Last year around this time, I wrote a piece about Marlon Byrd with a similar title to the one above. In it, I described all the reasons why it was insane for the Mets to give ABs to Marlon Freaking Byrd. He later made me eat my hat, which I did, with relish. Because that post worked out so well for the Mets, I figured I’d try to same juju all over again, since I feel similarly about Chris Young as I once did about old Marlon . . .
I had the dream again last night. It always ends the same way. I bolt awake in a cold sweat, eyes wide but unseeing, my legs kicking out with fury, and I scream, “Nooooooo!”
“There, there,” my wife consoles me. “It’s just a bad dream. There, there.”
I wish I could believe her.
But this is a dream from which I cannot wake. I’m haunted by the same visions, day after day.
Call him “The Promised One.”
He is the free agent that Sandy Alderson signed for $7.25 million. In the course of those negotiations, Alderson “promised” that Young would get regular playing time. He would not be platooned. He would get his ABs.
Here’s Alderson back in December:
“Well, Granderson’s going to play, and we’ve promised Chris Young some at-bats so you may see some variation in the configuration. You know Juan Lagares has got some great qualities and so does Eric Young Jr., I mean he led the league in stolen bases; that speed doesn’t really help you sitting on the bench.”
The Mets GM denies that he promised Young the CF job, exactly, but he did say that Chris would get a fair shot at it. A cynical person might figure the job is in the bag. That’s how the Mets do business these days. There are no real competitions, just anointments.
It’s strange to imagine Chris Young shifting back and forth from LF to CF in order to platoon Eric Young and Juan Lagares. It is also impossible to imagine Juan Lagares anywhere other than in CF. From the get-go, the arrangement is a bit of a mess. In this scenario, seen from Sandy’s perspective, Juan Lagares begins to look . . . inconvenient.
Here’s where my nightmare gets worse:
Chris Young single-handedly “Ike Davis’s” our 2014 season. Yes, it’s a verb now. For our linguists out there, to “Ike Davis” something is to take an object of hope and affection and subsequently flush that object down the toilet. It could be a cherished photograph, a valued piece of jewelry, or, hey, a baseball season.
That is, Chris Young hits .220, strikes out a lot, hits the occasional homer, interferes with the development of a talented prospect, and clogs the lineup day after day. Meanwhile, a potential Gold Glove center fielder sits on the bench, or plays sporadically, and without benefit of a management team that supports him. Lagares has been set up to fail. Actually, I think Sandy is banking on it. This is the guy who brought in Rick Ankiel last season after he was dropped by the Astros — the Astros! — and handed the CF job while Lagares sat on the bench. Sandy ordered Collins to play Ankiel every day and TC replied, “Okay, boss! Do you want your car waxed, too?”
And the thing is, Juan Lagares is going to hit some rough spots. He’s a player in development, not a finished product. 2014 is the perfect season to find out what we’ve got. To invest in him. And, you know, maybe help him get better.
Because the upside is sensational: a young, cheap, talented CF who will catch anything in the air except for influenza.
In my nightmare, Juan has two bad days at the plate and sits for the next four games. In my nightmare, Juan’s defense is wildly undervalued. And Terry Collins imagines himself as a mix-and-match genius and turns Lagares into a platoon player before he gets a chance to establish himself as a regular.
In my nightmare, Lagares pays the price of Alderson doing an abysmal job addressing the shortstop situation for the Mets. It’s funny, I read articles about the team’s “unresolved” situation at short. It’s been resolved all winter. You simply take your middle and index fingers and cross them. That was the plan. Same as first base. But can a team that is short on offense play a black hole at SS and still show patience with the growing pains of a young center fielder? It will be tough and, in my nightmares, Juan Lagares takes the blame for Sandy’s failure. While Ruben plays. Of course, maybe things continue to get so ungodly bad that Sandy is forced, unhappily, to do something.
Meanwhile, Eric Young is Terry Collins’ idea of The Little Engine That Could. He and his career .325 OBP are the straw that stirs the drink. Suddenly there’s no room for Juan Lagares.
So, I get it. Sandy Alderson does not believe in Juan Lagares. By signing Chris Young, the Mets GM solved the CF problem. For a year, anyway. And only maybe. Or make that, doubtfully. It’s possible that Chris Young is the answer to some kind of question out there. it’s possible that he rebounds to his old form, duplicates his 2009 season for the 2014 Mets. It’s possible that Juan Lagares becomes a footnote, another Endy Chavez. Not that being Endy Chavez would be a bad thing. I’d just like to see Lagares get a shot to become something more.
Again: If Lagares works out, the Mets have a top defensive CF for the next 5 years. If Chris Young works out, we squeak out 82 wins and lose him to free agency.
When Sandy dreams of a team that could possibly win 90 games, he’s imagining a productive Chris Young. A renaissance! And it could happen, I’m not saying it’s impossible. But I’m not betting on it, either.
Once again I’m wondering why the Mets are getting older when they should be getting younger. I’m wondering why we continually devalue our best prospects/trading chips. After all these years, they can’t decide if Wilmer Flores can play shortstop or not. They don’t know what to do with Jenrry Mejia. After looking at Leathersich and Edgin, they don’t know enough to go out and get a LH-reliever.
They take Juan Lagares and say that the defense is swell, but he has to hit. Fair enough. So he goes to the winter leagues and he hits. And he plays down in Florida, and he hits. The fact is, with his glove, he doesn’t need to hit all that much to become a huge asset to the Mets, playing in cavernous Citi Field, a team build upon a foundation of pitching. But Sandy likes walks and homers, while he under-values defense. He said so about the outfield. Offense gets the edge.
I see Chris Young going out there and living up to his past three seasons:
- 2011: .236/.331/.420
- 2012: .231/.311/.434
- 2013: .200/.280/.379
This is a guy coming off his worst power numbers since he was a rookie. His worst K/BB ratios since 2009. A guy falling off the cliff.
So Sandy Alderson walked up to the table and plunked down $7.25 million and, fingers crossed, counted on a big rebound. There’s a ton invested in Chris Young this season, he’s been promised time, that most valuable of resources, impacting the playing time of Eric Young and the development of Juan Lagares.
Maybe he pulls a Marlon Byrd. Maybe he doesn’t. But I don’t think a team should pay $7.25 million, and a handshake of promises, for a gamble like that. The Mets didn’t take a flyer on Chris Young. No, they rearranged the furniture to accommodate him.
Now let’s hope that Chris Young goes out and proves that Sandy Alderson got it right. But even so, when I look at the potential payoff, I believe that money would have been better invested somewhere else.