What we talk about when we talk about Michael Young

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Barring him hitting the World Series-winning home run or something, this is the last thing I’m writing about Michael Young for a while. And really, I’m not even writing anything about Young himself here.

I’m mostly just quoting Gregg Doyel, because even though I believe that he and I are on different sides of the dividing line he describes when it comes to Michael Young, he’s pretty much right on the money in describing the existence of the dividing line:

Young’s role, for lack of a better word, in the evolution of the game’s coverage. His place in the conversation between the two camps of baseball media: old vs. new, mainstream vs. sabermetrics. Michael Young isn’t just straddling the fault line. He is the fault line … So Young is that guy, an offensive version of the Felix Hernandez vs. CC Sabathia debate for the 2010 Cy Young. And writers on both sides are waging their own war, on Twitter and in blog posts. It’s a little unseemly, to be honest, the way both sides are using Michael Young the way an angry divorcing couple uses their only child to get at each other.

I don’t agree that there’s spite here — I feel what I feel about Michael Young and the world in which he inhabits rather genuinely and — even if you choose to disbelieve me — without malice towards him personally.  And I believe those who rave about Young approach it the same way. They’re not trying to simply make a political point nor are they showing him disingenuous love.

But I do agree that this stuff is way less about Young himself than it is about competing philosophies, both about how to value a player and how to decide what we think of players off the field, their intangibles, etc. Young is a proxy. He’s a Rorschach test. While no one thinks he isn’t a good player, he does things well that a certain sort of person values more highly than another sort of person.  Same goes for some of the sabermetric darlings of the past.  Dwight Evans should be in the Hall of Fame but isn’t and Jim Rice is but shouldn’t be precisely because of that appreciation deficit.

I think there will always be players that live on those battle lines. And to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Life is boring when everyone agrees on stuff like this.

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.