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In preparing the 2014 Red Sox roster, Ben Cherington knows the team needs more depth in both the corner infield and center field. If Jacoby Ellsbury leaves, there is no one on the roster that could take his place. Two players the Sox are considering are Michael Young, a corner infielder for Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chris Young, a center fielder for the Oakland Athletics. Can two Young’s (no relation, correct me if I am wrong) be the answer to the Sox’ depth chart trouble?
During the 2013 season, Michael Young spent time with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Dodgers. His offensive ability alone piques one’s interest. In 2013, his batting average was in the mid .270s and on-base percentage in the mid-.380s. Prior to this season, he played 13 years with the Texas Rangers, where his batting line was .301/.347/.444. Many of those years he appeared on the All-Star teams and earned other honors. Michael also appears to be a versatile defensive player. He has experience at second, short, and third base. In looking at defensive statistics, the last four years show a steady decline in ability to turn plays in the infield. Perhaps this is what led to the trade to Los Angeles. At a park like Fenway, the Sox need the third baseman to protect left field. Balls pulled in that direction need to be fielded early and often. Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew have the ability to protect left field. In 2014, Drew may be gone, and Middlebrooks needs to work on his offense so he can stay.
I’m not crazy about this Young in this position. I like his bat, but his defensive ability scares me with the current pitching staff that we have on hand. Finally, at 37 years old, the Sox would probably offer him a one-year contract, but I don’t think he is worth the $16 million the Dodgers paid him. The Red Sox need the whole package, offense and defense, to spend that kind of money.
While Michael Young may be a liability on the field, but have ability at bat, Chris Young is just the opposite: great fielder with 240 putouts in 244 opportunities, but a hitter with a fair-to-middling .200/.280/.379 batting line this season with the Athletics. Doesn’t this player make-up sound slightly familiar? It reminds me of Jackie Bradley Jr. Chris Young has more experience on his side with seven years in the majors. The Sox have strong defensive ability in Bradley, but he is just not ready for prime time with his offense. I feel much the same could be said for Chris. What would the benefit be for the Red Sox to pick up Chris Young? As there is nothing outstanding about him, depth is my only conclusion.
What are the Red Sox to do? Pick up both Youngs and hope they balance each other out, filling in the holes in each others’ games? If Cherington is looking for depth in these guys, he should be sure to keep the dollar amounts and contract lengths conservative. If he believes the Youngs will be major producers, he needs to reconvene with his scouting team and get real.
Roster turnover leads to tough decisions for the front office. The stakes are even higher with a World Series Championship banner hanging on Yawkey Way. Are either Young the right choice for next year?