Young’s Time In Arizona Likely Coming to an End

The Arizona Diamondbacks had a disappointing 2012 season and the front office has identified key areas in which the team must improve. The outfield isn’t one of these areas, as the Diamondbacks now boast five players who could all stake a claim for a starting role, whether in Arizona or on another team.

They could conceivably make things work if everyone was retained, but that seems like a sub-optimal use of valuable resources. With platoons — both traditional and non-traditional — and injury risk, carrying four or five competent outfielders is often necessary. However, trading one or two of these players could solve issues elsewhere on the diamond. The team would still boast a solid outfield while improving in other key areas. But determining who to trade isn’t as straightforward, as non-performance factors must be taken into consideration.

The Diamondbacks currently have Justin Upton, Chris Young, Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra under contract. Upton is the most talented of the group as well as the most expensive. Eaton is a top prospect under team control that played well in a small sample of September plate appearances. Kubel is a strong hitter who can’t run or field who is signed to a team-friendly contract. Parra is an average hitter under team control with excellent fielding marks. Young is a terrific defensive centerfielder capable of 20/20 production under team-friendly contractual terms.

The team is likely to retain Upton and play him in right field. The team also seems intent on playing Eaton in center field, which means that Young seems like the odd man out. He could shift to left field, but part of what makes him valuable would get eliminated in the process. Given his age, fielding skills, offensive pop and contract status, as well as the free agent market developing at the position, Young would instantly become a very attractive trade target if he were made available. Dealing him makes the most sense for the Diamondbacks, as he has become expendable with Eaton’s presence on the roster, and could extract the most value in return.

Young makes $8.5 million next season and has an $11 million club option for 2014. That option can be bought out for $1.5 million, meaning any acquiring team would pay him anywhere from $10 million for one season to $20 million for two seasons, if Arizona didn’t pick up any portion of the bill. According to Arizona Republic writer Nick Piecoro, however, the Diamondbacks are operating under the assumption that they will have to eat some of Young’s salary to facilitate a trade. His injury-plagued season is a contributing factor to that assumption, as Young hit .206/.284/.371 over his final 90 games and saw his offensive averages decline across the board.

The team may have to kick in some salary if it wants to improve its return, but with lucrative contracts likely headed to Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton, Young is a quality low-cost alternative for a team looking to improve its outfield. It’s hard to imagine the Diamondbacks needing to pay a CF-starved team like, say, the Phillies any money in order to facilitate a deal. And that’s just one example: there are several teams looking to bolster the roster without spending much money, who would part with a high-ranked prospect for two years of a 4.5 WAR player at $10 million per season. Young may struggle in the traditional area of batting average, but he remains a very good baseball player.

He produced 4.6 WAR in both 2010 and 2011, and his 2.8 WAR in 101 games prorates out to right around the same mark this season. No, prorating isn’t an accurate technique, but it’s important to note that he produced at the same level this year in the amount of time he played. His wRC+ has dropped from 109 to 101 to 97, over the last three years, but his fielding ratings have increased at the same rate. He has averaged over 10 runs saved above average at one of the most important positions in the field while hitting, at worst, at a league average pace.

Young has several similarities to B.J. Upton, who will probably sign for something like four years and $48 million this offseason. Both are young, with Young having just turned 29 years old. Both make less contact, but have power and baserunning ability. Upton has been the better baserunner since 2010, while Young has him bested in fielding. In terms of offensive rate stats, Young has a .336 wOBA, 103 wRC+ and a .243/.331/.436 line over the past three seasons. Upton has a .328 wOBA, 109 wRC+, and a .242/.317/.436 line. While Upton has been touted as a solid lower-cost alternative to Hamilton and Bourn, Young is a slightly lower-cost alternative to Upton.

The Diamondbacks aren’t going to enter the season with all five of these outfielders. They could make it work with Justin Upton in right, Eaton in center, and the non-traditional platoon (since they are both lefties) of Kubel and Parra in left. They could make it work with Upton and Eaton in right and center and Young shifted to left. They could look to move Kubel or Parra, play Young in center and mix and match Eaton at different positions and against different pitchers.

