Since the departure of Alex Rodriguez from Texas, Michael Young has almost certainly been the face of the franchise for the Rangers. And given the presence of some high profile stars in Arlington over the years like Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, the aforementioned A-Rod, and Mark Teixeira, that is saying something. That makes it somewhat perplexing that they've been so eager to get his name out on the trade market this winter. Still, with Ian Kinsler at second, Elvis Andrus at short, and Adrian Beltre slated to play third base, Young has no role with the Rangers and wants out, and understandably so. The Rangers can't afford to keep a $16 million utility infielder, and Young doesn't want to DH. Even though
Since his ascent to a starting role for the Rangers in 2002, Young has put up a career .300/.347/.448 line, .795 OPS, 158 home runs, and 811 RBI. From 2004 to 2009, Young put together a run of six consecutive seasons as an All-Star, winning a Gold Glove along the way. Although he's never been a particularly well-rounded defensive player, Young has the reputation as a good defensive player, and to some that's all that matters. Just ask Orlando Hudson.
Young's been slightly deteriorating as a player, though it may not be immediately prevalent to those looking at his stats. He has regained his power that he displayed in 2004 and 2005, as Young hit 20+ home runs in back to back seasons in 2009 and 2010 for the first time since '04 and '05. This increased production may have come at the expense of batting average and on-base percentage, however. In 2010, Young hit .284/.330, not bad, but below his career averages of .300/.347. For Young, these were the second lowest batting averages and on-base percentages of his career, behind his .262/.308 line from 2002.
Additionally, Young's 2010 OPS of .774 marked the third worst of his career, and because of the up-and-down nature of his offensive production, it is truly hard to tell how much of his 2010 is owed to decline associated with age, and how much of it could have just been a down year. For instance, let's look at Young's 2009, and then his 2010.
In '09, Young had one of his best seasons ever, batting .322/.374/.518, with 22 home runs and 68 RBI in 135 games. His season was shortened because of injuries, but had he played a full season it was likely that he would have hit more than 25 home runs and drove in close to 80 or 90 runs. Young followed up this season in 2010 by hitting .284/.330/.444 with 21 home runs and 91 RBI. Although he finished with similar power numbers, Young's peripherals indicate he took a clear step backward.
It is important to keep in mind that while we don't know for sure how much of that step backward was age-related decline, we do know that he's 34, and while his production has remained steady over the years, players of Young's age do not get better, and in fact, it gets harder and harder each year for players in their mid-30's to even maintain production, so it would not surprise anyone if Young were to take another step back in his production in 2011.
Compounding the undesirable age Young has reached, the infielder is signed to such a large contract that mostly every team involved in potential trades will find it undesirable. Young is entering the third season of a five-year, $80 million contract he signed prior to the 2009 season, and is due $16 million in each of the next three years, his age 34-36 seasons.
The two teams that make for the most intriguing destinations are Colorado and Minnesota. However, because of Young's terrible contract, the Rangers are not going to find it easy to find a trade partner without taking a bad contract in return, and with the Rockies and Twins bogged down under record-high payrolls with huge extensions handed out to Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Joe Mauer, neither team is likely to be willing to take on Young's salary.
On the other hand, neither team really has an equally terrible contract to give to Texas in such a trade, meaning that the Rangers will either need to eat salary or that the team acquiring Young will have to be willing to take on money, which is very unlikely. The only really overpaid player on the Twins is arguably Michael Cuddyer, who is due $10.5 million next season, but giving up Cuddyer would mean adding an extra $5.5 million to the payroll for a player who really doesn't represent an upgrade over Cuddyer, while opening up a hole in right field as well. Cuddyer and Young are similar offensive players, but Cuddyer's added value to the Twins would be his smaller salary and his ability to play a serviceable right field. Trading Cuddyer would make the 2011 Twins more expensive without making them any better, which means the Twins are probably not going to put much effort into acquiring Young.
The Rangers have had sustained talks with the Rockies about trading Young, although it is unclear what exactly the Rockies would give up in order to acquire the third baseman. Jose Lopez has been the most rumored player to be involved on Colorado's side of the deal, but reports have indicated that the Rockies don't even want to give up Aaron Cook, who would probably constitute the worst contract on the Rockies' payroll. Cook will make $20.25 million over the next two seasons, and if they gave him up in a trade they might not even need the Rangers to send cash as part of the deal. The most recent rumors have reported the Rockies as saying they need the Rangers to eat at least $20 million of the remaining $48 million on Young's contract.
While there are other teams the Rangers could look to trade with, Minnesota and Colorado seem to be the most likely destinations, as they are both on the very short list of teams Young would accept a trade to. The other six teams not blocked by Young's no-trade clause are the Yankees, Cardinals, Angels, Astros, Dodgers, and Padres. Young has not indicated an interest in expanding this list, so this may be all Rangers GM Jon Daniels has to work with.
There is no way the Dodgers, Cardinals, or Padres could fit Young's contract into their current budget constraints, and while the Yankees could stand to benefit through adding Young, it would leave Young in the same role he's in now: either as a "super utility" infielder who is used as a backup at all the infield positions, or as a DH. Both are roles that Young has no interest in playing, which basically takes the Yankees out of the equation. Even after adding the albatross of Vernon Wells' contract, the Angels seem to have the financial flexibility and the need to add a player who can produce like Michael Young (they did miss out on Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, both of which whom the Angels sought to add), but because they are inside the division the Rangers don't seem to be interested in making a deal happen.
A trade to the Astros for outfielder Carlos Lee has been rumored, but because the Astros have been in a rebuilding and salary-dump phase in recent seasons, such a trade doesn't seem likely, even if it would mean ridding them of Carlos Lee.
After giving consideration to everything, it doesn't seem like the Rangers will be able to work out a trade with Young in the immediate future, but it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out at the trade deadline, where these rumors should inevitably resurface. In the meantime, however, do not count on Michael Young in your fantasy baseball league to be a starting player and adjust your draft valuation of him accordingly. In the foreseeable future, it only looks like Young will be stuck with the Rangers without a defined role in an increasingly rocky relationship.