First off: There’s nothing wrong with Chris Young.
Heck, it’s even a potentially shrewd move. Going into the offseason, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs had Young as one of his potential free-agent bargains. Yeah, he only hit .200 last year and is never going to be great at hitting righties. But he’s 30 years old, a plus defender and baserunner, has some pop and can take a walk. And he’s coming off a .237 BABIP campaign, suggesting that a good chunk of what was wrong with him last year was basically bad luck. (More from Cameron here.)
But wait, you say: If a year of Young at $7 million is shrewd, then what was wrong with two years of Marlon Byrd at $8 million each? Well, as Ted Berg noted on Twitter, Byrd’s coming off his best season in four years and is 36 years old, while Young’s coming off his worst season in four years and is 30. You don’t have to be a stathead to see why that one makes sense.
But wait, you say: Even if Young rebounds, why should I care? After all, he’d be basically average. Yes — but as also noted on Twitter, the 2013 Mets were 29th in slugging, 29th in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage. Average would be a big step up.
So, in my book there’s nothing wrong with adding Chris Young as our latest entry in the annals of Wait, Didn’t We Have That Guy Already? (See also the Bob Millers, Bob Johnsons, Bobby Joneses and Pedro Martinezes.) I can easily see Young having a pretty good season and getting flipped to a contender in late July, just like Marlon Byrd — whom we remember fondly and might remember even more fondly if Dilson Herrera can cut down on the Ks and live up to the rest of his scouting reports.
But wait, you say: Weren’t we supposed to be done with this sort of thing? Wasn’t 2014 the year we got to be a normal team again?
And here, I’m not going to talk you down. Because you’re right.
The Mets are playing their usual games with payroll figures, making people guess what they think they’ve spent and recheck what they said they were going to spend. They’re making beat reporters comb through spreadsheets to figure out if the Santana and Bay buyouts count against this year or last year or are being recorded through some new accounting method involving hexadecimals and phases of the moon.
The Mets — or rather, the usual Met sources we’re heartily sick of — are bleating about being surprised by the market and having sticker shock. Which just leaves me fuming, because it reminds me of nothing so much as M. Donald Grant instructing his minions to send potential free agents telegrams asking them to make contact with the club. Tough noogs. Deal with it, like the other 29 teams are dealing with it.
The Mets are also doing their usual thing of claiming they’ve been misunderstood and spending can be raised if the right opportunity presents itself. This barely merits laughing at by now — it gets said every offseason and again in late spring, but somehow that opportunity never seems to show up.
This was supposed to be the offseason when such games stopped, but so far it sure seems like the same carny barking from ownership. There’s nothing wrong with the Chris Young signing, but what’s very wrong is the likelihood that Chris Young is about as good as the news is going to get this offseason. (And it’s possible for both of these things to be true.) Shin-Soo Choo? Too expensive. Jhonny Peralta? Same. Robinson Cano? Oh hahahahahaha. Nelson Cruz? Stephen Drew? Keep dreaming. Sandy Alderson’s still in the scratch-and-dent aisle.
So the problem isn’t Chris Young. It’s the overall budget, and what that says about the Mets. Which wasn’t supposed to be a problem anymore.
The problem is this:
The only sane conclusion is that the Mets are broken, and are going to be broken as long as they’re owned by the Wilpons. They’re going to be broken as long as Major League Baseball continues to let the National League’s New York franchise be run like the old Chicago Blackhawks, who couldn’t be fixed until “Dollar Bill” Wirtz shuffled off this mortal coil.
I’d love to be proved wrong about all that. Hell, if I’m proved wrong I’ll print out this post and eat it on the Shea Bridge.
Somebody prove me wrong. Sandy? Jeff? Fred? Bud? Anybody?