Monday, February 23, 2004

More on Galloway and Young 

A few follow up comments on Randy Galloway's column where he took the Rangers to task for considering trading Mike Young, and for not locking him up long-term.

Galloway, incorrectly, called Young one of the best all-around players in the game. This is simply not true, and I'm not sure how any reasonable person could make that claim with a straight face. Take a look at Young's performance over his almost three year major league career, and what the statistics show is a mediocre offensive player. Young's EQA the last three years has been .242, .239, and .270, with a career mark of .252; considering that the average for all major leaguers is a .260 EQA, that's not impressive. Young's OBP and slugging percentage, meanwhile, have been .298/.402, .308/.382, and .339/.446 over the last three years -- again, not that great, particularly for a player who plays half his games in the hitter's paradise known (at least for now) as TBIA.

Young is, no question, a terrific defensive second baseman, and will probably be a terrific defensive shortstop this year, once he adjusts to the switch. And let's not forget, it isn't as if this is a foreign position for Young...he came up through the minors as a shortstop, and only switched positions because of the presence of Alex Rodriguez.

Nevertheless, Young is essentially a slick fielding middle infielder with a decent bat. And given that, prior to 2003, calling his bat "decent" was probably overly generous, it is hard to find fault with the Rangers' decision not to offer him a long-term deal, as they did with Hank Blalock.

Young's cheerleaders (and in the DFW media, they are legion) will point to Young's 2003 season as evidence that he's improving, that he's going to take another step forward this year and improve even more. The problem with that assumption, though, is that Young's improvement in 2003 was almost entirely driven by an increase in batting average -- his walk rate actually declined from previous years, and his isolated power was no different. While increases in offensive production that are driven by boosts in power or plate discipline (particularly with young players) are often harbingers of things to come, offensive production increases that are batting average driven are far less likely to carry over from year to year.

Thus, it would seem more likely than not that Young will regress a bit offensively this year, or at least stagnate. And if Young doesn't improve offensively, or worse yet, if he goes backwards, what you have is a slick fielding middle infielder who is valuable so long as you can pay him the major league minimum, or at least no more than about $2 million per year. Once his price jumps above that level (and it likely will in arbitration, after the 2005 season), he is a liability, not an asset.

Which is why the Rangers are wise to pass on offering Young a multi-year contract. To buy out his 2006 and 2007 seasons, the Rangers would likely have to offer at least $3 million and $5 million, respectively, and the odds are extremely slim that Young is going to be productive enough offensively to justify that cost. It makes more sense to ride it out on a year to year basis, allow the team the option to non-tender Young once he gets to the point where the arbitration process would pay him more than he could get on the open market.

As for Galloway's ranting about the possibility of the Rangers trading Young, well, I think they need to keep their options open. I think Young is non-tendered after 2005 regardless of whether he is here or elsewhere, so while I don't think it makes sense for them to be actively shopping him, if the right offer comes along where a team is willing to give up good young talent to the Rangers in order to land Mike Young, the Rangers absolutely need to consider the deal.

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