Michael Young For Carlos Lee Makes Sense

Michael Young does not want to play for the Texas Rangers anymore – he made that clear with his public assailing of their front office last night, and essentially changed the incentives for Jon Daniels to move him. Now, instead of creating some long term financial flexibility, the Rangers are also motivated to move him to avoid the circus that would ensue if Young reported to spring training with the team. While the Rangers have said publicly that they’ll only move him in a deal that makes sense for their club, Young changed the calculus, and the bar for an acceptable deal has to be lower now than it was a few days ago.

The Rangers, however, aren’t really in a position where they should be dumping talent just to free up future payroll. They’re the favorites in the AL West and need to be re-enforcing the strength of their roster, not dropping useful (even if overpaid) players for nothing in return. So, while most of the rumors to date have focused on shipping Young to Colorado, I think there’s a deal that makes more sense for the Rangers.

Young has a list of eight teams he can be traded to without his consent. The Houston Astros are on that list, and they have a similarly useful but overpaid player who doesn’t really fit on their roster anymore – Carlos Lee. Swapping Young for Lee could help both franchises.

Like Young, Lee was a good player in his prime, but his defense has degraded to the point where DH is probably his best position, though he could fake it at first base as well. The Astros don’t have the option of using him at DH, and with Brett Wallace around, using Lee as a full-time first baseman isn’t a great use of their resources either. At $18.5 million per year for the next two years, Lee is an albatross who isn’t helping the Astros in their attempt to rebuild.

On the other hand, the Astros aren’t exactly set on the infield. They have Bill Hall slated to play second base and Chris Johnson slotted in for third, but neither of those options are long term solutions, and Young would be able to play everyday in Houston without blocking anyone who might have a decent future.

On the Rangers’ side of things, Lee would give them a replacement for the 1B/DH at-bats they had allotted to Young, and a bat who offers some legitimate rebound potential. While he posted an awful .308 wOBA last year, that was almost entirely due to a huge drop in his BABIP. Compare his 2009 and 2010 lines, for instance.

2009: 6.2% BB%, 8.4% K%, .189 ISO, 10.5% HR/FB, .290 BABIP, .355 wOBA
2010: 5.7% BB%, 9.8% K%, .170 ISO, 9.5% HR/FB, .238 BABIP, .308 wOBA

He got worse in every category, but the margins were slim in each area besides BABIP, and suggest that they only lost a little bit of his ability due to aging, and didn’t experience the cavernous drop-off that his raw batting line might suggest. Lee had posted a BABIP between .290 and .299 in each of the prior three seasons, and while it’s more of a skill for hitters than it is for pitchers, there’s still a good bit of seasonal variance in that outcome. Lee should experience a pretty solid bounce back season in 2011.

Lee helps Texas more than Young would, offering a better bat at the same position without all the drama surrounding his role. Young would help the Astros more than Lee would, moving their high priced veteran out of the way of some of their younger talents. The money is pretty similar (Young is due $16.5 million over each of the next three years, while Lee is due $18.5 million through 2012), so it wouldn’t be that challenging for the two franchises to make it a wash financially. Lee does have a full no-trade clause, but he’s from Texas and may be willing to waive it to go to a contender not that far from where he’s at now.

More than dumping him on the Rockies for a pu-pu platter and some cash savings, the move that makes the most sense here is a Michael Young for Carlos Lee swap.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


64 Responses to “Michael Young For Carlos Lee Makes Sense”

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  1. jeffrey gross says:

    Agree highly.

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  2. Telo says:

    I was with you until

    “and Chris Johnson slotted in for third, but neither of those options are long term solutions, and Young would be able to play everyday in Houston without blocking anyone who might have a decent future. ”

    Sure, if Young were to get the bulk of his looks at 2B, that could work, but I wouldn’t think they’d slot him at third over Johnson.

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    • Telo says:

      To clarify, the short term value between Young and Johnson is obviously negligible, but I just don’t see the incentive to stunt his development.

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      • CJ says:

        Given Chris Johnson’s very high BABIP, there is a possibility that he could collapse when the BABIP returns to normal. In that situation, Young could be a good fallback.

