Evan Grant’s defense of Michael Young: he’s a leader and is just like Paul Molitor

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Our banned friend Halladay’s Bicepts — we talk on Twitter, and if you miss him, give him a follow — alerted me to the fact that Michael Young’s staunchest defender in the press, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, was on WIP in Philly with my friend Angelo Cataldi this morning.  The purpose: to tell Phillies fans exactly what they can expect from their starting third baseman. The audio is embedded below. Or, if you prefer, you can listen to it at WIP.

I’ll give Grant this much credit: he was straight about the fact that Young’s range is toast and that, while Young may look good defensively out there because he handles the balls he can get to and has a decent arm, a lot of balls are going to get by him. Beyond that, however, here was Grant’s case for Young:

  • He’s a leader;
  • He’s motivated;
  • He’ll probably hit .300 again;
  • He’s a leader;
  • He’s a leader;
  • He wants to get 3,000 hits and make the Hall of Fame;
  • He’s a leader.

Really: listen to the interview. I think I actually understated the leadership stuff. According to Grant, Young is the Napoli Whisperer.

Grant went on to note that Michael Young has often been compared to Paul Molitor and that, like Molitor, Young was traded for the first time after his age-35 season. I have heard such comparisons. And there is a decent basis for them inasmuch as Young, like Molitor, played a lot of positions, hit .300 and slugged .444 through age 35.  Now, to be fair, Molitor got on base more, stole 412 bases to Young’s 89 and did all of that in a much worse offensive environment than Young’s, so Molitor was clearly the better player by the time he reached 35 than Young is, but I can see it as a rough comp if we’re talking about what they’ve done up to this point.

But the real issue: after the age of 35, Paul Molitor played six more seasons. And in those six seasons, he did this:  .313/.374/.457. And he hit 74 homers, drove in over 500 runs, stole 92 bases and averaged 138 games and 621 plate appearances a year.  It was damn nigh supernatural production for a guy Molitor’s age, even with the DH at his disposal. NO ONE does that. Indeed, a huge part of Molitor’s Hall of Fame bonafides are attributable to him transforming from an injury prone guy to a freaking machine who produced in his late 30s and early 40s like most All-Stars produce in their prime.

We can’t expect that of Michael Young. We can’t expect that of anybody. To throw out a Paul Molitor comparison in an interview about a guy’s future performance is pretty freakin’ out there. It’s this sort of thing that is why Grant is accused of being totally in he bag when it comes to Michael Young.

And the funny thing about it: this actually does Young a disservice. Because Grant’s comp to Molitor, without noting how unlikely that kind of thing is, is going to set Young up for criticism from certain quarters, even if Young is better than we expect him to be.

Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp in five-player trade with Braves

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The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.

Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.

Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.