The next time you find yourself fighting the temptation to grimace at the five years and $59 million left remaining on the contract of third baseman Michael Young, consider the awkward and financially untenable position the Toronto Blue Jays currently find themselves in with their own All-Star franchise player -- Vernon Wells.
Consider that the 30-year-old center fielder rebounded in resounding fashion from a career-worst 2007 season with a more than respectable .300/.343/.496, 20-homer campaign in 2008, but was also slowed considerably by a broken left wrist and a strained left hamstring -- injuries that required separate month-long stints on the 15-day disabled list and precipitated the severe decline in defensive value that largely negated his contributions with the lumber.
Consider that Wells is reputedly primed for a "monster season" as a by-product of his extensive off-season work with a personal trainer from the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Arizona, but is now also on the wrong side of 30 and could be watching his window as a top-flight major league center fielder -- which he hasn't actually been since 2006 -- slowly beginning to close.
Consider that Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi and his team of front-office lieutenants reportedly shopped Wells at the 2006 winter meetings, and only then, after being unable to find a deal to their liking, opted to terminate his impending free-agent eligibility -- which would have kicked in after the 2007 season -- by locking him in with a seven-year, $126 million contract, six years and $100 million of which the suddenly cost-conscious Blue Jays remain on the hook for at an economically tumultuous time when expensive long-term deals have never looked more unpalatable for major league teams.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Toronto attempted to trade Wells this off-season but obviously came up short. Texas certainly didn't have any interest then, and probably didn't have any interest last winter before pulling the trigger on the Edinson Volquez-for-Josh Hamilton trade with Cincinnati, but this organization's standing as a long-rumored suitor for Wells -- heck, perhaps as the de facto suitor for Wells -- before the Blue Jays made their enormous financial commitment leads you to wonder just what might have transpired if Toronto had lowered their trade demands in 2006 to a point where the Rangers might have become legitimately involved in the sweepstakes, and whether the Rangers might have ultimately become the team to offer the nine-digit contract that is currently perceived as a mistake in most baseball circles.
In that alternative reality, the presence of Vernon Wells likely precludes the acquisition of Josh Hamilton. Frightening.
And speaking of frightening, manager Ron Washington was very quick to dismiss the notion that the insertion of Young into the cleanup spot of third base coach Dave Anderson's lineup for Monday's intrasquad contest -- in which Anderson triumphed over bench coach Jackie Moore's squad by an 8-5 margin, thanks in large part to a grand slam from Nelson Cruz and a two-run shot from Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- was at all indicative of the Rangers contemplating batting Young cleanup during the regular season:
"[To bat Young second is] my intention," Washington said. "Dave Anderson has him hitting cleanup. I don't plan on doing that. I'm not putting anything into where these guys are batting right now."
Aside from the fact that this intrasquad game is being completely blown out of proportion as a result of our hunger for any sort of actual live game action, it's interesting to note that according to our previous work with Sean Smith's CHONE player projections and David Pinto's lineup analysis mechanism, Young occupied the cleanup spot in several of the worst lineup permutations from a run-scoring standpoint. That doesn't necessarily mean that Young couldn't ably produce if he were thrust into the No. 4 spot on an everyday basis, but it does suggest that batting him there would be largely counterintuitive to the goal of maximizing run production.
Not that you really needed an analytical mind to figure that out, mind you.
Quick Hits: Marlon Byrd (microfracture surgery, left knee) is shooting to play his first Cactus League game somewhere between March 10th and March 15th; Brandon Boggs (right shoulder inflammation) will begin a throwing program soon ... Vicente Padilla and Scott Feldman are slated to start Tuesday's intrasquad game; pitching coach Mike Maddux envisions each hurler tossing approximately 20 pitches, then two full innings in their first Cactus League starts ... Max Ramirez will suit up for his native Venezuela in the upcoming 2009 World Baseball Classic, joining Frank Catalanotto (Italy) and Nelson Cruz (Dominican Republic) as the only Rangers participants in the tournament ... Yahoo! Sports's Jeff Passan writes about the developing dynamic between Elvis Andrus and Omar Vizquel ... Senior advisor Mel Didier submits that first baseman Justin Smoak is a more complete switch-hitter this early in his development than either Mickey Mantle or Mark Teixeira were ... Josh Hamilton is ditching smokeless tobacco.