Chris Young to Boston makes sense

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Chris Moran is a second-year law student at Washington University in St. Louis. He is also an assistant coach with the baseball team at Washington University. He graduated from Wheaton College, where he wore the tools of ignorance for the baseball team. Follow him on twitter @hangingslurves.

Chris Young is coming off a season with the Oakland Athletics where he hit just .200/.280/.379 in 375 plate appearances. He also struck out 93 times. The A’s declined his $11 million option, making him a free agent.

Despite his struggles in 2013, Young makes sense for a lot of teams, including the Boston Red Sox. If Jacoby Ellsbury departs in free agency, the Sox will likely go with Jackie Bradley Jr. as their opening day centerfielder. The 23 year-old Bradley Jr. struggled mightily in 107 plate appearances with the big league club but remains a promising prospect.

If Bradley isn’t ready to be the everyday centerfielder, Young can play an adequate center field, and he is solid at the corner outfield spots. Even with the down year in 2013, Young has totaled 7.4 WAR over the last three seasons, and his average WAR/600 PA is a solid 3.2. He runs the bases well, plays solid defense, and has been roughly average with the bat. Dexter Fowler is being tossed around as a hot commodity in trade rumors. Fowler has 7.1 WAR in the last three seasons with almost 300 more plate appearances. Young can be acquired for considerably less, and he’s only 2.5 years older.

Furthermore, if his future employer does not want to rely on him being an everyday player, Young appears to be a very good platoon candidate. His career line against lefties is .262/.363/.474. Against righties, Young is just a career .225/.295/.415 hitter. Over the last three years, he’s .251/.351/.465 against lefties and .212/.293/.387 against righties.

Fenway Park is a great place for a righthanded fly ball hitter. Since 2006, only 10 of 412 qualified hitters have hit a higher rate of fly balls than Young. This tends to lead to a lower in-play batting average, and Young has just a .274 career mark. However, at Fenway, more of those fly balls will clang off the Monster or creep over the wall.

Don’t overemphasize Chris Young’s poor 2013 season. He’s only one year removed from a 2.5 WAR season in only 363 plate appearances, and he was one of the games’s 5-7 best center fielders as recently as 2010-11. Young probably won’t give you a good batting average, but he has power, draws walks, runs the bases well and has defensive versatility. He would be a good fit for a lot of teams, but I think the Red Sox will make a strong push for him if Ellsbury leaves.

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  • DP

    Young makes statistical sense for the Red Sox, but that’s where it ends. They signed Gomes as the right-handed fly ball hitter that wears out left-handed pitching. Besides, the Sox have that player already signed and in their club house – and his name is Daniel Nava. Nava is a much better hitter, can play in Boston, is great in the platoon with Gomes, and if called upon, can play center flied to back up Bradley. Given the roster make up of the Sox, their attention should be on an impact player like Carlos Beltran, where shifting the out field in the short term makes more sense (long term he could serve as the DH).

    • chris moran

      Young is the only guy of the group that can play CF. Nava would be a huge stretch in CF. Don’t think they’ll sign Beltran unless Napoli departs in which case Beltran would primarily be 1B. Young hits lefties much better than Nava. No reason they can’t do more than one platoon.

      • DP

        While I support the idea of Beltran at 1st base (actually like it a lot), he’s never played the position – and check the game logs, Nava has played CF. Far less of a stretch I’d say. I also failed to mention $11M for a .200 hitter; enough said. Platoon players for the outfield – Gomes ($5M), Nava ($505k), Kalish (remember him? at $498k), and Carp ($508k) should be enough with Bradley and Victorino. Victorino can also play CF to spell Bradley as well. And so long as Bradley can hit .200, he’s a better fielder than Young. We have enough proven platoon outfielders. Not to mention the Sox want to stay below the luxury tax, which means Young is not a good fit. I suggest they sign Hart to play first (should Napoli depart) along with Carp and Middlebrooks (and tell Lavarnway to buy a first baseman’s mitt). Hart has value coming off an injury, hits for average, sees a lot of pitches, won’t cost a draft pick and by all accounts, fits their character requirements. He can also play the outfield if needed adding additional depth for well below $11M.