Earlier today, Matt Klaassen praised the Tigers for being aggressive in their pursuit of a division title over the winter. This afternoon, Dave Dombrowski continued to add to his roster down the stretch, as he picked up Delmon Young from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for two minor league players. Given the kind of production that the Tigers have gotten from their outfielders this year, it’s not that surprising that they’d be in the market for an upgrade.
Given how poorly Young has played this season – and, really, throughout almost all of his disappointing career – there aren’t many contenders in baseball for whom he would represent a legitimate option as a regular player. His .292 wOBA is the worst of his career, and is especially lousy for a corner outfielder who also hurts you defensively. Young was quite a bit better last year, however, and has shown power in years past. We should expect that he’ll hit better down the stretch than he has to date in 2011, and if he does, he might actually represent an upgrade over what the Tigers have been getting from their right fielders.
When he’s healthy, Brennan Boesch will hold down one of the corner outfield spots, whether it be right or left. The other spot is currently being held down by some combination of Magglio Ordonez, Andy Dirks, and Ryan Raburn. Ordonez is nominally the starter, but he’s also been the worst of the bunch, posting -1.0 WAR in just 289 PA. At age 37, his power seems to have dried up and taken his usefulness at the plate with it.
Jim Leyland seems unlikely to bench Ordonez in favor of a Dirks/Raburn platoon, however. He’s had that option for quite a while, and he just continues to run Ordonez out there on a semi-regular basis. So, Dombrowski has decided to give him another option, and while Young might not actually be any better than a Dirks/Raburn platoon (and might actually be worse), he’s got a chance to actually crack the line-up.
For the Tigers, getting Ordonez out of the line-up on a regular basis is the appeal of this deal. As mediocre as he is, Young offers a similar skillset to what Ordonez brings to the table, just in a less broken down body. For just having to pick up some cash and surrender what is likely a pair of marginal prospects (the named player in the deal was a 10th round pick last summer), it’s easy to see why the Tigers made this move. Young comes with no commitment beyond this season, as he can be non-tendered this winter if he continues to struggle. The overall cost to acquire was pretty low.
Is Delmon Young a good player? Not even close. Should he be able to start for a contender at this point in his career? No. In this specific instance, though, the Tigers had a wound that needing bandaging, and Young can at least serve as a tourniquet for the final six weeks of the season. With a bit of positive regression and yet another chance to start over, perhaps Young will actually hit like people have been expecting him to for the last five years. If he doesn’t, he’s still probably better than Magglio Ordonez.
It’s not the ideal solution, but the Tigers did get a little bit better today. Given their spot in the standings and the small price they paid, it’s probably a gamble worth taking.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.