It's a day that seemed virtually inconceivable once upon a time, and then looked a little more plausible once the episode of 2009 transpired (which stemmed from the organization's request for him to move from shortstop to third base), and then started to seem likelier than not once the acrimony of 2011 developed, and then looped back around to inconceivability after the struggles of last year ... and now, that day is here, on the eighth of December 2012, a little more than five years and nine months after the Rangers bestowed "the contract" upon him and nearly 12 years and five months after his arrival in the organization. The face of the franchise has left the building, and I can't quite get my head around it just yet, and I'm not sure when I will get my head around it.
Per various sources, the framework of the trade sending Young to the Phillies has been in place for several days, and the lone hang-up was Young pondering whether to waive his full no-trade rights, which he acquired after his 10-and-5 rights vested in May 2011. Reports began to surface this morning that Young was expressing a "willingness" to go ahead and accept the trade to the Phillies, and during the 12:00 p.m. hour this afternoon, Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reported that Young had agreed to the trade after receiving "$1.2 million in benefits" -- apparently to cover for the difference in state income taxes -- and full no-trade protection from the Phillies.
Texas, meanwhile, is reportedly paying $10 million of Young's $16 million obligation for the 2013 season, and receiving major league reliever Josh Lindblom and minor league reliever Lisalverto Bonilla as their half of the trade return. The perception here seems to be that Lindblom has a decent chance to be useful within the context of the Rangers' 2013 roster (more as a back-end middle reliever than anything else, one would think, given his problems with the long ball), while Bonilla is a less finished but higher-upside relief prospect with what Jason Cole describes as a "good, lively fastball ... and plus change-up." In that sense, this trade conveys more value to the Rangers than one would have expected, given that their projected bullpen depth has been something of a concern.
The Phillies, meanwhile, make out decently from a pure value standpoint -- Lindblom/Bonilla have some worth, but they're expendable pieces, and the reality is that Young's on-paper value figures to improve next season, given that (a) he's being shifted away from the 1B/DH mold back to third base (which gives him a 10+ run boost within the realm of positional adjustments) and (b) his true offensive talent isprobably still greater than what his disastrous 2012 season would have us believe. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projection system pegged Young's pre-trade 2013 offensive forecast at .279/.317/.401 (which may yet benefit from the jump to the N.L.); that's still not very good, but it's easier to mask a low-.700s OPS at the hot corner than it is at more offense-inclined positions like first base and DH.
Now, you may look at the larger body of evidence on Young's limited defensive skills at third base, and scoff at the notion of Young possibly being able to help the Phillies in any material way by moving back across the diamond ... but Philadelphia's third base situation was in a pretty awful way, and, in their view, they're picking up someone who at least has a chance to give them positive value in 2013 at a position of need, who is a well-regarded veteran with a reputation for being one of the better clubhouse presences in the majors. It's not that hard to get why they're on board with the notion at a price point of $6 million. I don't know if it'll work out for them or not, but I get the thought process.
For their part, the Rangers have cleared approximately $6 million of their projected 2013 salary obligation off the books, and that frees up $6 million of capital that they could choose to allocate towards Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, or some other target of their choosing. They have also significantly opened up the spectrum of possibilities as far as their 2013 batting order is concerned; by stripping anywhere from 400-650 projected plate appearances for Young out of the equation, Texas opens up flexibility at 1B/DH to roll with a better-projecting arrangement, and while I haven't yet decided on what that arrangement should be, I have to imagine that the Rangers feel better about their projection at those spots today than they did with Young still firmly entrenched in the 2013 picture.
I won't go so far as to say that this is a great day for the Rangers organization, because there is a certain element of bittersweetness underlying the whole matter. In a burst of frustration back in late July, I stated that I didn't want to watch Young play baseball for the Rangers anymore, and I stood behind that remark through the months that have passed since; one shouldn't conflate that remark with disdain or hatred for Young, though, because I didn't hate or even dislike him then or now. I did, however, hate what he had become on the field, with his decline in two-way utility being exacerbated by the manager's unwavering devotion to him and refusal to scale back his playing time even after it became abundantly clear that, no, playing him full time was no longer a good idea.
And yet, in spite of that, in spite of his sub-replacement value in 2012 and the plaintive wailing over his defense and the frustration over his contract and the lingering bad feelings that arose from his trade demands in 2009 and 2011 ... he was ours, you know? He developed from a solid, but unspectacular prospect into a fringe star who made some really cruddy Rangers teams during the early- to mid-aughts more fun to watch, he emerged as a legitimate team leader (even if the local media did go overboard in its deification of Young), and, ultimately, he was a successful piece of the core Rangers-watching experience for a very long time.
I'm glad that this trade went down, because it needed to go down, because it was time for all parties involved here to move on. Don't, however, let the ending to this narrative obfuscate the fact that Young gave this organization (and, us, for that matter) some very good times over the last 10-plus years ... and if I have one big regret about Michael Young being traded, it's that they just couldn't manage to win the big one while he still a member of the Texas Rangers.