Phillies Sign Delmon Young

Of course they did.

Last week, Jeff wrote about “What Delmon Young Was“, and he closed with these two paragraphs:

I haven’t yet figured out how Delmon Young hit that pitch for a home run. If you watch Young’s highlight videos, you’ll see similar batted balls that come off the bat faster than it seems like they should. That raw talent of Young’s hasn’t deteriorated with time, so it lingers on, a living sign of what Young was, and of what Young was supposed to be. Watch that home run, and only that home run, and you might think “this guy is amazing, he can hit anything out.”

Young, it seems, always believed that to be true, and while it’s never too late to try to make changes, it can get too late to actually make them. Talent alone got Delmon Young to the majors. Young either hasn’t worked hard, or he hasn’t worked smart. Young at 26 was the same as he was at 21. The same, but bigger, and a whole hell of a lot less promising.

When trying to figure out what team would give Young a contract this winter, it basically boiled down to figuring out what organizations didn’t place a high value on the base on balls, favored traditional offensive metrics over the kinds of things we write about here on FanGraphs, and would see Young as still having the potential to be a good player. The Phillies check every box on the list, and were in search of a right-handed corner outfielder. This should have been an obvious match for a while.

On its own merits, this deal probably isn’t worth quibbling over. Young is a replacement level Major League player with enough interesting skills to be worth a flier, and it’s not like the Phillies spending $750,000 on Young is going to prevent them from affording a better player. At this kind of salary, you’re buying guys who have more flaws than strengths. The Phillies are paying Young a salary that tells him that he’s not worth a Major League starting job. They didn’t give him starter’s money, which suggests that they understand his limitations.

But, we can’t really just evaluate deals like this on its own merits. The question for the Phillies isn’t whether Young is worth $750,000 or not, but whether he’s worth playing over guys they already had in the organization. Specifically, is he worth playing over Domonic Brown?

Brown has seen his stock fall a long way from when he was the game’s best prospect a few years ago, and he wasn’t even particularly good in Triple-A last year, so it’s hard to say that he’s earned a starting job on a team that has its sights set on winning in 2013. If we’re going to point out that Young has been a replacement level player during his time in the Majors, we should point out that Brown has too. 500 plate appearances isn’t as definitive as 3,500, but Brown is 25-years-old and has yet to produce any big league value. That’s generally not a great sign for a player’s future.

Even if we believe that Brown is likely to take a significant step forward, he’s probably still not going to be an effective hitter against left-handed pitchers. He’s never hit for much power against LHPs, even in the minors, and he doesn’t do enough other things well to be a useful corner outfielder without hitting for power. Getting him a platoon partner was a legitimate need.

And, while Delmon Young isn’t anything special, he is a right-handed bat with some history of success against southpaws; a 117 wRC+ in over 1,000 big league plate appearances. Given his lousy defense, that still doesn’t make him any good, but Brown’s not a plus defender either, and Young is almost certainly going to outhit Brown against LHPs. So, strictly from that standpoint, this is an upgrade.

The question is whether that upgrade is worth making if it also tempts Charlie Manuel into making Young more than just a part-time player. Young has been a full-time player for most of his career, and at age 27, he probably prefers to remain a full time player, given that he’s not yet settled into the veteran reserve part of his career. Having Young around may very well give Manuel the false pretense of having a regular outfield option other than Brown, and that’s when this deal could come back to harm the Phillies. If Young plays against right-handed pitchers while Brown sits, then the advantage gained by having an upgraded bat against lefties could easily be canceled out.

But, we shouldn’t presume that the Phillies will misuse Young and anoint him as an everyday player. The salary they gave him suggests that he’s not being envisioned as a regular starter. The public comments about the type of player they were searching for suggest that they were looking to complement Brown’s skills, not replace them. There’s a decent chance that, as a part-time lefty masher, Young might turn out as a decent role player. I’m not going to kill the Phillies for making this move. There is some logic to having him on their roster.

But we also can’t ignore that this could be the first step to a colossal mistake. If they waste regular at-bats on Young, then this move could make them worse off than if they hadn’t signed Young to begin with. And that’s likely the fear that many Phillies fans are experiencing right now.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

57 Responses to “Phillies Sign Delmon Young”

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  1. A Nationals Fan says:

    Great signing!

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  2. Davis says:

    Um, Delmon Young has played his entire career in LF, and I believe Brown is slated to play RF for the Phillies. And they already had a platoon partner for Brown in John Mayberry.

    So, the more relevant question is whether it’s better to give the LF job to Delmon Young or Darin Ruf, isn’t it?

