The Rockies’ Alternatives to Michael Young

The Rangers and the Rockies started talking about Michael Young at the Winter Meetings. It appears that, two months later, they’re on the verge of a deal. As reported by, “a deal could be in place as soon as Monday.” That’s today. In many ways a swap makes sense. Young wants out of Texas and the Rockies would welcome an upgrade at second base. But there’s much more to consider here, and the non-performance aspects of the deal might make it an unworthy one for Colorado.

Last year the Rockies got 0.3 WAR from their second basemen, which ranked 26th in baseball. Even that might be a bit generous, considering one of their positive producers, Clint Barmes, filled in at shortstop while Troy Tulowitzki spent time on the DL. He’s also gone now, so the Rockies have only Jonathan Herrera, who produced 0.7 WAR in 257 PA last season. Adding Young, then, could add a full two wins, and maybe more, to their total. Both ZiPS and Marcel project him having a similar year to last year, which, at this point in his career, is a reasonable expectation.

The problem arises when considering Young’s contract, no small obstacle in trade talks. The Rangers owe him $48 million during the next three seasons, which is an overpayment to a certain degree. If we assume an average of 3 WAR per season — one season above, one season at, and one season below — he’ll provide around $33 million in value. That leaves a $15 million surplus, which Texas will have to cover. Otherwise the Rockies end up paying the deficit. Why would they trade players in order to take on an overpaid player?

Even if the Rangers do kick in that $15 million, the Rockies are still taking on even value. That makes Young the equivalent of a free-agent signing. The difference, of course, is that another team controls his rights. There is value in that, and the Rockies have to pay for it. But the price surely won’t be as steep as someone who provides surplus value. At the top the Rockies’ farm system is pretty solid, and I’m not sure I’d dip into the top 10 in a Young trade. That could cause complications, because the Rangers don’t want to simply give him away.

Could the Rockies, then, be better off looking elsewhere for their second-base solution? They could start by giving their own guy, Herrera, a shot. He’s not going to hit for Young’s power — his highest ISO in the minors, .117, came in 2006 in A+ ball — but he can get on base and play some defense. The last time he had over 100 PA at one level with an OBP under .340 was in 2007. In his 257 PA last year he had a .352 OBP on the power of a 9.7 percent walk rate. ZiPS isn’t too high on him, pegging him for a .261/.323/.329 line. Over a full season, with some quality glove work, he could turn that into 1.5 to 2 WAR. Isn’t that a bit more attractive than taking on Young’s contract?

If they want to look elsewhere they could find some other second basemen who, while producing a bit less overall value than Young, can help fill a roll without unnecessarily boosting payroll for an aging player.

Jeff Keppinger. He won’t help right now, since he’s slated to start the season on the DL. But once he’s healthy he can help the Rockies. The Astros probably won’t ask much, since he’ll earn $2.3 million this season as a backup: the ‘Stros already have Bill Hall and Clint Barmes in the middle of the infield.

Howie Kendrick or Maicer Izturis. The Angels might want to keep both as a precaution, but they do have Alberto Callaspo at third, so perhaps one of Kendrick or Izturis is available. If Izturis stays healthy he might be a good option for the Rox.

Mike Aviles. With Wilson Betemit at third and Chris Getz at second, Aviles could be a backup. Maybe he beats out Getz, but in either case he’s probably expendable. Maybe he’ll find his 2008 stroke in the Rocky Mountain air.

Chone Figgins. We heard that the A’s were interested in trading for him, so why not the Rox? Like Young, Figgins is under contract for the next three seasons. But it’s at a bit more reasonable $26 million. Figgins has averaged 3.15 WAR over the last four seasons, so if they can get the M’s to kick in a modest amount of cash they can make this work.

Luis Castillo. Laugh if you will, but Castillo can still be a quality producer. His lowest OBP in the eight seasons prior to his injury shortened 2010 was .355. In 2009 he produced a .337 wOBA, which is right in line with Young’s 2010. The best part is that he’s in the last year of his contract, so the Rockies won’t overburden future payrolls. And it’s not as though the Mets will ask much for him.

Again, it’s doubtful that any of these players is as productive at the plate as Young in 2011. But the cost of acquiring Young, both in dollars and in players, is likely to exceed most of these guys. The Rockies might throw monetary concerns to the wind and focus on pure performance. If that’s their M.O., then they should go for it. But if acquiring Young means less money to build a supporting cast in 2012 and 2013, they should reconsider. There are other players who can help them and not overburden future teams.

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

31 Responses to “The Rockies’ Alternatives to Michael Young”

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  1. Sean says:

    Is Jose Lopez still on Colorado?

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  2. Jason says:

    Eric Young Jr.? Did he just fall off the map?

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  3. Shizane says:

    Free Eric Young Jr!

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  4. Jim Lahey says:

    Given the Rockies place on the win-curve, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them to acquire Michael Young.. ignoring the cost of the player and just hoping to cash in on those +2wins a year. Especially since he can/will play both 2B/3B.

    I agree that Figgins is the other guy that really makes sense for them but I don’t think the Mariners want to trade him at this point in time so Young might be the only guy on the table they’re interested in at this point

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  5. B N says:

    I’m a bit confused here. Aren’t we stating that 1 WAR ~ $4 or more in the current economic environment? If one is assuming 3 WAR per year, shouldn’t that be 36m rather than 33m?

    I mean, I wouldn’t dispute 33m as total value, given that Young is likely to experience some steady decline in skills (i.e. 3 WAR per season for 3 seasons is quite optimistic). But I am just wondering what figures we’re using for $/WAR equivalency to end up with these values.

