There have been some rumblings in recent days about the Phillies expressing tentative interest in Michael Young, who, in the view of their decision-makers, appears to be a possible short-term answer at third base. These rumblings have been qualified with the usual disclaimers about Young having to waive his no-trade clause and the Rangers having to pick up a a good-sized chunk of his remaining obligation to make anything work, and all of that has been accompanied by some spirited "PLEASE PHILLY TAKE HIM FOR FREE WE'LL DO WHATEVER YOU WANT US TO DO" tweeting from the Rangers' fan base. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.
Late Monday, though, Jon Daniels said that the organization wasn't interested in pursuing any of that, and he phrased his response in a way that, to me at least, comes off as somewhat off-putting:
General manager Jon Daniels said he is not looking to trade Young, who has spent the past two seasons as Texas designated hitter/utility infielder.
Daniels doesn't want another mess that happened two years ago. Texas signed Adrian Beltre to be its third baseman, and Young was not happy with his situation. He asked for a trade, but the Rangers could not accommodate him. The situation was not really resolved until Spring Training.
"I learned my lesson two years ago," Daniels said. "It didn't work out the last time. That's not something we're pursuing."
I'd be lying to you all and to myself if I trumpeted Daniels' comments as a firm declaration that the Rangers aren't going to trade Young. That's not what Daniels is saying. What he's saying is that the Rangers aren't purposefully searching for a trade to move Young out of the organization, and in no way is that surprising, because Young, at this point in time, is a virtually untradeable entity. We can talk up our hopes of Young pulling off a bounceback season or even a milder dead-cat bounce until we turn blue in the face, but at the end of the day, Young is a $16 million/year player with negligible defensive value who threw up -1.4 fWAR last season. Actively searching for a trade would be an exercise in futility, barring a strange turn of events where Texas wants to eat his entire remaining obligation in exchange for some player(s) of negligible value.
So, in a way, Daniels is really doing nothing with these comments beyond sensitively handling this one gunpower-loaded question that was lobbed in his direction. He's not saying the Rangers won't trade Young, and, heck, even if he did say that, that's not really an answer you could accept at face value. If there was something cooking behind the scenes, Daniels wouldn't go out front and say, "well, we're thinking about trading Young," or "yes, we're looking to trade Young," or "yes, we're working on trading Young right now." That's an important bit of perspective to keep in mind when you're combing through these hot stove comments that so often masquerade as something they're not.
I think what's bothering me about Daniels' response, though, is the bit about him having "learned [his] lesson two years ago." The organization publicly shouldered some of the blame for the incident of two years ago, and I imagine that Daniels and company do still regret how the entire affair played out and, in hindsight, wish they had handled it differently. I get that. But there's something about the wording here that rubs me in entirely the wrong way, in a way that makes it sound like the Rangers were more in the wrong than Young was, and like Daniels' plans somehow run subordinate to Young's demands.
If that sounds like a vague complaint, that's because it is vague. It's hard for me to nail down why, exactly, this is grating on me. Maybe it's because there's something that just doesn't feel right about the general manager stating that he learned a lesson from one of his players, regardless of how much clout said player might possess within the room. Maybe -- no, probably -- it's something I'm making too much of, and that I need to let go of.
But it still bothers me, and while there should only be one more season of Michael Young in Texas, I can't rid myself of my apprehension about what the 2013 season holds in store for him ... or, for that matter, about the matter of his playing time, and the prospect of either a still-struggling Young getting everyday starts from Ron Washington, or an unhappy Young being transitioned into a part-time role after the Rangers acquire some form of 1B/DH help. That discussion isn't going to take place today, but it's not all that far away from happening.