However, the most logical solution is to trade Young and hope that Eaton fills in seamlessly. This won’t necessarily stop the team from also dealing Kubel or Parra. At the very least, Young’s perfect mix of age, contract status, position, defensive skill, baserunning ability and offensive pop makes him a very attractive trade target for a number of teams that would rather part with a prospect package than dole out lucrative long-term deals.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


43 Responses to “Young’s Time In Arizona Likely Coming to an End”

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  1. RMD says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how the Braves replace Bourn. They could trade for Young, which would be a good fit. I’d like to see them trade for a corner outfielder with more pop and acquire a cheap all-glove CF (Bourjos) and move Prado to 3rd.

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    • Clifford says:

      Pretty sure Fredi G has already come out and said that Juan Francisco will be given every chance to win the 3B job next year. I also disagree with your assesment that Young would be a good fit in Atlanta. With Bourn gone, that would leave Young, Simmons, or Prado to hit leadoff. I just dont think Young can hit leadoff with his poor OBP and how much he strikes out. Simmons profiles more as a #2 or #7 hitter IMO, but the issue would be that Prado does as well. I think Bourjos would be a much better fit for them than Young, although I suspect he would cost significantly more.

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    • wily mo says:

      yeah, if you mean bourjos is cheaper in terms of what the braves would have to give up in a trade for him vs. a trade for young i’m really not sure that’s true at all, i think they might be similar or bourjos might even take more talent to get considering their relative contract/team control $$ situations

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  2. Phightin21 says:

    Phillies really need a centerfielder. I hope they have a shot at Michael Bourn but I think the free agent market will boost his contractmoney to high. I don’t know who else needs a CF but I don’t really think the Phillies could use Young. Because they need Bats rather than Defense and any injuryrisk is enough for a team that has enough veterans on the DL every year to avoid signing someone like Young, especially trading for him.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      As an FYI — since 2010, Young has a .336 wOBA and 103 wRC+. Bourn has a .320 wOBA and 99 wRC+. Bourn is a better baserunner, but their ‘bats’ are closer than you think, and aside from baserunning it actually favors Young quite a bit.

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      • BenH says:

        I’d like to see how they compare before Bourn’s epic slump this year.

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      • pdowdy83 says:

        BenH, Young had a big slump too for an extended period of time this year so if you remove Bourn’s slump you would also have to remove Young’s slump. I don’t see the point in removing either slump since they both happened.

        If you are a team and you are looking at a player like Nate McLouth do you remove his 2 year slump and just go with his good season and the last part of this year as an evaluation?

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    • jcxy says:

      Do you think Bourjos is higher risk/higher reward than Young? He’s someone who has demonstrated less ability with the bat at the ML level, but is also sublime defensively and less expensive from a contract perspective (although that difference is more acutely seen in the cost of acquistion, I’d guess).

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  3. Spike says:

    if Young has a “team friendly” contract then why would the Snakes have to eat any of it in order to move him?

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  4. Spike says:

    I kinda feel like Kubel prob has more value at just $7.5M per for the next 2 yrs and being the rare power bat who could be acquired by trade. It wouldn’t be a total shock if the Marlins traded Reyes to the Snakes if they were willing to include another of the prized arms like Skaggs. Maybe Skaggs and Kubel and Owings…

    Seems like OF of Upton, Young and Parra would work well.

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  5. Preston says:

    I think the D backs will test the water on all of their OFers except Eaton (cheapest longest controlled). I think Upton to the Rangers for Andrus seems like a perfect fit, the Dbacks get an elite young major league player at a position of need, the Rangers replace Josh Hamilton and make room for Profar. Although this is the kind of trade that never happens. Chris Young would be a good fit for a lot of teams. The Yankees, Rangers, Braves and Nationals, Mariners, Red Sox, and maybe the Reds (depending on weather they actually move Billy Hamilton to CF). Plus I’m sure other teams will make off-season moves that would create an opening for Young. He might not have the same value as Upton, but they would definitely be able to maximize his value because of demand, while the high asking price for Upton means they’d probably have fewer suitors and would only get cents on the dollar of what they really think he’s worth.

