The Phillies’ signing of Delmon Young was met with mostly negative reviews. It wasn’t the money as much as the notion that the front office and manager considered Young a legitimate everyday starter. Young wasn’t signed to play in a platoon. He was brought here to provide right-handed power behind Ryan Howard. The problem is that he has never really been all that powerful, and whatever power he does possess is canceled out by abysmal fielding and below average baserunning. From an overall value standpoint, Young has little to none, as is evidenced by his career -1.1 WAR.
He wasn’t even an upgrade over players already rostered, either — his numbers have been bested by John Mayberry over the last few seasons. Mayberry isn’t just an upgrade in the field and on the bases either. He has better numbers at the plate too.
Save for the 2010 season, when Young hit a career-high 21 homers and tallied 1.6 WAR — still below what’s considered the league-average threshold — he has been either replacement level or below every year. Here are his WAR totals since 2007: 0.0, -0.8, -1.1, 1.6, 0.0, -0.9, and he is currently at -0.8.
Approaching the midpoint of the season it is time for the Phillies to cut ties with Young as an everyday player. If the team wants to use him against lefties in a platoon role, or as a designated hitter in a road interleague series, fine, but he should not be viewed any more favorably than Mayberry, Laynce Nix or Kevin Frandsen. And while I know some are tired of hearing Nate Schierholtz‘s name around these parts, Young is also vastly worse than the player the Phillies simply non-tendered; the player who makes slightly more than Young this season and currently leads the Cubs in WAR.
It’s time to either get rid of Young or permanently relegate him to part-time duty. The Phillies have too many holes in this lineup to consistently allocate playing time to a player whose perception far outweighs his contributions.
The major issue with signing Young is that it’s symptomatic of the issues plaguing this front office, which seems to value areas that don’t translate to production. We’re well past the days where value was determined primarily by offense, and we’re past the days when offensive value was determined by batting average or home runs.
Since 2009, Young’s -39 fielding rating is better only than an Alfonseca-handful of players. His baserunning ratings rank near the bottom of the leaderboard as well.
His walk-rate is the fifth-lowest among qualified players and his isolated power is barely higher than Jimmy Rollins‘. Young is a downgrade from Jeff Francoeur, which is a pretty difficult feat to accomplish, yet this Phillies front office thought of him as an everyday outfielder on a contending team.
This isn’t a good move that simply didn’t work out. The writing was on the wall from the moment he signed with the Phillies. That many analysts predicted the Phillies and Young would get together speaks volumes to this regime’s poor player valuation.
Signing Young maybe makes sense if the team thinks of itself as .500ish and is willing to take a $1 million flier in the hopes of helping him turn his career around. It makes absolutely no sense if better players are already on the roster and the team thinks itself close to contention.
Confounding the matter is the odd perception that he is some power maven. He has played over 150 games in four of his six full seasons between 2007 and 2012, and has topped 20 home runs just once. Sure, he had a great playoff series last year, but fans in favor of this move were likely conflating his power output with that of Josh Willingham. Young’s career Isolated Power is .142. Mayberry’s is .193.
Some have speculated that the Phillies may be giving Young playing time as a showcase for a trade. The problem is that the Phillies are one of very few teams left that still view him as a major-league asset. It’s time to move on from this experiment and permanently give the starting right field gig to someone else. It isn’t too costly of a mistake, but it’s still a mistake that should not be allowed to fester during the second half.