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    • Jim Lahey says:

      Assume a half win decline per year and there ya go

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      • phoenix2042 says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        that’s not what the article says:
        “If we assume an average of 3 WAR per season — one season above, one season at, and one season below — he’ll provide around $33 million in value.”
        so he is not taking off the .5 WAR/year that you cite. at young’s age, he thinks that young has not yet hit decline phase. the actual cost per marginal win on the FA market is closer to 5mil than 4mil right now. so i see his value as being closer to 45million over 3 years if joe’s prediction holds, which is only overpaying by 3mil. of course, i don’t think that MY will be that good for the next 3 years, nor do i think it makes sense to trade anything of any value for a guy getting paid at the FA market rate (especially with how bloated it’s become).

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    • Lewis says:

      Dave Cameron often cites around $5M per win. So I don’t know how 9 WAR (the article states 3 WAR/year average) over 3 seasons adds up to $33M.

      Am I missing something?

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      • phoenix2042 says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        thought the same thing. even at 4mil per win times 3 wins you get 12 mil per year times 3 years= 36million. where is this 33 coming from? that assumes a 3.67mil/win market price… which is just patently untrue.

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  6. Guy says:

    Why get us Mets fans excited for nothin’? And yeah I did laugh when you suggested it. They might not have to trade anything, just wait till the end of ST when he gets released.

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  7. DWrek says:

    Chris Nelson too much of a long shot?

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  8. Matt says:

    Your kidding me. What about Lopez, Nelson, and EYJ.

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  9. Quite the oversights Joe. Eric Young Jr got a lot of PT last season at 2B and would have gotten more if not for a broken leg. Chris Nelson is a former 1st round pick who had a very good season in AAA last year and could warrant a spot. And of course, the leader in the clubhouse as a starter, Jose Lopez. There’s a lot more competition for 2B than Jonathan Herrera, who might not even make the team.

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  10. Griggs says:

    Did Wigginton die or something? He should be the opening day 2b. They have about 3 or 4 options you didn’t mention better then most of the ones you did. Fangraphs needs to do some more homework on the Rox.

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    • Let's Go O's says:

      I d’know, man: not sure how many wins Wiggy loses fielding second, but it’s more than zero. You don’t want him on second for too long, though his bat plays well there.

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      • phoenix2042 says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        that sounds a whole lot like an explanation of michael young… except for, you know, a LOT cheaper.

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      • Jason B says:

        Ha. I don’t disagree with that assessment of Wiggy, but you nailed it. He’s a homeless man’s MY (to borrow a Simmons-ism) but at a fraction of the cost.

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  11. evanbrunell says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson Betemit did get the bulk of playing time at third, but lately around the web, I keep reading he will have the 3B job. It’s simply not true. The organization is on record that Mike Aviles will start at third.

    If it was me, Betemit would be at third and Aviles second, but that’s a whole separate issue.

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    • Dan Greer says:

      The Royals seem committed to seeing just how terrible Chris Getz can be over a full season, as if his .252/.315/.320 and negative defense over 670 PA doesn’t already answer that question.

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      • Dan Greer says:

        I neglected to mention that if the Royals were looking to trade Aviles, they’d start him at SS, provided his arm can handle it, and send Alcides Escobar down for a bit to suspend his arbitration clock (assuming he has options left).

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  12. Tom says:

    I thought the going value for every WAR was 5 million? Seem like some faulty math was used here in deducing the worth of young…

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  13. miffleball says:

    given that young has been playing third, what would the move to second do to his projected WAR? doesn’t second have a greater adjustment for offensive production given the incredible dearth?

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    • patmccaw says:

      Yes, but given how poor of a defender (at least by UZR) Young is, it’s likely that most of that gain would be wiped out by moving to a more demanding position.

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  14. AJ says:

    This is the worst story ive ever ready on fangraphs. A bit odd if you ask me. All the talk on herrer when he isnt even the top 2 or 3 options at 2nd. And the war… Ill stop there. Sheesh. Someone needs a crash course on the Col infield

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  15. patmccaw says:

    “Why would they trade players in order to take on an overpaid player?”
    Yeah, the’re not the Angels…

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  16. CircleChange11 says:

    Here’s the problem with Michael Young and looking at his “average WAR”.

    His fielding has been consistent, ranging from -4 to -7, which in UZR is very consistent.

    His batting runs over the last 4 years are, 6.7, -1.1, 25.3, and 5.4

    So, which Michael Young are you going to get? The one that’s 6 runs? Or the incredible outlier 25?

    Odds are that it is the 6 batting run variety, and -5 fielding run.

    I wouldn’t trade for that AND take on contract. With him you’re no longer acquiring the talented young SS … but a highly paid, aging 3B/2B that’s a little better than average with the bat, and little below average with the glove.

    Last year, Eckstein was -5 Batting Runs and +6 Fielding. So, he could give you the same value as MYoung at 2B for a lot less.

    Personally, I cannot believe Young is only “this” valuable. I would have vastly over-rated him.

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  17. sean says:

    I read until “so the Rockies have only Jonathan Herrera”. Then, Ctrl+F: “Eric”.

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  18. Gary says:

    Was I watching the same EY as the other fans in this blog. There is no position in baseball for REALLY FAST GUY DOWN THE FIRST BASE LINE IF HE HAPPENS TO GET A HIT AND THEN DOESN’T GET PICKED OFF FOR LACK OF CONCENTRATION AND WHEN ON DEFENSE CAN’T FIELD HIS POSITION. ,and that’s just his upside.Please take a shot Rockies and elevate the team to a true contender again. It was so much fun when the team was fabulous. We are just a few ticks from being there again but need players like Michael Young and Wiggington to finish the picture. It cannot be accomplished with Ey or Herrera and will still take some luck regarding Ianetta and Stewart OK you know what to do now do IT.

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