Dirty little secret: Michael Young simply isn’t all that great

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All the drama between the Rangers and Michael Young is receiving an incredible amount of attention, but lost in the never-ending speculation about where he’ll wind up is that … well, Young just isn’t that great.

Texas made the mistake of giving Young a five-year contract that pays him like a superstar and six straight All-Star appearances–including the game-winning hit off Trevor Hoffman in 2006–makes him a household name for the average fan. Beyond that, Young’s skill set and home ballpark both lend themselves to a hitter being overrated.

Last night on Twitter fans from just about every team were thinking up ways to acquire Young and most of them didn’t seem to realize that the Rangers are essentially just trying to dump as much of the $48 million he’s owed during the next three seasons as possible. There’s no need for any team to actually send the Rangers anything of significant value in return and there’s no reason for any team to take on more than, say, half of that contract.

Batting averages, Gold Gloves, and leadership come up over and over again whenever someone makes the case for acquiring Young, but those things are all problematic in terms of evaluating his current status. For instance, Young has a .300 career batting average with five 200-hit seasons, which is obviously impressive. However, it’s a pretty empty .300, as Young has never hit 25 homers or drawn 60 walks in a season. Among all the hitters with at least 2,000 plate appearances since 2000 his .795 OPS ranks 97th. And even that overstates his production, because Young has benefited tremendously from Texas’ hitter-friendly ballpark.

He’s hit .279 with a .322 on-base percentage and .411 slugging percentage on the road during his career for a measly .733 OPS, including a .679 OPS away from home in 2010. Adjusted OPS+ takes ballparks into account and Young’s career mark is 105, which is just slightly better than the average of 100 and ranks second-lowest among all hitters with a .300 batting average and 5,000 plate appearances since the mound was lowered in 1969. His batting averages and hit totals look great, but his overall production is mediocre and has been boosted significantly by a hitter-friendly ballpark.

As for the Gold Glove, those should have stopped meaning anything to anyone sometime between Rafael Palmeiro winning in 1999 despite playing 135 games at designated hitter and Derek Jeter having more than all but four shortstops in baseball history. Texas was thrilled to make room for Elvis Andrus in 2009 by moving Young to third base and signed Adrian Beltre this offseason in large part because Young’s defense at third base was sub par. Ultimate Zone Rating pegged Young as 10.2 runs below average per 150 games at shortstop and 7.5 runs below average per 150 games at third base. The notion that he’s above average, let alone an elite defender, is driven entirely by an incredibly flawed award that he didn’t deserve to begin with.

Young’s “leadership” is obviously impossible to quantify like his hitting and defense, but it’s worth noting that prior to the Rangers’ run to the World Series last season Young had the third-most games of any active player without reaching the playoffs. That’s not his fault, of course, but it does speak to the idea that his “leadership” can somehow cause a team to out-perform their talent. Maybe it did last season, but a) the Rangers clearly aren’t too worried about losing it, and b) even with his leadership Texas has had just three winning seasons in his 11 years with the team.

Don’t let the shiny batting averages, undeserved Gold Glove award, and oft-touted leadership abilities fool you: Young is a 34-year-old mediocre hitter and poor defender being paid like a superstar through 2013. There’s a reason the Rangers signed Beltre to replace him at third base, there’s a reason they’ve been trying to unload him all offseason, and there’s a reason other teams aren’t exactly lining up to take on his contract.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.