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    • jwise224 says:

      I’ve been advocating the Upton-Andrus swap for a while but like you said, that’s the kind of deal that rarely materializes. A healthy Chris Young should net the team something useful. What can they expect in return for Young? A couple B-level guys?

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      • Preston says:

        I have no idea how to gauge a players trade value. Young is a good player with two years left for 19.5, so he’s not expensive, but not cheap. Plus the D backs have said that they want major league ready players. Maybe like a Tyler Pastornicky from the Braves or Eduardo Nunez from the Yankees plus a 5th starter/bullpen type arm? That’s probably not enough, but I don’t see them getting a top big league ready prospect.

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      • wily mo says:

        pastornicky plus a pen arm is pretty much nothing. guys like young usually seem to wind up getting traded for a couple of middle-minors pitchers with big fastballs but unclear overall projections. everybody has some of those, everybody always wants more

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      • Preston says:

        Well I was inclined to agree with your assesment of Young’s value at the time. I said in my post that I was probably undervaluing what they Dbacks could get for Young. But I’ve got to say I’d rather have Eduardo Nunez and David Phelps, or Tyler Pastornicky and one of the myriad of pitchers the Braves have the Cliff Pennington and Heath Bell. God what a terrible trade. People just keep gifting really good OFers to Billy Beane and he has so many he has no idea what to do with all of them.

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  6. st says:

    seems like a major basis for this article is that “the team is likely to retain Upton.” I’m not so sure of that. If they trade upton, do they still move Young?

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  7. Jonathan says:

    Chris young = Drew Stubbs. Great defense, little offense.

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    • Preston says:

      Chris Young walks more, strikes out way less and hits for more power, while having comparable defense and baserunning. Not to mention that he is coming off of a year where he doubled Stubbs WAR while playing in 34 fewer games. The comparison isn’t a good one.

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  8. philosofool says:

    Why would the D-Backs move the good player, Young, instead of the mediocre one, Kubel? Young is worth something like $10m in surplus value (2 WAR greater than this salary) while Kubel is worth something like $4m. Is it just the health issue?

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    • Preston says:

      No it’s also about who will bring back more in a return. I doubt they could get much in a trade for Kubel, if a team really wanted him they would have gone after him last season.

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      • Spike says:

        I don’t think that’s true at all. The number of players who become available that can hit 25-30 HRs and get paid just $7.5M per is pretty small and it happens rarely.

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  9. wily mo says:

    i’m a long-time chris young fantasy owner so i’m biased towards him, but i really think he has the potential to be a better hitter than people usually act like. he started out on fire last year after spending the entire winter working on his hitting approach, and it went on long enough to where around mid april he started getting “whoa check out the breakout” writeups. then the next day he crashed into the wall and messed up his shoulder ligaments. he came back but never really got going the rest of the year. it’s hard to know exactly how much of that was because of health but messed up shoulders are bad and the injury didn’t sound like the kind of thing that just goes away in a month – even the day it happened i was pretty much like “well dammit. there goes the season.”

    he’s streaky and injury prone but he has a LOT of power when he’s going good and he seems to be a smart player with the ability to make adjustments.

    anyway just hyping my boy. carry on

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  10. Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown says:

    It seems like the Indians would be a very good trade partner here. Asdrubal Cabrera has a team friendly contract that runs through 2014. Arizona needs a shortstop. Cleveland needs an outfielder and may need two if they decide to trade Choo. The Indians could also use some young arms. I could see something happening between Cleveland and Arizona.

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    • Spike says:

      who would play SS for the Tribe?

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      • Paul says:

        Not to mention that Cabrera for Young is a horrible, horrible deal for the Indians.

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      • Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown says:

        Not saying it would be Asdrubal for Young straight up as that would be horrible. Arizona would have to include some young pitching to get it done. I suppose the Indians would have to find a stop gap at short until Lindor is ready in 2015 at the earliest. In any event, it is just my thought and probably won’t happen.

