In Which I Wake Up Screaming After Yet Another Chris Young Nightmare

114432_Enlarged_1Last 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.

Chris Young

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.

fingers-crossedIn 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.

mets-cubs-baseball

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.

 

 

 

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21 comments

  1. IB says:

    I keep hearing the word “prudent” coming out of Alderson’s mouth. That’s New Speak for “dead broke” I guess. Losing is Winning in Metdystopia.

    Re. Lagares. I waffle on this. I know I’m repeating myself but, in the end, I think TC should put a winner out there – today. If they’re playing well with EY and CY with a fantastic defensive CF on the bench, I’m OK with that. Lagares will get his playing time.

  2. James Preller says:

    The promise to Chris Young is where it falls apart for me, and I don’t love reducing Lagares role out of the box.

  3. dave says:

    This really, really bothers me. I love Lagares, look at his slow development as typical of a kid, and when you see what he can do w/ his glove out there, I can’t help but think ‘What has this guy done thus far to *lose* this job?’ You know once a few balls drop in out in the dark recesses of Citifield after Young gives chase, the pitchers are gonna skulk back to the dugout after that 3rd out, eye up TC, and tell him as best they can sans moving lips ‘You know those were outs w/ Juan, right?’

  4. wkkortas says:

    So what we’re saying is that Young may actually under-perform Lagares in terms of OPS, plus you get lesser defense at more expense, with the added benefit of stunting Lagares development? No, I can’t see where that’s problematic.

    • Eric says:

      I think you’re forgetting the secret sauce: EY is going to bunt more often!!

      • Ha. But you are onto something that does concern me, and it relates to the whole pitcher-batting-8th idea. TC is the type of manager who tries to think up ways to get the shitty offense going. Come up with new ideas. Mix and match and so on. He’s going to overcook this thing and I don’t think that bodes well for Juan Lagares. When he hits a rough spot, I don’t think Juan will feel the support. And I think it’s awfully hard to succeed in that atmosphere.

        One idea that Mike often mentions — and one that I always found a little paranoid — is the notion of the GM being attached to “his” guys and not, let’s say, the previous administration’s guys. I’ve come to believe there’s maybe something to it. Human nature. You draft a guy or sign a guy there’s going to be more attachment, and more rope, than the flawed player you inherited.

        Thoughts?

  5. Eraff says:

    I was there with you Rooting Against the Marlon Byrd Ab’s—so what? We were wrong!…or were we?

    You can look at these moves in isolation, and so a Marlon Byrd “move” looks like it works—so a “sequel” must be a brilliant idea? When you measure the Atlanta Braves moves last year, in isolation, they virtually all failed!…. and they won the division by 20 games. The move by move, value per value of Sandy’s moves in isolation?…. forget that measure…. his moves got you 74 wins.

    My surprise about this year—THE Year– is that the Mets remain in Short Term Rental posture. They made an investment in ONE anchor player. Additionally, they brought in two rental/short term guys in CY and Colon. This still feels like BRIDGE Building, NOT Team Building……. and I still can’t get my head around the specific guys themselves, much less the pay rates for each.

    I understand the approach based only on the hard financial truth that this ownership CANNOT forecast a long term commitment or projection of salary growth— Player valuation and baseball “fit” have little to do with it. I’m disappointed in REALITY…hah!

    • Michael Geus says:

      I agree wholeheartedly that we have information indicating that the payroll will probably remain low for years. What you see is what you are going to get, the future is not any brighter than the present.

      It’s hard to see how that changes unless ownership changes. Which means whoever is GM needs to be a dynamic, fantastic performer. Sandy is, to be fair, operating with a hand and a half behind his back.

      I have very serious doubts that Sandy Alderson is dynamic and a GM who can overcome those obstacles. This offseason has shown nothing but moves that were boring and easy to make. Not making a mistake seems to be the priority, and that is a clear path to constant mediocrity.

      The good news is a lot of teams sneak into the playoffs under the current format. I believe the Plan (if you want to call it that) is to cobble these mediocre bunches together every year and cross fingers. And one year I do think it could work. This year would be as good a time as any for me.

      It would help a lot if we had a more nimble, modern front office.

      • Eraff says:

        Good pitching plus some SIgn and Get Lucky guys is a very good small-mid market approach.

        My biggest frustration is the SS situation— they don’t have a near horizon guy there. Trading Pitching (foundational to sign and get lucky) is an attack on their own strength….one of few “strengths”.

        Your original position that we could get “luckier” with Montero/Mejia PLUS Abreau and Drew is more to my own agreement—specific players aside, I’d like to see TEAM BUILDING

        • Michael Geus says:

          But a very big signing was Colon. If pitching was a strength, why bother? I understand you are agreeing.

          I thought (and there is still time) that maybe it was to trade one of our other pitchers for a shortstop. Which would have left us, in theory, right where we started with pitching depth when the offseason began. To sign Colon just to shove guys like Meija, Montero, deGrom, and Syndergaard further down the depth chart?

          Great we are now talking about a six man staff in Vegas and Ruben Tejada at shortstop.

          I’m not following that logic.

    • Michael Geus says:

      You make a fabulous point here. The goal is to win games, not transactions. It is high time that Sandy be judged by that measure.

      • Michael Geus says:

        In case anyone was wondering where I stand on this, Collins too.

        He needs to prove he can get this team to win games this year or be gone. Tough road, but life is tough.

        No more excuses, no more scholarships.

