay on the ballot?

According to Rice, he will literally be watching "The Young and the Restless" on TV. "I'll be watching 'The Young and the Restless,' Rice told the Boston Herald. "It's over at 1:30, so that will give me a half hour. But I never miss 'The Young and the Restless' and I’m not going to start now."

Maybe today's show will be about Michael and the restless situation in Texas. A few months after managers and coaches awarded him with his first Gold Glove, he may find himself manning the hot corner for the Rangers or returning to shortstop for another employer.

For the record, Young is not a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. The Rangers know that. Although the American League didn't have an obvious choice last year, giving the award to Young must have been based more on name recognition and playing time than actual defensive excellence. The advanced fielding metrics, such as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Plus/Minus, suggest that he is a below-average shortstop. Young has a -12 UZR/150 games for his career and a -32 Plus/Minus rating over the past three years.

Moving Young to third base will be a lot easier than moving him to another team unless the Rangers are willing to eat a good chunk of his contract before it goes into existence. You see, Young is entering the first season of a five-year, $80 million contract extension signed during spring training in 2007. Although a no-trade clause was included in the deal, Young has apparently agreed to waive it.

Young isn't worth anywhere close to $16 million per year as a shortstop. As someone who hit .284/.339/.402 in 2008, he would be worth about a third of that average annual salary as a third baseman. Moreover, Young turned 32 in October. He will be 37 right after his current contract expires.

In June 2007, I questioned the contract that had been given to Young that spring.

While Michael Young may be the face of the franchise, did it really make sense to give the 30-year-old shortstop an extension for his age 32-36 seasons at a cost of $16M per? Young wasn't eligible to test the free agent waters until after the 2008 campaign. Make no mistake about it, Young is a productive player but the majority of his value rests in his batting average and defensive position. Young will earn his new contract if he continues to hit .310-.330 while playing a decent shortstop, but how valuable will he be if his average slips to .275-.295 as his power declines, especially if he winds up at a less desirable position on the Defensive Spectrum?

Well, Young's batting average "slipped" to .284 last year, right smack in the middle of that range I was concerned about. Moreover, he is now being asked to move to a "less desirable position on the Defensive Spectrum." That combo is flat out deadly.

Can somebody please explain to me the purpose of that extension? Did the timing help the Rangers win more games in 2007 and 2008? Did it convince Teixeira to stay in Texas? And don't give me "they had to make this deal in order to show blah, blah, blah." There is never a time or a reason to enter into a bad deal. Seriously, this contract is an unmitigated disaster, and it is rearing its ugly head right now. Whoever was responsible for it should be taken to task. A team like the Rangers simply cannot afford to make these types of poorly thought-out decisions, especially on the heels of eating a large part of Alex Rodriguez's contract. Ironically, Young moved from second base to shortstop after the Rangers unloaded A-Rod's record contract on the Yankees nearly five years ago.

While those of us who pay close attention to the HoF voting may be restless today, we're not nearly as restless as Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels, and manager Ron Washington.


Terrible contract, no reason, no excuse for it.

As for the timing of this move, I think they may feel that Young is a better option at 3B this year than any of the stopgaps available. Blalock can't play 3B, Metcalf sucks, and they're keeping Davis at 1B (Blalock DH or trade bait). Crede has back problems...

So given that you can't ask Young to change positions in mid-season, why not move him now and sign a stopgap to play SS? You could sign Cabrera, give Andrus most of the season at AAA, and vastly improve your defense on the left side of the infield without giving up much, if any, offense. Young's problem is range to the left, he'd probably be a pretty good 3B with the glove.

Dear Michael:

I want to inform you that a trade is not an unilateral decision. At this time, we are willing to trade you for a bucket of baseball if another team is willing to your salary. I am serious about this. If you really want to leave, we can accomendate you. If you are willing void your contract, we are glad to let you be a free agent. You can go to any team in baseball.

Otherwise, shut the hell up and play baseball. You should be glad you have a job that pay $16 millions per year. If I don't have to pay you, I send you to the minor and make you ride the bus until you died. You ungrateful bastard.

Best reguards
Tom Hicks

Today I like to watch The Young And The Restless.