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      • Spike says:

        Mordy:
        Instinctually I thought the Tribe should build around their one good player – Asdrubal Cabrera – but they are going nowhere and so given that, maybe they do a big trade with him, but there’s no way the centerpiece of an Asdrubal deal would be Chris Young… maybe Cy Young…

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  11. El Vigilante says:

    Calling Chris Young a 4.5WAR player over the next two years is beyond generous.

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    • Mcneildon says:

      Why? He posted 4.6 WAR in ’10 and ’11 and then posted 2.8 WAR in 101 games last year and he’s under 30. Injuries? I don’t get it.

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      • El Vigilante says:

        You’re telling me that he is a true talent 4.5WAR player that will stay healthy both years? That is a super lofty projection.

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      • El Vigilante says:

        If his highest WAR is 4.6 you should assume that those years were full of luck, and that he will regress. He may in fact get even luckier for one of those years (or both). It is not impossible, but rather unlikely, not a bet I would take.

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      • pdowdy83 says:

        You aren’t making any sense Vigilante. Young has been playing at a 4.6 WAR/season pace for 3 straight years as the article stated. Even if he only performs at a 3.5 WAR level the contract is still pretty good. Especially if the Dbacks are willing to pay a bit of it.

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      • El Vigilante says:

        “Even if he plays at a 3.5 WAR pace …”
        My only argument was projected him as a 4.5WAR player.

        Based on regression, aging curves, and randomness, projecting Chris Young to continue performing at what appears to be his peak is simply incorrect. How am I not making sense exactly.

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      • Eric Seidman says:

        Projecting him to produce 4.5 WAR moving forward certainly isn’t 100% accurate. That was just me using fewer words to get the point across that this is a very good player who is likely to outproduce his contract. Thinking him capable of producing 4.5 WAR next year and beyond is reasonable — not everyone follows projections, but no, projecting him at 4.5 WAR isn’t accurate. I think you guys are arguing different things.

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      • El Vigilante says:

        Eric, I appreciate your response, and I can understand what you were attempting. However, I still find the sentence to be misleading in the least. That some people do not follow projections should not be an excuse. I believe that concepts behind projections are integral to the type of analysis FanGraphs attempts to spread. I apologize if this seems like nitpicking, but you even seem to admit that the core idea could have been expressed differently.

        Thinking of him producing 2WAR next year and beyond is also reasonable. Baseball is full of randomness.

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  12. Hunter says:

    “Kubel is a strong hitter who can’t run or field”
    Do you even watch the Diamondbacks, or baseball for that matter?

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      No — you’re right. The guy with the career -14.1 UZR/150, who has never posted a positive UZR in his career, who has averaged ~3 runs below average on the basepaths the last four seasons is a terrific baserunner and fielder. Kubel has no range and is leadfooted. He has power at the major league level. That’s it. It has some value, but he cannot run or field.

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  13. Paul says:

    Young’s profile is tailor made for a deal to a bottom feeder with money to spend and looking to steal a few headlines to boost season ticket sales from the suckers. Can you say Kansas City Royals? They are making a lot of noise about wanted to hit for more power, which is why they fired Kevin Seitzer. Acquiring Young would complete the circle of hate on Seitz since the D’backs unceremoniously dumped him shortly after players like Young realized he really did want them to be singles hitters. The Royals landing him would fit the “more power” narrative since their current CFer are suck and more suck. In Kansas City the narrative is all that matters. And most successful teams like the Phils are going to be in the market for a guy who is not such a risk coming off a bad year. He’s probably not quite ready yet, and may not be a SS, but I’d think the D’backs would have to listen if offered Christian Colon.

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    • Dirck says:

      Trading for another outfielder to further block their best prospect ,Wil Myers ,especially when Cain showed some flashes of quality in CF before he got hurt and the SCREAMING need of KC is starting pitching doesn’t sound like intelligent roster management ,which is probably why Moore will do it .

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  14. Jarom says:

    The Astros should trade for CY. He is from Houston and always kills the ball there. (look at the stats)

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