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    • nik says:

      Correct, Young has no bearing on Brown. Brown is either a full-time RF or he’ll be sharing it with Mayberry.

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    • Derb says:

      That’s not entirely true. In ’06 and ’07, Young was primarily a rightfielder, with a few games in center (hard to believe now). Since ’08, though, Young has only played left. Well, he’s stood in leftfield while holding a glove.

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    • china_dave says:

      I believe that’s correct.

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    • EricL says:

      So you guys would think. But you guys aren’t considering Ruben Amaro:

      “Ruben says ideally he’d like to see Delmon be everyday RF. if so, Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf will platoon in leftfield”

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      • KM says:

        Wow, I didn’t see that.

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      • 4233 says:

        Do you think its possible either Brown or Mayberry gets traded??

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      • Baltar says:

        I had seen that news somewhere before reading Dave’s post and wondered what he was talking about. It must have broken after he wrote it.
        I was hoping the Rays would get him as a part-time DH but I knew his ego wouldn’t allow that.
        I wonder if Amaro is blowing smoke or serious. NL teams can hardly spare a roster spot for a pinch-hitter vs. lefties only spot.

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  3. Jim says:

    I’ve seen the “bad news for Dom Brown” thing on twitter and now on here and I agree with Davis that this makes no sense. Brown is a lefty who is slated to play RF for the Phils. This affects Darin Ruf a heck of a lot more than it does Dom Brown. Brown is still going to play the majority of the games in RF and may even get some time in LF against RHP.

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  4. CookieRojas16 says:

    This is adding by not subtracting. If he hadn’t signed Delmon, Ruben may well have pulled the trigger on the darkly hinted trade of Brown for Alfonso Soriano. He always seems to think someone else’s guys are better than his guys, regardless of the evidence. In this case, he thinks Young is better than Ruf.

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    • Jaybo Shaw says:

      I agree. If this means we dodged Raul Ibanez, Alfonso Soriano, and Vernon Wells, then its only a minor blow.

      I do also fear that he is going to be a regular against righties.

      Delmon’s interesting personality leaves the potential for some significant fireworks in Philly next year. Hopefully, he can prevent himself from uttering ethnic slurs in Philadelphia dining/drinking establishments.

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    • JayT says:

      Soriano will almost certainly be better this year then Young or Brown, and he’ll probably be better next year too. For a team that is nearing the end of their competitive window, I’m not so sure that trading Brown for Soriano wouldn’t have been the proper move. Especially if the Cubs would have kicked in a bunch of cash.

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    • This may be true, but defending a move by saying “Our GM would have done something even stupider if he had not made this stupid move” is not necessarily a ringing endorsement.

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  5. Timothy says:

    Amaro apparently says that Young is playing RF. Just to clear that up…

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  6. Jim says:

    Nevermind. Now Rube is saying that he’ll play RF. This is all about Charlie Manuel and his dislike/distrust in Brown. Oh well. 2008 was fun.

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    • cfib says:

      Brown has a -22 UZR/150 in RF and a -5/150 in LF with the bulk of his negative value coming from range (and arm). SSS caveat, but it’s it better to bury him in LF if he must play?

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      • Franco says:

        It makes sense if you’re putting anyone other than Delmon Young out there to “field” out in right.

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      • First, when defense is concerned I can’t just look at stats. I watched every game last year for the Phillies, and saw some promising progress out of Brown in the field (and at the plate). He still needs to work on his routes a bit, but I don’t know what you are talking about with regards to his arm, he has a rocket. His range will improve with consistent playing time because it is not a matter of speed, but more with routes, which is teachable.

        Young is an absolute downgrade defensively, no matter what the stats say. I’m also am failing to see any real upgrade at the plate, seeing as though well over half of pitches thrown in the majors are made by righties. We also have to consider the fact that Young has been on a steady decline over the last few years.

        I’m not ready to give up on Brown yet, and truly believe that the Phillies have misused him ever since they saw that he was the top prospect in baseball a few years ago. On top of a bunch of minor injuries, the phillies brass is the reason Brown has not made any real strides in the majors yet. He needs continuity and confidence, neither of which come with being ushered up and back from triple A and the majors. He has never even had a HALF of a year continuously in the majors, so how can we truly expect him to succeed?

        I am totally against this move, for the simple fact that this could be the last straw in Brown’s development, because if he doesn’t get his REAL chance this year to succeed, he may never recover mentally and never fulfill the potential he has. In my opinion, the upgrade against LHP’s for one year is simply not worth the future implications. Plus, the minor upgrade against lefties will not make or break the phillies ’13 season, the Phillies season will depend on pitching and the infielders staying healthy and productive. Delmon young is inconsequential,and, if anything, a detriment.

