It's been a winter full of unpleasant surprises for Michael Young, and the player who was once the face and cornerstone of the Texas Rangers may be in for one more. Although it's clear now that he badly wants off the only team he has ever known, several people familiar with the situation said they still believe there's a decent chance the six-time All-Star will be with the Rangers when their spring training camp opens in, appropriately, Surprise, Ariz.
The Rangers are talking to multiple teams about a trade for Young, all from his list of eight clubs to which he can be sent without his consent. While it's too early to say for sure whether a deal will happen, one executive with an interested team says, flat out, "I still don't think they will trade him.''
The Rangers say they are trying to make a deal for Young but also say they will not do it merely to satisfy his trade request and are determined not to weaken their defending American League champion team. Young's uncharacteristically incendiary rhetoric to a few media outlets, including the
The $48 million remaining over the last three years on Young's hefty $80 million contract is impediment enough. But now the Rangers are probably out of viable offensive alternatives to Young, which really hurts his chances to be dealt.
Had Young made his trade request and disdain for the organization's winter dealings known earlier, perhaps there would have been ample time for Texas to sign a proven DH such as Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez or Vladimir Guerrero, all of whom are now off the market. Of course, there's still no certainty the Rangers would have wanted to deal Young anyway, because as Rangers president Nolan Ryan said on a conference call the other day, he was "excited'' not only about Young DHing but about providing capable backup play at every infield position.
Helping Young's goal to be traded is that at least a couple of the teams on his list of clubs to which he can be dealt without consent -- the Rockies and Angels -- look like potential matches. The others listed are the Dodgers, Cardinals. Blue Jays, Twins, Yankees and Padres, according to mlb.com. His resolve to leave means he might well expand the list to consider others. GM Jon Daniels said it would be "cleanest'' if they could make a deal with one of those eight, and for now, the Rangers seem to be limiting talks to those clubs, though they will accept calls from other interested teams.
The Rockies love Young and have shown the most interest to date. But the Angels still don't have a great option at third base after losing out to Texas for star free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and have shown a greater willingness to take on bloated contracts (i.e. Vernon Wells) than to sign free agents. Young would be an upgrade for the Dodgers, too, and they've been surprisingly active this winter, though it's hard to imagine they have that kind of cash left in their budget.
Logic suggests, though, that the Rangers would have to eat $20 million or more to trade Young. That's not something Texas is likely anxious to do, either.
When the Rangers first explored the possibility of signing Beltre, Young suggested to the team at the winter meetings that he didn't want to be a designated hitter, but when Texas eventually did land Beltre, Young said he was OK with his move to DH. He later reversed course again, which Ryan, on the conference call, chalked up to a "change of heart.''
Young disagreed with that characterization, telling the
Regarding Daniels, Young added, "I know the truth, and Jon Daniels knows the truth and I will sleep well.'' Young didn't elaborate on what he meant by that claim, and while his reputation is so exemplary that a rare display of unhappiness won't spoil it, this sort of hit-and-run verbiage is unbecoming, even if it is an isolated case.
Young's rhetoric won't discourage other teams for showing interest as his reputation for team play is well-established. He's already changed positions twice before in his career to accommodate the team, from second base to shortstop and then from second to third. Besides, many folks actually sympathize with Young. One competing executive opined about the Rangers and Young, "They've messed with him for two to three years, and much more so this offseason.''
Indeed, this is the second time within two years Young has sought a trade. He made the same trade request in 2009, when he was pushed from shortstop to third base to make room for the Rangers' superb young defensive shortstop Elvis Andrus, a decision that has worked wonders for the team.
Young's positional movement began in 2004 when he volunteered to move to shortstop after the team acquired second baseman Alfonso Soriano from the Yankees in the Alex Rodriguez trade. But the subsequent moves might be seen as demotions to him, and it is indeed unusual to see a player of his caliber moved so much.
Young's comment about being "misled'' seems borne out of the frustration from being shuffled around so frequently. While he didn't explain why he feels that way, ESPN suggested an issue is that he thinks the Rangers told him they weren't shopping him at the winter meetings in December when in fact they were. It's likely that Young's feelings are hurt, and if that's the case, it's not hard to see why.
If Young is surprised that the Rangers committed $80 million for five years to Beltre (and possibly $96 million for six) when Young filled the third base job adequately the past two years, he isn't alone. "It would have been easier for them to sign Guerrero or Thome and keep Young at third base,'' one NL executive opined. "Young's the guy in that clubhouse. He's the leader. Beltre wasn't worth it.''
"He isn't an asset at third, but he isn't a liability either,'' said the executive who stated the Rangers had "messed with" Young. No, Young is not Gold Glove-caliber like Beltre but he is far from an embarrassment at third. The Rangers, though, view Young as adequate and Beltre as the best in the business, and his addition gives them potentially baseball's foremost defensive left side -- two great defenders, both of whom have now displaced Young.
It would be understandable if Young was taking this personally by now, especially after the strong-hitting Mike Napoli was added as yet another occasional DH option. Even if those moves are just baseball judgment it may not seem that way to him. The current plan remains to have Young play about 150 games with 100 as DH and 50 at a combination of second base, third base and first base.
The Rangers are coming off their first World Series appearance and are still favored to win the AL West but Young's unhappiness could make for an unpleasant spring. All eyes will be on the trade talks, which may or may not go nowhere.
The same now goes for Young.
• Vladimir Guerrero got exactly the $8 million salary he sought. Which was a miracle at this stage of the game. Word is, Guerrero rejected an $8.5 million offer from Texas before Christmas. But at this juncture, it seemed improbable he could approach that figure. Although this late deal was a miracle for agent Fern Cuza, Guerrero upgrades the Orioles' offense considerably. Plus, he has an even better hitting record at Camden Yards than he has at Rangers Ballpark.
• Albert Pujols and the Cardinals have only a week to make a deal before Pujols' self-imposed spring training deadline, and they appear to have a lot of work to do to get it done in such a short period of time. The reality is, if he wants to maximize his contract he's probably going to need to hit free agency. He can still do a deal with the Cardinals, of course, after becoming a free agent.
• Francisco Rodriguez is the Mets' closer, but his chances to finish the 55 games needed to vest his contract for 2012 at $17 million is nil. There's no chance they let him get there.
• Good move for the defending world champion Giants to extend manager Bruce Bochy, who did a terrific job last year, obviously.
• Veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera is talking to a couple teams. He's too good not to get a job. The Twins make sense, as do the Pirates and Brewers.
• The Indians and stud young catcher Carlos Santana received the best news possible on his injured knee when he was cleared to resume on-field activities. He is expected to be ready for a full spring training, without limitation.