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    • John says:

      I think you’ve been fooled by Johnson’s performance from last year. He’s not that good.

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      • Telo says:

        @CJ and John

        Marcel and Bill James are seeing something that the fans aren’t. I won’t claim to have any personal knowledge of Johnson past his player page, but when you have a player in exactly this position, all I am asking is – what is your incentive NOT to play him?

        You have a mystery box. There could be a .340 wOBA player with upside, or there could be a .310 wOBA who won’t get any better… but you don’t know.

        When you’re not contending, what is your incentive to trade stunting this kids growth for a little bit of certainty at 3B? They both project approx the same value.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        The comparison isn’t Johnson/Young, but instead, Johnson/Wallace (or, if Lee were to stay in left, Johnson/those poor poor pitchers). The Astros are going to have to an overpaid declining veteran playing somewhere. If they keep Lee, he gets in either Wallace’s way or he harms the development of their pitching staff with his inability to play left field. Is that a better than limiting Chris Johnson to a part-time role?

        I don’t think so. Johnson hasn’t proven enough where he deserves 600 plate appearances. They can let him try to prove last year was real in a reduced role. If he hits well again, it’s easy enough to bench Bill Hall. If he doesn’t, you’ve got a replacement.

        I’d suggest that Wallace is more deserving of a full-time job than Johnson, and swapping Lee for Young makes that transition possible.

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      • Telo says:

        You have three positions: 3B, LF, 1B, and three players, Lee/Johnson/Wallace.

        What am I missing? Did they pick up a 1B?

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      • Telo says:

        “or he harms the development of their pitching staff with his inability to play left field.”

        And that is nonsense, too. You can’t harm physical development by playing 1 sigma below average defense. He’s not Adam Dunn, and it’s only going to affect pitcher’s stats SLIGHTLY. That is a non factor.

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      • Boomer says:

        “Harms the development of the pitching staff” is one of the biggest reaches I’ve seen in a good long time. Nice.

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      • Telo says:

        Dave shys away from discussions where he makes a misstep or two. I don’t expect him back.

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        Oh, come off it, Telo. You’re setting the bar way too high for “harm” here. Even if we completely grant your unsupported assertion that “he’s not Adam Dunn, and it’s only going to affect pitcher’s stats SLIGHTLY,” harm is still harm, and every little bit counts — sometimes a lot more than you think. For want of a nail . . .

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      • Telo says:

        Well, hello there Cameron apologist.

        I said it wouldn’t harm their development. Not at all. It’s nonsense. It will slightly affect their ERA, assuming you had a better fielder to plug into LF, but even then the difference would be tiny.

        Plus, this isn’t even the main issue we’re talking about. I’m looking at the stros lineup and I see room for all three players, but most importantly Wallace and Johnson, to play full time.

        There is zero incentive to trade for Young. Why would they want another infielder? That’s what I want to know.

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  3. CJ says:

    This same discussion has been occurring elsewhere.
    http://www.crawfishboxes.com/2011/2/6/1978824/michael-young-for-carlos-lee

    The advantage of this trade idea for the Rangers is that it reduces for eliminates the need to send a lot of money to the team acquiring Young. Lee split time with Wallace last season at 1st base, after Berkman was traded, and he played 1st base at a level better than just faking it. For a player who started playing 1st base without much practice there, Lee looked like a good defender at 1st base. (I know UZR and DRS sample size makes their use problematic–but they agree that Lee’s brief appearances at 1st base were above average.) My point: Lee could also provide a platoon partner for Moreland at 1st base.

    This kind of trade would be one in which each team bets that a change of scenery will induce a rebound from disappointing seasons in 2010 for each of these players.

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  4. Dwight Schrute says:

    What do you think about a Carlos Guillen for Young trade?(If Tex is willing to pick up some of Young’s salary) Guillen is overpaid this year and has been injury prone but I think it’s the last year of his contract so it would give the Rangers some financial relief after that. He is more than willing to DH and could put up solid numbers in Texas if he could stay healthy.