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  7. James says:

    The Phillies have now acquired the #1 and #5 worst every day position players in terms of WAR last season. Michael (-1.4) and Delmon (-.7) Young. They should call KC about Francoeur.

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    • frenchy says:

      4 worst players from 2011 with their 2012 WAR totals:

      Raul Ibanez (-1.3 WAR). 2012: 1.1 WAR
      Alex Rios (-0.8 WAR). 2012: 4.3 WAR
      Juan Pierre (-0.5 WAR). 2012: 1.7 WAR
      Aubrey Huff (-0.4 WAR). 2012: (-0.1) WAR

      As for Francoeur, he’s a prime bounceback candidate. His xBABIP was 35 points lower than his actual BABIP. His UZR was the worst of his career. If you regress his babip and give him credit for being a 0 UZR defender–hardly a stretch, see his profile page– he should be worth 2-3 more WAR than he was in 2012.

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      • James says:

        We’ll see how two players whose defensive short comings were largely masked by their ability to hide in the DH slot do with everday fielding.

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      • rbt says:

        I’m a long way from a Frenchy fan, but it’s worthwhile to note that, regarding his awful defensive year in 2012, he played virtually all season with a bad foot – something that’s pretty much unknown by everybody. So yes, defensively, assuming health, he is a good candidate for regression to the mean.

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  8. BubbaNoTrubba says:

    What a gigantic mistake if they don’t play Darin Ruf full time.

    That’s bordering on criminal.

    “Babe” Ruf’s should get a legit chance to slug.

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  9. KM says:

    Bigger question is what happens with Ruf. Brown was never really a left fielder. He was just moved there to make room for Pence. Manuel has said several times tho, that he likes Ruf… So we’ll see. Clearly the plan is to platoon at least one OF spot, at any rate.

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  10. jcxy says:

    Call me crazy, but I kind of like the whole platoon thing they could potentially go with:

    Ruf: 1.326 (SSS) OPS vs LH (.500 higher than vs RH)
    Brown: 0.746 OPS vs RH (.125 higher than vs LH)

    Young: .824 OPS vs LH (.190 higher than vs RH)
    Nix: .744 OPS vs RH (.225 higher than vs LH)

    They’ll be statues out there, so defensively it’s a big question mark. But then, they do have a rangy CF, so maybe that helps.

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    • abreutime says:

      They already have John Mayberry to do everything that Young does, only slightly better. This signing is pointless.

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      • bflaff says:

        Maybe competition is a good thing for a borderline guy like Mayberry, Jr…?

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      • EricL says:

        Yeah, because most fringy-platoon players slack off because of a lack of competition.

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      • jcxy says:

        Upon further reflection, I don’t think this means significantly fewer ABs for Mayberry, at least not early in the year. I’d wager Ruf will start in AAA and Mayberry will get 200 ABs to open the year in LF, mostly against LH. If one of: Ruf tears up AAA (again)/Young stinks/Mayberry stinks happens, then they’ll adjust (Ruf promotion). Otherwise, cheap depth is ok in my book even if it’s redundant.

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      • AndySloanie says:

        The issue is that Charlie Manuel is the manager. He’s not a proponent of platoons, and has shown that he favors older players over younger players (at least recently). I think the discord between Amaro and Manuel is going to be apparent early in the season, when Charlie is playing Young everyday despite .270/.295/.400 (and worse against RHP). I just don’t understand this move because Amaro is giving Manuel the opportunity to block the development of Brown and Ruf with huge opportunity cost for an aging team.

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    • E-Dub says:

      “They’ll be statues out there, so defensively it’s a big question mark.”

      True with the exception of Nix, who is a surprisingly good defender.

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  11. Bodhizefa says:

    This isn’t horrible if it pushes the Phillies to platoon everyone who really needs a platoon (like, say, if Mayberry plays 1st against lefties.) but we all know this wont happen. This deal seems more likely to hurt the Phil’s than help the, given their proclivities towards being dumb.

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  12. agam22 says:

    If the Phillies use Young wisely this might end up not being a disaster. Knowing the Phillies, this move will almost certainly end up being a disaster.

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  13. Bab says:

    But you guys haven’t seen the balls to the wall non-mandatory workouts Young has been doing the last two months. Man is he going to arrive in Philly trim and mean and ready I go.