  6. Michael Geus says:

    When I look at this roster I can’t beat my chest and say Lagares should play every day. I love outfield defense and love watching Lagares play centerfield. But Chris Young is a plus defender too (I’m not saying better than Juan) and does have power Lagares does not have.Gun to my head I can’t say Lagares would outperform CY. When it comes to EY, the issue is again, offense. He is a very flawed offensive player too, but can bat leadoff if all else fails. Well, all else fails, if not EY, who? As far as “ruining” Lagares, life is hard. If Juan has what it takes he will bang down the door. The team doesn’t have to treat every season like extended spring training for players. The focus in April has to be winning. At this point if Juan is the guy who gives us the best chance to do that, great, otherwise he has to hang in there. It’s a long season, he will play. When all was said and done he got over 400 at bats last year.

    The problem for me is the front office not being able to understand roster construction with a limited budget. Chris Young should not be on this roster and Juan Lagares should be the everyday CF. Not because I am sure he is better, but because Lagares makes the minimum and Young makes over $7 million. When I lobbied for Lagares to be our everyday CF in October that was my largest point. His salary.

    If you don’t sign Lagares that money could have been allocated to shortstop or first base. Now, add in the insane signing of Colon and you are talking roughly $17 million dollars. This team could have, rough math, Drew and Abreu instead of Young and Colon. Then you play Lagares, who you had, everyday, and use Meija and Montero already.

    Which team would you rather go to war with right now? And that, folks, is not on the Wilpons, the money is basically a wash for 2014. And not very different for 2015 as Colon is a two-year deal.

    The reason folks keep looking to the future is because the front office cannot manage the present. As long as the same people are in charge it’s wishful thinking to expect things to get much better.

    This roster, could, and should, be much stronger, and that is why I refuse to give Sandy a pass on 2014. He had some flexibility and this is what he did with it.
    I doubt the Wilpons forced him to sign Chris Young and Bartolo Colon.

    • I agree completely with Mike. My mistake in this post was that I buried the lead, which was my concluding sentence: “When I look at the potential payoff, I believe that money would have been better invested somewhere else.”

      When Peralta was the original target — back in the way back, when Sandy completely misread the marketplace — Lagares makes perfect sense in CF. That is, Lagares at his worst, without improvement, could still play CF on a properly constructed Mets team. He was the piece we already had in place.

      Now Sandy is talking about how great it is that we have all these outfielders. The cliche, how it’s a “good problem to have.” Well, not when I look at SS and 1B and the bullpen.

      But also, I do fear “the promise.” I do worry that TC is trying to figure out Lagares or Eric Young, while Chris Young gets the free pass.

      I wrote it on Mets 360 today: It surprises me, with EY and Flores available, that Daniel Murphy is still a Met and making $5.7 million. It will surprise me even more if he’s still a Met next season, when he’ll be due an estimated $8 million. What we may be asking next winter, after the arbitration has been awarded, will be: “Did Sandy wait to long to try to trade Daniel Murphy?” As the salary goes up, his trade value goes down.

      • Michael Geus says:

        Overall it keeps coming back to the same word. Waiting. The GM is afraid to do anything, paralyzed by the idea that he will make a mistake.

        This is a direct quote yesterday from Sandy regarding the first base mess from Marc Carig:

        Alderson on 1B situation: “You have to be a little more cautious and not do something that has forever implications.” i.e. trade 1 of them.

        More cautious. Not cautious, which would be bad enough. More cautious.

        If I take a step, I might fall down.

        If I stand still, scared to take that step, how do I ever move forward?

  7. Eraff says:

    Mike, I believe a big motivation for CY was that he was NOT signed for more than a year…. and the 2015 payroll aside, Abreu and Drew would be commitments that last a much longer time—4-6 years.

    They are “hoping” minimum issue OF’ers perk up…… to replace CY (and those guys include Lagares). As for their SS “hopes”…I’m absolutely confused. I don’t understand how that becomes anything but more expensive and more difficult to solve going forward—then again, I like Drew as a player for the next 3-4 years and they don’t.

    • Michael Geus says:

      I hear you. But they had a minimum salaried CF now (Lagares) and yet signed Young for this year. You could infer by their actions that they prefer Tejada to Lagares. That is mind boggling.

      They also “signed” Davis for $3.5 million.

      Look, Young and Colon are real major league players and I’m pleased the team did something. And they are the professionals and I am the blogger, But I would not have signed Young or Colon, period. Those players are luxury signings that large payroll teams make. The Mets needed to look at the overall roster, go cheap where they could, and use their paltry dollars where the needs were the greatest. That was short and first, not center and starting pitching.

      Now, hopefully they will lead this team to the playoffs this year and make me look bad. I’m up for that.

  8. IB says:

    WKKORTAS – If your comment was directed at me, no, I’m not saying that at all and really can’t see how it would be interpreted that way.

  9. Raff says:

    I was right there with Drew-Abreu, and many of he other potential signings in the early part of the winter. The total annual dollars would have been the same- But the rub was and still is- length of the contracts and the Mets inability to make more than a couple long-term commitments. When the Mets were making their spending decisions, Drew was hanging tough on a 3-5 year contract, and Abreu signed for 6 years. It’s all been said here already. It’s just tough to stomach

  10. Raff says:

    I don’t think the “promise of at-bats” for C Young is very complicated or intriguing, Whether Sandy “promised” him things, or not- The Met’s gave this guy $7.25Mil . Obviously they expect to give him a starting position and At-Bats. He’s going to play every day. . I’m troubled by his “Ike-Like” stats, as many others have expressed in this space. But they scouted him, they paid him, and they’re going to play him. The question is whether Lagares or E-Young is the 3rd regular outfielder. If it’s E-Young, the Mets need to figure out how to get Lagares 500 PA’s. If Lagares isn’t the starter- then I think they should move him to AAA and get him playing regularly.

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