    From the Tigers standpoint they could move him to 2B where they currently have a couple question marks(Rhymes and Sizemore) and add a decent offensive player considering the position. The downside of course is the salary and his defense but Illitch and the Tigers aren’t really stingy so that may not stop them and his defense can’t be any worse than Guillen’s who they had no problem starting when he was healthy.

    By the way I’m not saying that I would do this if I was the Tigers. Personally I would hate this deal as a Tigers fan but I’m just throwing it out there from the management’s viewpoint and if you think it would be a possibility.

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  5. @BrocNessMonster says:

    Sure, Johnson might not be very good, bit how much worse is he than Young?

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    • Telo says:

      Exactly…. Young is not much of an upgrade, and Johnson is a wild card. If he turns out to be a decent player, you have a cost controlled 3B for 5 years. Is Young’s bat worth possibly hurting the chance of that happening? Hard to convince me it is…

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        Again, you’re forgetting a) that if Johnson turns out to be a decent player, you can simply move Young to the keystone and Hall to the bench (where he would be an asset even if his bat drops off again), and b) the point is not whether Young would be an upgrade over Johnson, but whether he’d be an upgrade over Lee — a point you have conspicuously failed to address.

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  6. broncosfan_101 says:

    Lee’s drop in BABIP wasn’t entirely random though. A 4.5% decrease in his LD rate and 3% drop in IFH rate show that he was due for that number to fall.

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  7. MC says:

    It seems that Jon Daniels was GM when the Rangers gave Young that 5 yr / $80M extension. If so, WTF was he thinking?!

    Is Young a very good player? Yes. Is he worth $18M a year or whatever he’s going to get for the next 3 years? Heck no.

    If he was signed to a reasonably priced deal, they wouldn’t even be having this conversation. The Rangers could probably even get a couple of decent prospects for Michael Young if he was making $8-9M a year which I think is all he’s worth considering his horrible road splits.

    I find it bemusing that all these guys on TV are calling Young a great hitter because he hit .300 with 20 home runs. Well he plays 1/2 his games at home in a hitter’s park; it’s much easier to hit .300/20HR in Arlington. Same with Kinsler and all of those guys. Josh Hamilton’s obviously a great hitter IMO but all of these other guys really benefit a great deal from the park they play in.

    In a good year Young might put up a .750-.820 OPS but that is not worth whatever he’s getting paid.

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    • Sean says:

      His contract was an ill-advised make good deal to repay him for playing for less than he deserved for a few years. It has come back to bite the Rangers, but they knew it was a possibility when they did the deal.

      I am on board for the Lee-Young swap it makes sense.

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  8. When is a team going to make Dave a GM? I agree, again, like I often do with your analysis.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      but then he wouldn’t be allowed to write articles anymore because he would have to keep his info in house. it would be a sad day for fangraphers.

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  9. rfs1962 says:

    I thought the Astros were down to $37 million and two years on Lee. That’s what BB Reference says, anyway. Still, as an Astros fan I’d like to see it, even though I’d start hearing the phrase “past a diving Michael Young” five times a week.

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  10. Daniel B says:

    Young for Bay? I’m not sure it makes as much sense from the Mets perspective, though.

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  11. descender says:

    Dave, you seem to have slightly missed an aspect of this. The Rangers have Torreabla lined up for catcher, which leaves Napoli/moreland/young at 1B/DH. Not much sense in moving Young for a player that can only play somewhere you have 2 guys taking up spots.

    Lee has been trending south for 3 years now… Napoli only averages 29 HR’s/162 games for his career. The Rangers would not be better off moving Young for a player they have no where to play, especially one making $10mil more than the OTHER guy you already acquired to DH/1B/backup catch.

    It makes sense for Houston to try to move Lee, but not for the Rangers to acquire him.

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    • Dan says:

      I personally don’t see Torrealba taking too much more than the once or twice a week backup catcher duties away from Napoli. That just doesn’t make too much sense that he’s the starter and Napoli is the backup. Torrealba has pretty much been a backup or platoon player for his entire career. So no matter what the depth charts say, I doubt Texas is going to use him that way.