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  14. BRAVESFAN says:

    With every new signing by Ruben this off season the Phillies are getting YOUNGer.

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  15. Robbie G. says:

    So does anybody else out there believe that the Phillies offense and defense are both going to be pretty lousy, and that the Phillies are going to lose 90+ ballgames? Who are this team’s four best hitters, in order? Who are this team’s four best defenders, in order? The Mets traded away the Cy Young Award winner this offseason yet it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they finished ahead of Philly in the standings. Oh, well, this team had one heck of a run, so you can never take that away from them (although RAJ has tried!).

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    • Jim says:

      It really depends on health and whether Cholly uses OF platoons properly. If they have enormous health issues like last year then they could lose 90 games, but if they stay healthy they could easily win 90 games.

      As for good hitters, a full year of Utley and Howard and properly used platoons should make them a league average offense at the very least. They also have elite level defenders up the middle and behind the plate so I doubt it will be too big an issue.

      They also have arguably one of the better back end bullpens in the league with Paps – Adams – Bastardo (ignore his ERA, his peripherals are outstanding).

      They finished .500 last year playing most of the season with 4 position starters, 2 starters, and 4 bullpen guys out, replaced mostly with dreck like Wigginton and AAA fodder. It would take a whole lot of bad luck to be worse than they were last year.

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    • Baltar says:

      Well, Phillie still does have that great pitching staff.

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  16. Mike P says:

    To paraphrase Bill James, if anyone is playing a worse LF than Delmon Young, they’re doing it with a pitchfork. He’ll allow two for every one he drives in. Lonnie Smith looked like Mays compared to this guy.

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  17. Simon Daillie says:

    I dont think its such a bad signing. Young finally gets a change to play in a hitter friendly ball park after hitting in Minnesota and Detroit since 2007. Young’s stats in 2010 were pretty solid – never walked often – but his power in 2010 was solid – translate that to Philly and i think you have something. DelYoung is MUCH better than mayberry. when mayberry finally played every day last year his stats plummeted. and dont get me wrong, i dont love young at all – but at this price its a bargain. plus his assets will play well in a stadium like philly. now to the extent that mayberry keep ruf down – i think thats a problem. ruf needs a chance – and he still might get it with young in there – but its not clear.

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  18. Rick says:

    Man, you try to give a team the benefit of the doubt and then, per MLBTR:

    “General Manager Ruben Amaro told reporters that they plan to use Young as their starting right fielder, tweets Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.”

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  19. Max says:

    My favorite thing about this signing is that Delwyn Young signed a minor league deal with the Nats and has the same career OBP as Delmon Young.

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  20. Xeifrank says:

    0.1% chance this is the first step in a colossal mistake.

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  21. Matt says:

    I think we know that eventually this is heading towards Darin Ruf in LF and Delmon Young in RF. Domonic Brown has had two relatively poor showings in 200+ PA samples in 2011 & 2012 and while he’s shown some things that fangraphs’ readers like (good plate discipline, BB%) he hasn’t shown the traditional stats (BA, RBIs) that the Phillies like. While it’s troubling that the phillies seem to allocate parts of the 170+ million dollar pay roll based on statistics like RBIs and Saves, i think the most troubling part of this transaction is the Delmon to RF thing. The phillies have said they’re moving him back to RF because he’s more comfortable in RF and that their reports had him better in RF than LF. Given that Young hasn’t played RF since 2007, the implication seems to be that the phillies are making roster decisions based off of 5-year old scouting reports, which if true is more damning than the outdated statistical approach.

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  22. Dan says:

    I generally can’t stand the whole “baseball-is-played-on-the-field-not-on-a-computer” mantra, but everyone that says Delmon Young is a good deal at $750,000 deserves to hear it. They give us geeks a bad name.

    Look, I can go to the local hardware store and get all kinds of great deals on a whole bunch of things. They’re having a clearance, and it’s 75% off windshield wipers! The one problem is that I don’t have a car.

    The Phillies don’t need Delmon Young.

    Now the word is that they want to use him as their regular RF. Cite Dom Brown’s negative UZR or whatever it is all you want, but believe me, Delmon Young is worse. He’s worse than everyone. Remember Pete Incaviglia, Philadelphia? Now imagine if he couldn’t hit.

    Cannot hit anyone but left-handers. Flatly refuses to take any pitches. Grounds into as many double plays as he can. Cannot run the bases, even a little. Cannot play field whatsoever. Cannot not go on an anti-semitic rant in front of a hotel at 3am…the list goes on.

    Have fun with one of the worst all-around ballplayers ever.

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