The Chris Young signing is what I call a Hot Stove Head-Scratcher. Try as I might to understand the move, signing Young to a contract worth more than $7 million dollars simply doesn’t make sense.
My litmus test for a free agent signing involves two basic questions. First, is there a reasonable expectation the free agent signed can help solidify a field position or a role on the pitching staff in the upcoming season?
Second, if the first question is answered affirmatively, will the signed free agent play an important future role on your baseball team? A good free agent signing gets a yes to both queries.
Now consider the signing of Chris Young. Analyzing Chris Young’s career curve the downward trajectory makes it difficult to predict Young will solidify an outfield position at Citi Field this summer. It’s been seven years since Young blasted over 30 home runs in a baseball season, four since his HR total topped 25 and he did those playing in a bandbox.
Young’s batting average and on-base-percentage have slipped dramatically since 2010. One argument explaining the downward offensive direction of Young’s career is that the outfielder has not been a day-to-day player in a major league outfield. The fact Young was part of a platoon last season, was more the consequence of diminished outputs as a regular than an organizational strategy to employ a platoon.
For a moment, let’s assume Young returns to his one time prowess and hits 25 home runs and knocks home 90 plus RBI’s at Citi Field this summer. Even with such impressive outputs, Young will not play an important future role for the Mets. Young will become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. A blazing bounce back season will drive his value beyond what the Mets are willing to commit. And, if Young’s current downward spiral continues, the Mets will simply cut him loose at the end of the year. Even under the best of circumstances, it is highly unlikely Chris Young will play for the Mets in 2015.
All that, and the fact the time Young spends on the baseball diamond steals valuable innings from future Met outfield star Juan Lagares, makes signing Young a real head scratcher. Lagares is still developing as a hitter and is part of a promising Mets future.
I’ve heard Ron Darling refer to Lagares yesterday as en ‘eyeball player’ – the type of player you simply can’t take your eyeballs off of when he’s on a baseball field. The ‘eyeball player’ label is especially the case when Lagares patrols centerfield for the Mets. Lagares’ incredible outfield play had one baseball analysis website calling him the 65th highest valued position player in the major leagues. Why wouldn’t you want this guy seeing as much time in the batting order as possible?
Kevin Burkhardt also said yesterday that if Juan Lagares wasn’t playing everyday you really have to start questioning the decision-making process behind that. “He saves the team a run almost every game.”
By the way, Darling’s ‘eyeball player’ label describes two other outfielders in the Mets system; Matt den Decker and Cesar Puello. Both future Met outfielders are having great Springs and command your full attention. That makes the Chris Young signing even more confusing.
Finally, signing Young at over $7 million dollars for a single year, took valuable resources off the board, resources that could have been used to shore up our roster at shortstop, a position our own management publicly confirmed needed an upgrade at the start of the Hot Stove season.
Agree or disagree?
(Photo: Brad Barr, USATSI)