The Mike Young Bad Contract Swap

The situation the Rangers face with Mike Young has little to do with Young’s abilities as a player. In the past six seasons he has accumulated 19.6 WAR, which places him among the best shortstops, second basemen, and, to a lesser degree, third basemen in the league. Rather, the issue stems from the team’s decision in 2007 to extend Young’s contract by five years and $80 million. With three years and $48 million remaining, Young is a decidedly overpaid player. That means the Rangers will either have to eat some money or get creative in a trade.

An hour ago Dave wrote about why a Young-for-Carlos Lee swap made sense. The potential trade, at least in part, centers on the contracts changing hands on both sides. Might one of the other seven teams on Young’s approved list have a similar contract swap situation?

Cardinals

The Cardinals could use some help at third base for the 2011 season. David Freese should be healed up from his 2010 injuries, but he’s not exactly a sure thing. A few middle infield moves might make third base easier to fill should Freese get hurt again, but none possesses even a league-average bat. Young could move right into the position and provide another table-setting option for Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

The only obviously bad contract they have to swap is Kyle Lohse, but that might not be easy. Lohse puttered through 18 starts in 2010 after making just 22 starts in 2009. The four-year, $41 million extension to which the Cardinals signed Lohse after the 2008 season is looking like a complete albatross. He still has two years and $23.75 million left, which offsets about half of the salary owed Young.

While the Cardinals could use Young, this one is a non-starter. As Dave noted, the Rangers shouldn’t be in complete salary dump mode here. That goes especially if they’re taking back a significant, and significantly bad, contract. The Cardinals themselves have issues, too. First, there’s the presence of 2010 first-rounder Zack Cox, who is waiting to take over at third. Then there’s money, which the Cardinals might not have in abundance. Their 2011 payroll is already at a team record $104 million, and they still have to get Pujols under contract. It’s a nice idea, but it’s unlikely to work.

Yankees

With an infield that consists of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees don’t exactly have room for Young. Even at DH they have Jorge Posada this year, and they might be inclined to replace him next year with top prospect Jesus Montero. Young would have less an opportunity for playing time in New York than he does in Texas. Yet if there’s a team that can take on that salary, it’s the Yankees.

This past weekend, when the Young situation started to escalate, a reader of River Ave. Blues emailed with a creative proposal. Could the Yankees, short on pitching for 2011, trade for Young and then flip Cano for a pitcher? My initial reaction was no, because it’s rarely advisable for a contending team to trade its best hitter from the previous year, and one who is only 27 years old, but if the Yankees truly are desperate for another arm this does present one potential solution.

The problem, of course, is that there are too many moving parts. This would have to be a three-way swap. Otherwise, the Yankees would lose leverage in trading Cano and wouldn’t receive in return a pitcher of the caliber they desire. And, again, for emphasis, it’s probably not a great idea to trade the 27-year-old who carried the team’s offense the previous year. As with the Cardinals, this is a no-go. But it’s an interesting scenario to ponder, if nothing else.

Twins

If you want to worry about the Twins in 2011, just go to their 40-man roster and look at the infielders. There’s Justin Morneau, who still hasn’t begun baseball activities following a July concussion, and there’s Danny Valencia, entering his first full season in the majors. After that there doesn’t appear to be much offense. Even though Young’s defense is decidedly below average, he could still give the Twins a boost on offense.

Like the Cardinals, the Twins will set a team payroll record in 2011 at $105 million. The problem is that they don’t have an obvious contract to send Texas in return. Michael Cuddyer stands out as an overpaid player, but that would be taking away his bat to add Young’s. Maybe that would open a spot for Ben Revere, but that would give the Twins a mostly powerless outfield. Joe Benson could be another option, but it’s debatable whether the Twins would consider taking him north with the big club.

If the Twins were willing to take on around $13 million in annual salary, they might be able to work out a deal for prospects. But if they’re not willing to bring their payroll to around $120 million, it’s probably not going to work.

Rockies

Unless they’d be willing to trade, and Texas would be willing to accept, Aaron Cook, there doesn’t appear to be a match here. As we’ve seen discussed in the past week, Young probably only goes to the Rockies if the Rangers pick up some of the tab.

Angels

Wouldn’t it be something if the Angels, after losing out on Beltre, traded for the guy whom Beltre displaced? It makes me think that such a deal isn’t possible. That the Rangers and the Angels play in the same division makes it even less likely. But there might be a match here, despite the trade’s improbability.

It’s easy to look at Bobby Abreu and Scott Kazmir as contracts that the Angels could unload, but the interesting case here is Ervin Santana. The Rangers could use a starter, and Santana has between $20.2 and $32.2 million remaining on his contract. That would match the two sides nicely. Again, circumstances probably preclude the possibility, but if the Rangers find themselves frustrated they might have an alternative in Anaheim.

Padres

The Padres don’t have any bad contracts to trade, really, because they don’t have many big contracts. They have only two players under contract for 2012 and have just $13.55 million on the books. It also doesn’t appear that they’re willing to take on salary. And then they have players entrenched at all infield positions — though Young could presumably supplant Jorge Cantu at first.

The only way this gets done is if 1) the Padres are willing to trade Heath Bell, and 2) they’re willing to take on a considerable portion of Young’s contract. I just don’t see either happening. If they were willing to take on a decent amount of payroll they probably would have gone after Derrek Lee on a one-year deal, rather than acquire Young’s three remaining years. Bell will also become very valuable come July, either anchoring their pen or headed elsewhere in a trade.

The Rangers find themselves in a tough spot, because Young can veto trades to 21 teams. Given the obstacles that stand between the Rangers and the eight approved teams, they might have to seek his permission for a trade elsewhere. Either that, or they have to eat a significant portion of Young’s contract. While there are some potential matches among these eight teams, no situation that approaches ideal exists.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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