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      • dinordi says:

        Napoli is a 1B/DH with a catcher’s mask. Ron Washington prefers a defensive catcher anyday. Matt Treanor and Yorvit Torrealba will play catcher most days. Napoli was acquired to play 1B/DH, that’s why Michael Young is pissed.

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    • dinordi says:

      Napoli doesn’t hit righties and Moreland doesn’t hit lefties. Lee would play 1B, DH and 5th outfielder. The problem here is, he won’t want to play the same role that Michael Young doesn’t want to play. Plus Lee has the full no-trade clause.

      Though it would be nice to see him team up with his old trade buddy Nelson Cruz.

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      • CJ says:

        Lee’s full no trade clause changes to a partial no trade clause this year. Lee will list a certain number of teams on the no trade clause. I have no idea which teams he has listed, or even if he has submitted his list yet. (I suspect that he has.)

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  12. halebm says:

    Toronto perhaps?

    i make this suggestion because i believe the thought with AA is to have Bautista continue to play right leaving Encarnacion as the 3rd basemen( i cant see McCoy getting a full time spot). with the addition of young the jays pick up, if nothing else a career .300 hitter that is much better defense then Encarnacion could ever dream about. i see this as something AA may jump at.

    now what would the jays send in return? a package of outfielders? our an outfielder plus prospects?

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  13. t ball says:

    I think the Rangers would be better off using a Murphy-Napoli platoon at DH, and occasionally playing Murphy in LF with Hamilton at DH.

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  14. odbsol says:

    Seems redundant with Napoli fully capable of filling the 1B/DH role as well as back-up C.

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    • Terry says:

      I agree. Bill James has Nap and Lee projected pretty similarly. I just don’t see the benefit of trading M.Y for something we already have. I’d be happy with a 4/5 pitcher and a decent low A prospect.

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  15. humpajumpa says:

    Michael Young to Houston would be a great fit and more of an asset there. Houston keeps talking about Lee’s decline. The money is about the same, Young is healthier & more athletic, and wants to leave Texas. Make the deal. If Chris Johnson is any part of Houston’s future, and Brett Wallace becomes a bust of sorts at first base, Johnson could make a similar move that Bagwell did early in his HOF career. Take advantage of the circumstances when they arise.

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  16. Adam says:

    I don’t understand the support for playing young over johnson. The constant refrain on this site is that bad teams like the astros should let the younger guys play, even in a lot of cases where those young guys aren’t any more interesting than johnson showed himself to be last year.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Again, it’s support for playing Young over *Lee* — whether that turns out to be over Johnson, over Hall, or over someone else could be left to be determined later.

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      • Jon says:

        Yes, but Dave says of Johnson: “..They can let him try to prove last year was real in a reduced role.”

        That’s too convenient to his point and doesn’t take into account how much tougher it is for players to really get going on sporadic ABs.

        I’m not saying Johnson is “all that.” But the ‘Stros aren’t going to find that out the way Dave suggests.

        Just saying.

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  17. Astros Fanatic says:

    I love when people who think they know everything about a sport, when they actually know squat, publishes their half informed post on the internet.

    Carlos Lee is NOT from Texas. He is from Panama. He has a Ranch in Texas though. Plus Lee does not have a full no trade clause. He has a partial no trade clause that only allows him to veto trades to 14 teams. Texas is one of those 14 teams.

    Now on to the actual reality of the rest of your half brained ramblings. The Astros are cutting payroll to sale the team. They are not happy that they are locked in for two more years of an overpaid player. Why in HELL would they exchange that for three more years of an overpaid player? The only reason they locked in Wandy to three years is because he is a good LEFT HANDED pitcher. If he was a righty then he would probably walk after next season. The Astros do not want to be committed for multipul years to players that make $10 million or more season right now. THEY ARE TRYING TO SALE the team. Not build a championship team. They will leave that to the next owners.

