Well, between all the trade rumors and the hotly-contested AL MVP race, I'm still getting email and tweets from many of you asking about Michael Young and his future in Texas.
The topic is on your minds again, perhaps because of this story written Thursday on ESPN.com by Paul Swydan at FanGraphs. You'll need an insider account to read the whole thing, but here's just the first brief part of it to give you an idea of what Swydan thinks:
The longer someone sticks in one place, the more loyalty he or she will inevitably accrue. Given that Michael Young has worn a Texas Rangers uniform for 13 years, he has built up more loyalty than most. His versatility has a lot to do with that, even if he has only been begrudgingly versatile. In his time with Texas, he has moved from second base to shortstop to third base and finally to first base and designated hitter. But even if Josh Hamilton leaves in free agency, the ascension of Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Mike Olt means there is no longer a logical place to move Young except off of Texas' roster entirely.
Swydan makes solid points in the story, discussing Young's troubles at the plate in 2012 and his WAR, a stat that is on all of our minds this week. Of the 143 position players who qualified for the batting title, Young's WAR was last, according to FanGraphs.
I get all of that. Young is 36 years old. His name is all over the Texas Rangers record books and he's played his entire career in Arlington. But he did not play up to his standards in 2012. He hit .277, but didn't show much power, hitting eight home runs, his fewest in any season in his career. He had 67 RBIs, his fewest since 2002, his rookie season. He hit into 26 ground ball double plays and the clutch hits, so often a part of his career, just weren't there consistently.
Swydan is concerned about getting time for some of the Rangers' younger players, namely Profar. Me too. I think the kid is ready. But that can be accomplished either by a trade (maybe Elvis Andrus in the right deal) or by Ian Kinsler moving positions. Kinsler said Thursday he's willing to do it if it makes the club better. Having Profar in there every day makes the club better, if you ask me.
But that can happen without shipping Young off. What it does mean is that his role will have to change. He'd still be the designated hitter and super-utility player, but he wouldn't get his 600-plus at-bats. Then again, that might depend on how he does -- or if the injury bug bites the Rangers. Derek Jeter was written off, too. We saw how he bounced back.
If Profar is on the team, Washington has to give him every opportunity to succeed. Same with Olt. And if that means, at least early on, reduced playing time and at-bats for Young, that's what has to happen. This is a new year with some new blood and Washington has to go into the season committed to giving those younger players their at-bats.
Young, of course, wants to play as often as he can. He's a competitor. And his track record suggests he can hit. But his 2012 season (combined with the players coming up and the fact that this team is competing for a championship) means he has to prove it all over again.
I say at least give the guy a chance to do that. It's the final year of his contract. If the Rangers trade him (and he'd have to agree to any deal), they'd have to pay most of that salary anyway. Once 2013 is over, if Young hasn't produced, they can look toward the future. But they'd have a veteran presence and a critical voice in the clubhouse and someone who can play all the infield positions if there's an injury or someone needs a rest day. There's some value to that. Young, too, would have to get on board with that plan. But he's a professional and has shown, through his position moves and altered roles, that he'll do what he can to help the team.
I get the frustrations with Young's season. You can bet he's frustrated too. But before you go tossing him off the team, even at a cost of nearly $16 million, why not give him a chance to see if he can return to form? The guy hit .338 in 2011 with a league-leading 213 hits, driving in 106 runs. And it sure wouldn't hurt to have his work ethic and leadership around some of those young guys, either.
Again, to read Swydan's column, click here.