The Second Chris Young Era Is Over
So much for Young being part of “one of the best outfields in baseball.” You may remember that story, too.
What’s interesting is that cutting Chris Young signifies surrender, as illogical as that sounds. With Young gone, the Mets can now take a look at not-as-young-as-you-think Matt den Dekker, and, hopefully, give more playing time to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. “Taking a look” at players who spent most of the year in AAA means the team is going a different direction, and having a different focus, from charging toward a playoff spot. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Mets can’t still compete for a wild card, and it doesn’t mean the Mets are worse without Chris Young — certainly, one would hope that they’d be better. But the expectation from the Mets front office was that Chris Young would eventually “turn it around,” start hitting homers, and help the Mets win ballgames. Playing den Dekker and/or Nieuwenhuis was the backup plan.
Of course, the spinmaster Sandy Alderson had this to say about dropping Young, and getting “younger” in the process:
“I have not concluded that this is a step back from competition,” Sandy Alderson told reporters, insisting this was not another ‘youth movement.’ “We made changes in the bullpen in May and some may have viewed it as a step back in competition. I didn’t view it that way. I think the way we viewed it was if we are going to compete, this has to work a little bit differently… I view this the same way. There is upside potential here and we have to see if it is there.”
Uh-huh. Translation: “We didn’t think Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia would be better options than Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde at the end of a ballgame, but those two veterans proved to be so awful that we were forced to try something else, and whaddyaknow! they turned out to be pretty decent!”
So now Alderson claims this is a step back. No, he genuinely believes that removing Young (and previously, Bobby Abreu) from the roster and replacing him with some combination of den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis could make the Mets a better team. Congratulations, Captain Obvious! It only took 115 games for you to figure that out. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, and decisions like this need to be made, ideally, prior to Game #1.
This time, no one can blame financial constraints — this is a clear case of grossly miscalculating / predicting future performance. The Mets could have used the $7.5M wasted on Chris Young to address other issues. Yes, I understand the timing of the signing — it was supposed to be insurance against the possibility of Juan Lagares being a flash in the pan. But why weren’t den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis the backup plan to Lagares? Because Alderson and his crack front office staff deemed Chris Young a superior option — one worth spending several million dollars on, even though there were two very capable outfielders already in the organization, and not far behind Lagares on the depth chart.
That it took 115 games for Alderson to finally admit the mistake in evaluation is either a sign of stubborness or a feeling that den Dekker and/or Captain Kirk still weren’t the answer, even after both lit up PCL pitching. And THAT’S why releasing Young is a white flag being thrown up by Alderson — if he truly believed that what Nieuwenhuis and den Dekker were doing in AAA was “for real,” and Alderson was serious about the Mets’ push toward the postseason, this change (and the release of Abreu) would’ve been made a month ago. Doing it now means the Mets are in audition mode — further evidenced by remarks suggesting that Wilmer Flores will see more time at shortstop in the final seven weeks of the season.
It’s possible that the Mets front office is correct in their belief that den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis will never be more than AAAA players — their age and inability to “break through” would suggest that (Nieuwenhuis turned 27 a few days ago, den Dekker turns 27 tomorrow). But both players will get a chance to sway that belief in the final 46 games of the year — not because Alderson wanted it this way, but because the ineffectiveness of Young, coupled with the performances of den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis, forced the situation to change.
This latest miscalculation of a veteran player makes one wonder if the Mets front office is capable of finding true gems off the scrap heap. Most of the bets made and risks taken on veterans have not worked out very well — at least, not for a sustained period of time. Carlos Torres worked out well, as did Marlon Byrd and, it could be argued, Daisuke Matsuzaka. But none of those three were particularly risky pickups, and none came with any expectations. Chris Young falls into that higher-risk category, where men like Frank Francisco, Shaun Marcum, Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez, and D.J. Carrasco linger in memory. I’m not saying that finding gems in the scrap heap is easy — it’s not, not by a longshot. But when this fantasy front office took over four years ago, we were led to believe they’d be some kind of super-performing think tank that would be able to see value that others didn’t, that would lead to surprising and inexpensive success. That hasn’t been the case.
Maybe they’re still working on it. Or maybe what this front office is doing is on such a high level, we’re just not smart enough to see the value.
What’s your thought? Do you expect to see Matt den Dekker and/or Kirk Nieuwenhuis prove to be not only better than Chris Young, but good enough to be everyday MLBers? Do you have confidence in this front office’s ability to evaluate talent? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.