Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Delightful Departure of Delmon Young

By The Common Man

Around 2:00 yesterday afternoon, The Common Man suddenly felt about 200 lbs. lighter, like a gigantic weight had been lifted off his shoulders. That weight, Delmon Young, was traded by the Twins to the division rival Detroit Tigers for a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later. Who are these mysterious young men? Literally, it doesn’t matter.  As TCM wrote in July, he'd have welcomed a bucket of balls in return for jettisoning Delmon.

Ok, maybe it does a little bit. The one player we know the Twins got, Cole Nelson, is a Minnesota native and, according to Kevin Goldstein, should only be viewed as a reliever going forward, due to his lack of a second plus pitch. He’s probably not anyone to keep a close eye on going forward. (Update: the Twins are reporting that the second player they've acquired is 23 year old reliever Lester Oliveros, who Kevin Goldstein describes as a "Smallish right-hander...[who] has two plus pitches...and some think he could get to Detroit as early as this year if he throws more strikes."  TCM's reaction? Mmm...strikeouts.  This trade keeps looking better.)

But that’s fine. The trade of Delmon Young is the quintissential “Great trade! Who’d we get?” deal, given that Delmon is a bad player who costs his team runs on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Unloading him is addition by subtraction, allowing the Twins to give Ben Revere the playing time he needs, at a position where he can succeed, to develop into a valuable regular for 2012, 2013, and beyond. It also removes the temptation to keep Delmon around this offseason (though he was obviously a non-tender candidate), removing one obstacle to potentially keeping either Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel around. The Twins simply had too many playable outfielders, and moving Young allows them to jettison the worst of them and to not have to pay the remainder of his contract.

And make no mistake, Delmon Young is bad at playing baseball. Aside from a 46-game stretch in 2010, Young hit .276/.314/.407 as a corner outfielder for the Twins. He was worth 1.4 Wins Above Replacement according to rWAR, and 0.9 according to fWAR across almost four seasons. That’s less valuable than Jose Tabata, Scott Podsednik, Fred Lewis, Pat Burrell, Juan Pierre, and Sam Fuld. To put that in greater context, Ben Revere, ostensibly Young’s replacement, has been worth 0.6 WAR this season already despite having an OBP south of .300.

Young’s departure will especially help Twins pitchers, who are fly-ball oriented and have had to contend with Delmon stumbling around leftfield like a drunk after a ride on the tilt-a-whirl for four years. This sleeker, more aerodynamic outfield alignment will help reduce hits to the outfield, shortening innings and lengthening outings, allowing the Twins to put less pressure on the weak bullpen.

Finally, this sends a strong message that the Twins are finally realistic about their chances in 2011. While it would have been better for them to have come to this conclusion three weeks ago, there may still be opportunities this August for the team to improve itself over the longterm by shedding additional veterans. And while it would have been better to have traded Young at his obvious high-water mark this past offseason, it's somewhat understandable that a team that had just won 95 games didn't want to unload one of the players widely believed to have made that run possible.  And besides, it's too late to fix that mistake.  Better to send him off while getting something back, and be glad about it.

Despite Young’s obvious limitations, amazingly, this trade will help the Tigers. Regardless of is lackluster play, Young is a much better option at this point than Magglio Ordonez (.228/.283/.299), who appears to be done. As the Tigers struggle to hold off the Indians, Young at least gives them a replacement level leftfielder, with the potential for some upside. Honestly, the best case scenario for the Twins probably involves Delmon playing well enough down the stretch for the Tigers to tender him an offer in 2012, and reverting back to his usual level. If nothing else, The Common Man has faith in Delmon to revert back to his usual (replacement) level. He always does.

Now, if you'll excuse The Common Man, he's ready to do his happy dance again:

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