Jul 30, 2013, 9:54 AM EDT
Despite the rebuild-at-all-costs strategy supported, implicitly or explicitly, by many Phillies fans as the 2013 trade deadline approaches, I have a great deal of ambivalence about the idea of trading Chase Utley or Cliff Lee. If you can get back an absolutely dynamite set of prospects for either, I guess you have to, but as many have reminded, we traded Cliff for young’ns once before and it didn’t work out so well, and if it’s only a similar package of B-minus/C-plus-level talent that either will return, I don’t see the point in jettisoning them just for the sake of doing so. I’d rather enjoy their remaining days as Phillies, even on a losing team, then ship them out just because “there’s no point in keeping them around.” I like both players immensely, and without there being much reward to losing them, that’s point enough for me. (Besides, as Jonah Keri recently pointed out, the team’s impending new TV deal means they have motivation to try to stay good and likeable short-term, which trading those guys would make much more difficult.)
I feel a similar, though less extreme level of conflict when it comes to many of the other Fightins rumored to be on the trading block. Jimmy Rollins certainly is getting paid a lot to do not all that much for the team at the moment, but will a diminished shortstop in his mid-30s fetch anything in return worth even the sentimental loss of the longest-tenured Phillie in decades? Same for Carlos Ruiz, currently mired in his worst offensive stretch of his Philly career (saying something, considering his first few seasons) and unlikely to be valued more by any other team than by the Phils, where he still has some residual fan-favorite status and arguably deserves the chance to hit his way out of this megaslump before entering free agency. And Jonathan Paplebon…well, he’s also paid way too much, but having a closer that only sucks sporadically (and occasionally says amusingly dumb, obnoxious things) is a nice luxury. I’d rather have him than not have him, if there’s not all that much to be gained by not having him.
But there’s two players on this team about whom I feel no such ambivalence: Michael and Delmon Young. I would gladly ship both the Young Brothers out tomorrow for a 28-year-old Double A reliever and a Bag of Peanuts to be Named Later, solely to avoid my having to watch them play another game in the Red and White.
To be fair, both Michael and Delmon Young have come basically as advertised. Michael Young is a Professional Hitter on the wrong side of 35 who can’t defend a lick and would probably come in third in a 100-yard dash against Pat Burrell and one of the “Thriller” zombies. Delmon Young is a prolific (though not old or respected enough to be Professional) hitter who doesn’t walk, certainly doesn’t run and gives up at least one hit in the field for every two he gets at the plate. These are not surprising things; we knew pretty much all of them when the two were acquired in the off-season.
What we didn’t know–what I didn’t quite know, anyway–was how unwatchable the two would be as everyday players. The reflexive wincing that would soon come with every grounder they hit, knowing there’s not a place deep enough on God’s green infield for them to have a chance of legging it out. With every time a sharp grounder was hit in Michael’s direction, or a sinking liner in Delmon’s, knowing that they were too slow and poorly coordinated to dive for them, but that they’d probably try anyway. With every time they came up with men on and one out, and you just hoped they’d strike or fly out rather than hitting into a double play. Lotta wincing, all told.
It might sound unfair to harp on both players’ lack of athleticism and poor defensive instincts when speed and defense was never considered a strength of either, and both players might not be so terrible as DHs in the American League, where they probably belong. But it’s not like either is exactly providing Miguel Cabrera production at the plate to make up for it–their slash lines are almost identically mediocre, Michael hitting .277/.342/.402 and Delmon hitting .266/.312/.402. Michael’s decent OBP–his .342 is somehow a team-high–means he’s at least a net positive on offense, but Baseball-Reference has his defense being such a negative that he’s still a sub-replacement player on the whole. (Delmon only breaks even on offense, and defense…yeah.)
Bottom line: Not only are these players miserable to watch, they’re arguably actively hurting this team’s chances to win games, thus making their dismissal an obvious priority for this trade deadline. Could we get much for either? Probably not. Could we find a team at least willing to take one of them off our hands? It’s not impossible. Some American League team looking for offensive depth could probably make use of one or both Youngs, particularly Michael, whose sort of Veteran Presence is always desired for a Veteran Playoff Push. (Supposedly M. Young gives great Clubhouse, though apparently such camaraderie building has little effect on a sub-.500 team such as the Phils.) Delmon might be a little tougher sell, but hey, he was ALCS MVP just last year. Maybe we can convince some contending team that once the calendar turns October, Delmon’s clutchiness will invariably shine through. Worth a shot, anyway.
Chase and Cliff will likely pass through the trade deadline still wearing Phillies uniforms. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmy, Chooch and Paps did so as well. And as disappointing as it may be to some or all if we pass up an obvious chance to jump-start the rebuilding process in the name of playing out the crappiest Phillies season in over a decade and trying again next year, if we could somehow get to Thursday without anyone named Young on our roster, I’d have to consider it at least a partial success. I’ll never be so happy to see Michael Martinez and Steve Sudsorf written into our everyday lineup.
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