    Plus Bret Wallace is not a lock at firstbase. He has to go out and earn that spot. If he does not earn it then the spot goes to Lee. Young maybe able to play firstbase better than Lee, but he does not add the protection in the batting lineup. Young is NOT a feared hitter. Lee is. Even with his down season last year, pitchers were still afraid to pitch to him.

    I suggest if you ever want to be taken seriously as a sports writer you do a little research on your topics and try not to just reword what other real sports reporters have already published

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  18. Astros Fanatic says:

    Kevin, talk a walk. You want to talk baseball then talk. You want to be a puke and talk smack about grammer then get a life.

    Sale or Sell, does not change the fact that this whole (or is it hole?) piece is the ramblings of an half informed want to be sports writter.

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    • Astros Fanatic says:

      Oh wait. Before the spelling and english teacher scolds me……take a walk. Not talk a walk.

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    • Mike S. says:

      Also he spelled grammar wrong. Way to go, Fanatic. Call everyone out then make a fool of yourself. Keep up the good work. By the way, your Stros will be battling Pittsburgh for the next few years to see who is the worst team in a pretty bad division. Also, the Wandy signing was a HUGE mistake. He’s on the wrong side of 30, has been up and down even in his best years, and even if he pitches well, you won’t have a good enough team around him for 3 years to justify the expenditure. Talk a walk in 2014 my firend.

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    • CJ says:

      Financially, McLane would be better off with the trade. The near term payroll declines because Young makes less per year, and the extra cost (third year of Young’s contract) kicks in after Drayton has sold the team. Thus McLane saves money, and he usually seems to like that result. It’s similar to Wandy’s contract: it’s backloaded so that the next year expense impact ls lower for McLane (less than the Astros proposed in arbitration) and the higher cost is a future owner’s responsibility. I don’t think one extra year of Young’s salary is significant enough to impact the sale price of the franchise, and probably would be a blip on the screen for a future owner’s plans.

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  19. sweets says:

    They first thing that came to mind when I thought of a team with an overpriced but useful contract to trade and a hole at first base= the Angels and Vernon Wells

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  20. Rhombus67 says:

    AstrosFanatic,

    Why are you so angry? Who did this to you?

    Yes, Carlos Lee is not from Texas but you understand what the article is trying to say (he is partial to Texas) … and of course the Astros are not trying to add payroll but that’s obvious and you didn’t get the point of the post. The only way Lee for Young works is if the Rangers include money in the deal (which reportedly has already been discussed in a potential deal with the Rockies). Lee is owed around $37 mill over 2 years and Young around $46 over 3 years. If the Rangers included $10 mill then it would come out about even and the Astros would actually be paying less per year (b/c of the extra year). The trade also makes the Astros better defensively and gives them a leader/mentor to their young players instead of a lazy-can’t run out a ground ball-defensive liability.

    Yes, there are roadblocks (i.e. Lee’s partial no-trade clause, loss of power in the lineup) and this trade is unlikely … but the post is not so obsurd that it deserves you ripping it so you can release whatever anger you have from days when you were picked on as a kid.

    As a ‘Stros fan, I would be in favor of a Young for Lee swap. The Astros are most likely not going to win this year and think the addition of a versatile-team player-contact hitter would be a great example to Wallace, Castro, Johnson and even Pence.

    You don’t have to agree with the post but learn some respect. If you don’t like the writer’s work then DON’T READ IT.

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  21. humpajumpa says:

    Some folks know(or so want to make it seem) certain facts, albeit impertinent, more than others. What’s with the getting upset over a posted trivial ‘mistake’ by anyone that wants to make a comment about his/her team? I’d gather most of these folks want a winning Houston Baseball team; I know I do after near 50 years of fanaticism. Young for Lee would be a basic ‘push’ on salary. No one would trade for Lee unless Houston absorbed large chunks of his salary; he’s more suited for DH anyways at this point in his career. What have we won with Lee the last four years, and we’ve got him for 2 more? If we’re rebuilding, come up with some other winning strategy regarding Lee.

