Chris Young

Chris Young Makes Sense, Why Are You Mad?

The Red Sox reportedly did a Hot Stove thing on Monday, inking outfielder Chris Young to a two-year deal for an eminently reasonable $13 million. 

This makes sense. The Red Sox only have three regular outfielders on their roster, two of them are unproven and Boston’s best bench assets, Brock Holt and Travis Shaw, are left-handed. Young provides right-handed power, a capable glove in all three outfield spots  and didn’t come at great cost. Is it the most exciting move the Red Sox are going to make this post-Kimbrel offseason? Let’s hope not. Was a backup outfielder their *most* pressing need? No. But this move seems solid enough and has added depth at a position at which the Red Sox are deceptively thin.

Perhaps it’s the lack of major offseason movement or the pent-up anger that comes from two awful seasons or the bitter taste in the mouths of many after the Patriots’ first loss, but people are Mad Online about the Young signing. Just hop on the ol’ Twitter machine and search “Chris Young stupid” or “Chris Young why” or read the responses to Rosey’s tweet. I mean, definitely don’t do any of those things, but if you’re really bored, it’s a trip.

Are columns in which we rally against anonymous Twitter opinions terribly useful? No. Does that mean I can help myself? Also no. Here are the main “arguments” against this Chris Young signing, and here is why these arguments are dumb.

Bad Twitter Take 1: Signing Young means JBJ is out the door.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is an unproven left-handed hitting outfielder whose greatest asset is his glove. Chris Young is a right-handed hitting outfielder who’s best left in a corner but can play center. They’re pretty much perfect platoon partners, so why on earth would Young’s signing put JBJ’s spot on the roster in jeopardy?

Young is a career .263/.363/.474 hitter against southpaws. Last year, he hit .327/.397/.575 against lefties. Is he a great bet to repeat that epic slash line? Probably not, but it’s clear that he can hit left-handed pitching. Bradley Jr. is a career .230/.320/.372 hitter against lefties, and while his numbers against righties are actually worse, that line still means he shouldn’t be allowed within 10 feet of a LHP.

The Red Sox are now in a position to let Bradley prove he belongs in the majors while only worrying about right-handers, while letting Young use his pull power to punish lefties in Fenway. If Bradley totally flops, Young is a decent Plan B. If Bradley excels, Young only costs $6.5 million, and Rusney Castillo is hardly a sure thing in his own right. And how good would this defensive alignment be:

The Red Sox didn’t acquire Young to replace Bradley; they acquired him in part to make Bradley’s life easier.

Bad Twitter Take 2: Young isn’t a perfect player. What gives?

What impressed me most about the immediate reaction to the Young deal was how people simultaneously argued that the Young signing meant the Red Sox needed to trade an outfielder (usually Bradley) while pointing out that Young isn’t really good enough to start.

The latter point is probably true, at least for a first-division team. Young produced just 0.4 WARP in 356 PA last season, and has never really lived up to expectations as an all-around force save for his career year in 2010. However, Young is only one year removed from posting 1.5 WARP in 366 PA, and that type of production would make him a substantial asset for the Red Sox. If he’s deployed correctly and not relied upon as a key contributor, he’s a nice low-risk, medium-reward gamble.

Plus, there wasn’t a great market for right-handed hitting outfielders who wouldn’t need to be handed a starting spot. Marlon Byrd is 38. Rajai Davis is 35. Franklin Gutierrez is already off the market and probably already hurt. If you strongly prefer Austin Jackson or Steve Pearce or Drew Stubbs or someone, that’s fine, but let’s not pretend Young isn’t a perfectly reasonable alternative.

If you wanted Alex Gordon or Jason Heyward or Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton … I don’t know what to tell you. Young hardly precludes the Red Sox from signing one of those players, but his signing probably does indicate that such a deal isn’t likely a part of Dave Dombrowski’s plans. Which is fine, because the Red Sox really need pitching. Speaking of that …

Bad Twitter Take 3: Why sign Young when they need pitching?

This was the worst Red Sox Twitter take in the wake of the Young deal, which is like being the worst Dane Cook joke or the worst canned cranberry sauce or the worst Craig Goldstein opinion. Chris Young will cost just $6.5 million over each of the next two seasons. There is no earthly reason to expect that $6.5 million to be what holds the Red Sox back from acquiring a no. 1 starter.

Dombrowski said at various times this offseason that his main goals were to acquire a top-line starter, a right-handed backup outfielder and power arms for the bullpen. It’s December 1 and he’s at least halfway there.

I understand the Red Sox are coming up against the luxury tax. I also understand that they’ve been horrible for three of the past four seasons, have $33 million-plus (David Ortiz, Koji Uehara, Clay Buchholz) coming off the books in 2017 and have a young nucleus that allows them to go cheap at shortstop, center field, catcher and a good portion of the rotation. Yes, they’ve added about $20 million in Kimbrel and Young so far this offseason, but they still have the money to get a David Price or a Zack Greinke or a Johnny Cueto. They’ve yet to publicly declare they’ll stay under the luxury tax threshold in 2016, and given the construction of this team and last offseason’s gaffes, there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that they shouldn’t.

Let’s just appreciate that Dave Dombrowski has addressed two significant needs — bullpen and quality reserve outfielder — without giving up the type of financial flexibility or prospect depth that would inhibit him from acquiring Boston’s next front man. Kimbrel is flashy. Young isn’t. Both should help.

Dombrowski said at various times this offseason that his main goals were to acquire a top-line starter, a right-handed backup outfielder and power arms for the bullpen. It’s December 1 and he’s at least halfway there.

Cut him some slack, or at least save your anger for when he gives $200 million to a starter.

Photo by Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images

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3 comments on “Chris Young Makes Sense, Why Are You Mad?”

Walt in Maryland

I like the signing, and don’t disagree with anything you’re saying.

But. . . in recommending a Bradley/Young platoon, you listed Young’s career splits vs. lefties (modest) AND his 2015 splits (dominant).

You didn’t do the same for Bradley, and it matters. While his career numbers do suggest, as you say, that he “shouldn’t be allowed within 10 feet of a LHP,” his 2015 numbers against lefties were very good: .306/.390/.528.

I doubt we’ll see a straight platoon, but Young is a very useful player. He also serves as a good backup to the far-from-established Castillo.

Ben Carsley

A career platoon line of .263/.363/.474 isn’t modest. That’s a wRC+ of 122. It’s well above average.

Young was better in 180 PA against lefties than Bradley was in 83 PA vs. LHP last year.

Young has 1100 PA against lefties for his career. Bradley has 260.


Ben, I think you might have missed the point of the Chris Young signing. We stuck it to the Yankees! We finally relieved a ballplayer of his pinstripes! Forget Johnny Damon, never mind Jacoby Ellsbury, the heck with Wade Boggs, Sparky Lyle and all the rest! We signed Chris Young away from the Yankees!

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