Earlier this week, Ruben Amaro, Jr. and the rest of the Phillies brass decided to accelerate the franchise’s plans and [finally] enter the fray that is off-season baseball. In two strokes of his paintbrush, Amaro sought to address the team’s black holes at third-base and center field. First, the Phillies shipped starting pitcher Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins for CF Ben Revere. Later, RAJ sent reliever Josh Lindblom and low-level pitching prospect Lisalverto Bonilla to the Texas Rangers in exchange for (former) third-baseman Michael Young. Although neither move can be characterized as a “splash,” both were solid [read: cheap] upgrades for the Phightins in positions of need. Many will note that Young’s best days are [far] behind him. Young has not been an every day third-baseman for nearly two seasons, has limited range defensively, and has seen a steady drop-off in offensive production. In sum: a player in offensive decline; a defensive liability; and an injury concern. While each is a fair criticism [and many that I personally subscribe to as well], even in the aggregate they fail to outweigh the benefits that flow from this move.
Since RAJ has ascended to the position of General Manager, the Phillies have taken on significant payroll [Lee, Halladay, Hamels, Papelbon, Howard] that has hamstrung any pursuit of “top-name” free agents in light of a self-imposed salary ceiling. Heading into the 2012 offseason, the Phillies faced a daunting task with glaring weaknesses at 3B, CF, LF, and RF and a large percentage of the self-imposed salary cap already committed to only a handful of players. This week, Amaro began to redress this dilemma with the acquisitions of Revere and Young.
Revere represents a raw, young talent who will be cost-controlled for the next several seasons. Young serves as a proven veteran right-handed bat capable of filling a position of need both in the field and in the lineup [3B, 2-hole]. Moreover, Young brings a balanced approach to the plate this lineup has struggled to find since Jayson Werth departed for Washington, D.C. after the 2010 season. While Young will no longer put up the impressive statistics that made him a perennial All-Star earlier in his career, nonetheless his presence in the lineup should have an immediate [positive] impact. Inserting Young into this lineup permits Charlie Manuel to keep Chase Utley third in the batting order [something Manuel has insisted upon during his time as Phillies skipper]. As such, a top-of-the-order featuring Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard [if healthy] should suffice in the NL East barring injury and assuming the rotation returns to its 2011 performance.
Although Young will likely be a positive addition to the lineup [certainly better than the 2012 version of Placido Polanco], the benefits of this move must be assessed beyond the diamond. Given the dearth of talent at the position in the free agent market, the trade for Young likely marked the best move available to Amaro to address the immediate need at third base. Rather than overpay for a free-agent [see: Youkilis, Kevin] to play the hot corner, Amaro sought a trading partner to fill the 3B void. The trade required neither an exchange of significant personnel [Lindblom was acquired for Shane Victorino from the Dodgers] nor a hefty sum [Texas will be paying the vast majority of Young’s 16 million dollar salary]. As a result, this move provides much needed flexibility for Amaro to address the pressing concern of corner outfield power-bat.
In this way, a complete evaluation of the Michael Young trade is improper until the Phillies’ off-season plans have been fully realized. Should the moves for Revere and Young be the only “improvements” to an otherwise underperforming line-up, this off-season will almost certainly be viewed as a failure next September. However, should these trades provide Amaro the needed salary flexibility to sign a marquee outfielder – it is likely that these moves will be treated as an act of genius rather than desperation.Tags: Ben Revere, Charlie Manuel, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins, Josh Lindblom, Kevin Youkilis, Linsalverto Bonilla, Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies, Placido Polanco, Ruben Amaro, Ryan Howard