Two Guys Talking: Chris Young, Lightning in a Broken Bottle

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Mike:

When Chris Young was signed it didn’t seem like a big deal to me. When I first heard the news I thought Sandy was getting a jump on outfield depth, perhaps signing Young to spot many of our guys. Later in the day the terms came out and I started to wonder: Has Young been signed to play every day? Eventually news leaked out that Young was promised 500 at bats. And by now it is also obvious that a large percentage of our total offseason spending budget was used on Chris.  The good news is that at least Young is not a career minor leaguer. This is not Collin Cowgill or Andrew Brown being pawned off on us. The 25-man roster was improved by this move. But with our many needs and maddeningly restricted budget, was this a move we can afford?

Jimmy:

With the passage of each day, I like it less and less. But carry on.

Mike:

The biggest thing that bugs me about the signing is the sneaking suspicion that Young was brought in to play center. More and more the owners financial distress seems permanent. Last year Juan Lagares was magnificent in the field and slightly unacceptable at the plate. Lagares makes the minimum. If we ever want to win isn’t this the type of guy we have to play?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Oakland Athletics

Jimmy:

You know that’s my feeling. We wrote about it a while back. Chris Young is a one-year Met. If he plays well, we can’t afford to sign him. Somebody out there in the Metsblogosphere — Ed Leyro, are you reading this? — probably has an entertaining list of all the name players who were with the Mets for only one season. Chris Young will be one of those guys. The memory of whom will maybe, one day, earn you $100 on “Beer Money” in the year 2036 (yes, SNY will still be airing it).

Beer-Money-300x202Meanwhile, Juan Lagares came in and played Gold Glove caliber defense for the Mets — a team, not for nothing, that is built around pitching. And, yes, it’s undeniable, he did not hit well enough. But he’s young, supposedly has a great work ethic. Lagares went down to the Dominican League, hit .341, and won their ROY award (ahead of Marcell Ozuna). He doesn’t have to hit much to become a real asset to this team. A controllable, affordable asset. Yet the feeling I get is this guy is starting the season with two strikes against him. I mean, Sandy tried to sign Bobby Abreu. So forget the one-year rental of Chris Young for a minute. Sandy was presumably willing to sit Lagares if he could get anything out of Bobby Freaking Abreu. This is how we’re building toward the future?

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Mike:

Bottom line, if the “promise” is true (and if I was Chris Young I would have done some research on Sandy Alderson’s record of dishonesty) Young will play. I’m not expecting him to be awesome. I do think he can hit .230 with a little pop, and play good defense. I’m thinking Scott Hairston with a better glove.

Jimmy:

I remember when he first came up. Back in early 2007, I read about the bright future of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Baseball Prospectus. They were especially high on Chris Young, a hugely-hyped prospect at the time. It’s a funny read now, because the talented new guys were Conor Jackson (the original “Valley Fever” patient), Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, Miquel Montero, and Chris Young.

Chris was ranked #23 in Baseball America’s 2006 Rankings (really worth the click, a fascinating scroll), #11 in BA’s 2007 Rankings (behind Tim Lincecum, ahead of Andrew McCutcheon). Heading into 2007, BP wrote:

Young’s season began when he fell during spring workouts and broke his hand, and ended when he slipped while avoiding a ground ball and was ruled out at second on a reversed call that ended the Diamondback’s season. Young managed to stand firm in between those spills, however, as his place on most prospect lists (whether scout-based or stat-based) will attest. He does a convincing Mike Cameron impression in just about every phase of the game, and approximated PECOTA’s enthusiastic projection. Among a talented group of prospects, Young is the one with the most potential to bust out and have a truly outstanding career.

Is Mike Cameron a good comp for Chris Young -- or is that aiming too high?

Is Mike Cameron a good comp for Chris Young — or is that aiming too high? Scott Hairston with a glove?

We are standing here today, seven years later, hoping the Mets can catch some of that potential in a bottle. For one year. Chris Young can hit for power and he’s always walked at a pretty high rate. In 8 major league seasons, he’s hit above .250 once, in 2010, his career year. The thing with Young, who has never had an OPS reach .800, he’s valuable as a center fielder, but less so in the corners. He’s only 30, it’s not over for Chris, and it’s conceivable that he outproduces Curtis Granderson this year — and we won’t be able to afford him next. But the Mets paid $7.5 million for that slim chance.

I keep thinking that Chris Young could be Sandy’s genius signing for the season. I like the Cameron comp, btw, and think it’s reasonable to hope that Young could replicate Cameron’s 2004 season with the Mets (.231/.319/.479). But then I wonder, where does it get us? Another hole to fill in 2015? We trade for the next Dilson Herrera/Vic Black? Is that the plan? We’re accumulating trade chips?

Mike:

Trade chips? Stop, you are killing me. The next time Sandy Alderson trades a prospect will be the first time.

Jimmy:

No, I meant trading Young, trading Colon. I actually think that was the plan with Francisco. He’s trying to catch another Byrd?

Mike:

Sure, at least part of the idea with Young is he could be moved if we get the crappy combination of Young being good as the team stumbles again. Transient rosters come with the territory of this tiny New York market.

Are we expecting too much from Sandy? After all, trades are so exhausting.

Are we expecting too much from Sandy? After all, trades are so exhausting.

But there is the positive view. Colon is awesome and Young does well. It helps make the team be good. It really could happen. And this is why I don’t want to kill Sandy on these, or any other moves. I’m happy he did this much. At his age, it’s remarkable, actually.

The combination of cheap owners and a slow-moving, unimaginative front office allows no room for error. Chris Young needs to do well for the Mets to be competitive.

If he doesn’t produce, well, I’m guessing those future “Beer Money” contestants are going to have no chance.

