By Chris Hannum
It seems that whenever we hear Dave Dombrowski mention Delmon Young, he has something positive to say – no matter how blunt or dismissive the tone of the question. Reporters, it has seemed, would love to at least hear a ‘we’ll see’ from DD but nothing has been forthcoming. This stands in stark contrast to more statistically-minded analysts from the blogosphere or mainstream sports media, who routinely question whether Delmon Young adds anything of value to the Tigers to justify a contract.
Now, I have no doubt in my mind that Jim Leyland in genuinely impressed by Delmon Young and wants him in the lineup every single day. He is a Jim Leyland player: a hitter with some power that swings a lot and usually makes contact. Jim isn’t an ISO guy and he certainly isn’t an OBP guy and the last thing he wants to see is a guy who takes strikes. He doesn’t have all that much tolerance for bad defense, but I have gotten the impression that Leyland is much more strongly swayed by the occasional mind-boggling gaffe (a la Ryan Raburn) than by a day-after-day lack of range. So… Leyland probably loves Young’s bat, and probably doesn’t hate his glove with anything like the fervor with which many others hate his glove (including the brains and algorithms behind any and all advanced defensive metrics).
I do wonder, however, if despite Dave Dombrowski’s public statements he might really disagree. I doubt he has complained when Jim Leyland has stuck Young in left (the big corner) and Don Kelly in right or when he has left Young in the #3 slot where he can hit solo home runs in front of Miguel Cabrera – making those decisions are unarguably Jim Leyland’s job. We’ve been hearing about the Tigers’ interest in Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp – two outfielders who would need to displace an outfielder currently on the roster. We have heard about an attempt to trade Delmon Young for Martin Prado already, but a trade that fell through due to disagreements within the Braves front office. Young hasn’t yet been offered arbitration or any other form of a contract – though to be fair there is no real need to do so before the deadline.
If Dombrowski was shopping Young for Prado (and not, for example, Brennan Boesch) why would we expect him to stop at Prado? The Tigers have other holes to fill and Young must be a piece that Dombrowski feels the team could do without* – or we never would have heard his name in conjunction with the deal. If the Tigers are serious about improving team speed – which is the lesson I take from the rumors regarding Cespedes and Crisp – and they are willing to acquire outfielders (a position of abundance on the current 25 and current 40) to accomplish that, somebody is going to be the odd man out and I’d be surprised if that man isn’t Delmon Young.
If all that is true, then what we’re hearing from Dombrowski (and in a sense seeing from the Tigers offseason strategy overall) is a campaign of disinformation designed to improve his chances of dumping Young on one of the few GMs out there who might still be wowed by his ‘potential’ and his 2010 RBI total. Remember that Dombrowski didn’t exactly chase Young to begin with – this was a waiver wire deal that cost Detroit naught but a middling relief prospect in Lester Oliveros. He did wind up helping the team effort quite a bit – in part because of his pop against the Yankees in the ALDS – but mainly because of the injuries that wracked the Tigers’ outfield corps. Ever since he arrived at that bargain-basement price we’ve been hearing about all the great things he adds to the team. Still… he came cheap and probably wouldn’t have come at all had the cost been higher – and if Dombrowski can flip him for anything more than an Oliveros, that’s a positive. Could be that dealing Young by the deadline has, in fact, been Dave Dombrowski’s number one priority and that the rest of the Tigers offseason strategy would revolve around filling the hole that Young’s departure left.
*_ I believe I made clear a while back that – even without acquiring any additional outfielders – I don’t see the need for Delmon Young on the roster. The Tigers have too many outfielders as is – once you acknowledge that most of Don Kelly’s value as a reserve is as an exceptionally gifted defensive outfielder (though the fact that he can play other positions is a plus). Ryan Raburn may well be a better hitter than Young and he’s almost certainly a better defensive outfielder as well. The same could be said of Brennan Boesch and while Andy Dirks might actually not be the equal of Young at the plate (but then again, he might) he’s far better defensively and swings the bat from the left side.