Michael Young bats

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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.