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  22. Corey Martin says:

    I’m not sure that Houston is one of the 8 teams on MY’s list of possible teams he is willing to be traded to…

    I’m thinking Michael Young to the Red Sox makes a lot more sense. The Sox are looking at the combination of Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie at SS this year which does not excite me in the least. The Sox also need to bridge a gap for 2 years until their top SS prospect Iglesias will be read. The Red Sox are one of a handful of teams that should have no problem eating that salary, or if they do, I could see J.D. Drew being sent over to match up. Drew and Lowrie for Michael Young and a prospect? The salaries match up pretty well, the Rangers get a 4th OF and a utility IF to replace Young. The Sox get an upgrade at SS (I love their lineup but the 7,8,9 combination of Scutaro, Drew, and Salty isn’t exactly overhwleming) and his contract conveniently runs out when their top SS prospect should be ready to go.

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  23. Mike says:

    From the Ranger’s perspective, I’d rather have Michael Young’s versatility. Ian Kinsler isn’t the most healthy of athletes, both Andrus and Moreland are young, and Beltre could use a day off every now and again. Add DH to that, and he still gets regular at bats. I don’t see how Lee gets more than 300 at bats on Texas. He does essentially the same thing that Napoli does; DH and 1B against lefties. So, Young provides more defensive and offensive value to Texas.

    From the Astros perspective, I’ll agree with Telo. If Young is brought in to play 3B or 1B, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s true that Chris Johnson might be sub par, but he’s young enough, and produced enough last year that he deserves a shot. Wallace obviously is the bigger prospect (no pun intended), so he should play.

    Money-wise, Houston should be trying to rid themselves of salary, which will help them rebuild. Taking on Michael Young adds $12 million and an extra year. I’m not sure that’s the best idea.

    And lastly, Michael Young is unlikely to accept a trade to a non-contender (I realize this is a hypothetical, but that would be factor number one to me).

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    • Eric says:

      That’s what I’ve been thinking all along. Combined, Kinsler, Andrus, and Beltre could get enough off days to give Young about 30 games in the infield, not even including the extra games he would get in the field if one of them get hurt (and knowing how durable Kinsler is, I’d say that is at least another 20 or 30 games). Maybe give him a handful of days at 1B when Moreland needs a break and we’re up to possibly 65 starts.

      Then, on days where they face LH pitching, either Young or Napoli would play first, with the other DHing, which could be an extra 50-55 starts for him and Young is at around 120 starts and somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 ABs, with potential for more.

      Unfortunately, he had a change of heart though and now wants out of Texas. Hopefully he re-changes his mind though like he did when he asked out of here when asked to move from SS to 3B, although it seems a bit unlikely now that he’s called out the FO.

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    • Webberoo says:

      He has already stated that Houston is one of the teams he is willing to be traded to.

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    • CJ says:

      The Astros are on MY’s approved trade list, according to several reputable sources.

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  24. Mike S. says:

    Not that the Cubs are a contender, but they could use an upgrade at 2B and someone to step in and give injury prone Aramis Ramirez a breather at third. Would Texas have any interest – and I know this is a long shot – in picking up Sorianno plus cash from the Cubs? Sorianno might benefit from the Ballpark at Arlington as he did earlier in his career. Though i’m not sure, even with some offsetting cash, Texas would want him on the team until 2015.

    Perhaps they would rather do a trade for Carlos Silva and send some cash instead. Silva could be a servicable Number 5 for them and he comes off the books sooner than Young.

    Just spitballing some ideas.

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  25. Webberoo says:

    One of the ideas that i’ve seen discussed is to put Young on 2b, keep Johnson at 3rd to give him a shot and move Bill Hall to LF for the time being. Astros don’t have any prospects coming up at 2b and Hall is only on a 1 year deal. Hall played OF for the Sox. If Johnson proves to be a fluke then Johnson can move to 3rd Hall back into 2nd and the Astros can give 2 of their younger top prospects (top prospects for the Astros) Bourgeois and Bogusevic a chance to prove themselves. This also gives Wallace free reign at 1st base. I think Young is a better situation for the Astros seeing as it opens oppurtunities for young players they want to use but can’t seem to fit in as well due to Lee playing similar positions

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