 

 

 

 

 

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13 comments

  1. RAFF says:

    To an extent, Sandy has put a little ratchet into effect with this signing. If Chris Young does well – he’s attractive trade bait for prospect. If some of the young prospects show growth and perform, then Young is expendable, and he’s not in the way of player development.. From that standpoint I like the signing. Ditto for the Colon signing, .

  2. IB says:

    Hard to tell what’s there with Chris Young. Why was he a part-time player the last 2 years? If it was an attitude ting he certainly should be pretty motivated since he might have one more multiyear contract out there with a good year. I don’t have a problem with him in center and Lagares with great range and that big arm shifted to right. As long as he’s playing and getting his AB’s. This is a nice outfield no matter how you slice it.

    (BTW – thanks for not quoting the C.Young STEAMER PROJECTIONS! Don’t get me started!)

  3. Michael Geus says:

    I agree with this, re:Young. If we could have had an option on Young, that would have been nice, but a straight two year deal would have been worse than this.

    With Colon that second year could be a big problem. If Colon pitches badly, does anyone think that Fred Wilpon will not want him out there every fifth day again in 2015? Fred is not going to want to cut a guy making over 10% of his payroll.

    That will leave a young pitcher blocked by a worse, expensive pitcher. Seems like the opposite of what a small market team should do. And I thought we had pitching prospects?

    We have a lot riding on Colon’s old fat body. If he bombs, there are very negative consequences.

    As a fan I will root for Bartolo to succeed, but intellectually will never understand this move. This is the one move I would never make.

  4. RAFF says:

    There’s really no logic to sliding Lagares to RF and handing C Young CF. The only reason to putting Young in Center is if Lagares is a total flop. We might see C Young in Center on a rest day for Lagares.

  5. ERAFF says:

    Young is a .745 lifetime OPS…Lagares gave you .633.

    You simply cannot play in Citifield without a Very Good defensive Centerfielder….and a lineup cannot survive a .633 ops. Put those two things together…..

    Everything else aside…. I believe that Sandy believes he’s assembling a puzzle for a winner. He’s made moves that make good surprises Possible, within the ridiculous financial framework still in place. He has a roster that is flexible for the Manager…it can FIELD and RUN as a whole……it has room for young players to fight into the mix…… YES..it’s a tradable mix…..

    I can fault him his moves, but it’s the Non-Moves that are more curious….

    • Well, if we knew that Lagares had topped out last year as a rookie at .633, it’s a no-brainer. But we don’t know that. It’s unfair to ignore Young’s .200 BA in 2013, but reduce Lagares to his rookie-year totals.

      Young walks a lot; Lagares does not. That’s the vision with Sandy’s offense. He’s banking on bases on balls.

  6. IB says:

    Raff – I agree. I was thinking in terms of possible verbal, contractual agreements made re. CF. I got the sense there’s something out there, though I really don’t have any idea.

  7. Eraff says:

    Jim– I am not reducing Lagares…it IS a 400 ab sample, and I believe Sandy is covering his bases by protecting against a big hole. My hope is to see a Lagares, CY, Grandy lineup TOGETHER.

    • I agree with this, Eric. Lagares is an interesting guy. He played a total of 17 games at AAA, basically skipped it out of necessity. Cowgill, Nieuwenhuis, Ankiel. In 2011, splitting time between A+ and AA, he slashed his way to .349/.383/.500. I know, not enough walks, which does indicate a flaw. In 2012 at AA full-time, the numbers went down: .283/.334/.389 for an OPS of .723. Thing is, with his defense, I’d take an OPS of .725 in CF. In all of baseball last year, there were 11 guys with an OPS of .725 or better. IN WAR, which includes defensive stats, Lagares ranked 9th in all of baseball. 9th! The body is good, the brain seems good. I want him to get a real shot. Which means, when he struggles, he needs support, not Terry Collins yanking him around. I believe it pays to see what he’s capable of doing for the NY Mets. With an uptick in offense, he could be top five in WAR for all centerfielders in 2014.

      • RAFF says:

        Exactly, Jimmy– If Lagares has a spot to play— I’s CF. His bat will NEVER justify a corner OF position. S0- Unless the Mets are completely insane- he will have an extended “tryout” in CF . If he can tweak .725 and continue to play premium defense then we’re all set in Center. C Young is going to be in LF- maybe filling in CF as necessity dictates. C Young is a 1 year “journeyman”— Lagares is a legitimate prospect and a potential long-term solution. No matter how this all plays out- C Young will not be n the Mets roster n 2015

  8. Alan K. says:

    I thought Sandy overpaid on Young but I understand the thought process and there is the chance he can bring power and athleticism. Lagares’ bat is still a question mark and with the very real possibility of subpar production at 1B and SS (and catcher when D’Arnaud is not playing) the Mets cannot risk another black hole in the lineup no matter how good the defense is.The winter league numbers for Lagares may be a good sign, but keep in mind that Rey Ordonez once won a batting championship in winter ball.

  9. Eraff says:

    Lagares Defensive Stats will dip—less challenges to his arm=less assists….he’ll remain a very good defender despite that “statistical difference”..

    At .680 and better OPS he can play—most especially because he has tools to build that up.

    They took a strange and destructive path with him last year…. sporadic play and then he made progress despite such an awkward into. He’d have advanced greatly if he could have “stolen” 150-200 AAA AB’s while they were Jacking him around on the big club….. still, he advanced and that’s a very, very good sign.

  10. RAFF says:

    BINGO!…. Runners just don’t even try when they’re facing a Clemente, Staub, or Ichiro in RF on a 1st to 3rd advance. I’s like having Deion Sanders or Revis at Cornerback in Football.

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