The Second Chris Young Era Is Over

Not even Rod Carew could help him. Remember that story? Finally, the Mets have designated outfielder Chris Young for assignment. The only question is, what took so long?

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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Original Met August 9, 2014 at 6:44 pm
    I expect both will exhibit flashes of the things we need but we only have room for one supreme defender with a lukewarm bat and that’s Lagares…unless a SS like Tulo is acquired.
  2. norme August 9, 2014 at 7:04 pm
    If Kirk or MDD show the ability to produce in the bigs on a fairly regular basis, it could be that Lagares might be added to a trade package in the off season.
    The same could be said for Flores finally living up to our hopes. That could free up Murphy and eventually pave the way for Dilson Herrera.
    On the other hand, they could all flop. What’s Plan B?
  3. Eric Schwartz August 10, 2014 at 12:13 am
    I have always expected very good things from Matt den Dekker. Matt has a history of being a very good hitter starting about three or four months after being promoted a level. Take a look at his minor league averages and you’ll see what I mean. He definitely has the potential to be a .300 plus hitter. Of course, it’s still only potential, but I think he’s the most likely to succeed. Now someone’s got to wake up Kevin Plawecki.
  4. AC Wayne August 10, 2014 at 1:01 am
    I do believe that Sandy and Co. do have a good eye for young talent (most recently, Michael Conforto) and I feel that Alderson is very stingy when it comes to trading for young talent, like the Byrd/Buck deal w/Pittsburgh for Black and Herrera, and the RA Dickey/ Thole trade for d’Arnaud and Syndergaard. We’ve already seen a spike in HRs at the catcher position, and of course, Wheeler for Beltran has already paid dividends, all gold stars for Alderson’s tenure as Mets GM…as you stated in your post, his FA signings have been nothing to shake a stick at (aside from Byrd’s $750K), and let’s not forget the whole Jose Reyes debacle (don’t remember who they drafted w/comp pick?).

    Perhaps it’s because the Wilpons, until now, have made Alderson shop in the discount rack is why guys like Farnsworth, Valverde, Cowgill, etc. (some players in addition to who you mentioned in your post) have come aboard, which makes me a little uneasy, if/when the Mets are playoff ready will Alderson know who to bring in???

    Off topic, why not have Ruben Tejada as a Defensive Replacement for Flores in the later innings? tonight’s game as an example where Flores botched two plays in the bottom of the 8th which resulted in four outs for the Phillies (that DP on Utley has to be made!!)

    • Jack Strawb August 10, 2014 at 2:13 am
      Flores does not play SS well enough for the Mets to even remotely consider him there.

      They knew this throughout 2013 when, despite Tejada’s sub-replacement level hitting, they didn’t give Flores even a single inning at short.

  5. Jack Strawb August 10, 2014 at 2:10 am
    ““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, ”

    Put down the crack pipe, Joe. Seriously.

    • crozier August 10, 2014 at 11:00 am
      You must be new here. Check some of Joe’s back catalogue to see how much he believes in the Mets’ playoff chances.
    • crozier August 10, 2014 at 11:02 am
      For Pete’s sake, commenters, would you please respect the guy’s name? It’s MdD, not MDD.
    • Joe Janish August 11, 2014 at 9:45 am
      Jack, thanks for joining the conversation.

      I’m not sure I understand your comment about the crack pipe. Do you think it’s crazy to suggest that the Mets still have a shot at a wild card or is it crazy for me to think the Mets have given up on a postseason appearance?

      I ask because there seems to be an equal number of Mets fans on both sides of the fence.

  6. david August 10, 2014 at 3:43 am
    The answer to the question, “What took so long” is Jeffrey Wilpon and Daddy did not want to feel like they wasted money. When it became clear no other team was foolish enough to give CY a roster spot, the die was cast.

    Frankly, I think most of the bloggers on this site and in the Mets Blogosphere realize this team is screwed until the Wilpons sell -even it it is partial. They are the real problem because for them this is a real estate play, not owing a professional baseball team. And I hope they make enough money developing Flushing to finally sell the team to someone who cares about the fans and winning baseball games.

    I have not agreed with everything management has done, but this year it has been far, far more active and intolerant of underperformance than in years past. With a 500 pound millstone around your neck it can’t be that easy.

    I know this will come off as giving Sandy a free pass. He does not deserve one as he has made mistakes. But imaging working for the Wilpons? Nuff said.

    As for MDD and Kirk, they are both nice 5th outfielders. One will be gone next year and neither seems to be what we need, which is a 30 HR 100 RBI bat in LF. Either can spell Juan (and/or Grandy) and pick up 200-250 ABs on my team but we have to be realistic in our expectations. Of the 2 I think Kirk provides more value; he is good at #the little things. I would be happy for MDD to prove me wrong.

    • Dan B August 10, 2014 at 8:53 am
      David., I agree wholeheartedly except for the Mets needing a 30/100 guy. I wouldn’t turn it down but in Citi Field I’d love to see the Mets to get a leadoff hitter first–someone who would set the tone for the Mets to be a running, athletic team that moves runners and challenges defenses. Let the teams with hitter’s ballpark fight over the diminishing number of 30/100 hitters.
  7. DaveSchneck August 10, 2014 at 8:30 am
    Joe,
    MDD is leading the PCL in hitting and in 2012 led the Eastern League in hitting until he was promoted. Yes he is 27 but in between he broke a wrist that cost him most of 2013 and didn’t fully heal forover a season. He brings speed, plus D, and a LH bat to compliment Lagares. You are 100% correct that he or Kirk was decent plan B to Lagares. C Young was the #5 hitter that wasn’t and should have been gone at the all star break. Collins had better play MDD in at least two-thirds of the games so we can get a real look at his capabilities in the bigs. No, he doesn’t fill the 30/100 power bat role, but each 25 man roster spot in 2015 must be the right choice from game 1. Had that been the case this year the Mets would have a much better shot, and I’ll believe the GM when there are no retreads on the ooening day roster.
  8. Dan42 August 10, 2014 at 9:30 am
    I’ll start believing when they unload Granderson, a much bigger mistake considering 4 years at twice CY’s money. His .229/ .334/.396 line is not that much better than CY’s .205/.283/.346, and is likely to hit that level long before the contract is up. Eating a chunk of it now wold allow more playing time for the younger players, and spare us from the inevitable.
  9. Bat August 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm
    I agree with the “what took so long” portion of this article: CY has been terrible the entire year and even when Abreu was hitting there are two major factors worth noting: (1) he could not pinch hit, which was intended to be his primary role and (2) given that he only hit when he started, he was giving most of his offensive contribution back by playing such terrible defense. Personally, I think regardless of anything else Alderson may have said, he was aware the Mets are going nowhere this year and was hoping both of these guys would start playing well just for a relatively brief period of time around the deadline and he could flip them for a spare part or two.

    I don’t agree with the criticism of this paragraph:

    “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.”

    I think this is indeed exactly what happened. That is, he thought the veterans were a better option to win a few games now (i.e., does not believe he’s going to the playoffs or anything, but wants to be respectable) plus wanted to flip these guys later for prospects but ultimately they were so bad that he realized the younger players provide a better opportunity to win now as well in the future and no prospects are forthcoming.

    Similar to AC Wayne’s comments above, I think the front office has done a fairly good job of building a future winner with major constraints on the payroll and again I revert to thoughts in my previous posts about a New York sports team with such a low payroll vis-a-vis its competitors. You can criticize signings like Chris Young and Frank Francisco but many commentators like Dave Cameron of Fangraphs had identified CY as a prime bounceback candidate and highlighted the Mets signing of him as a great acquisition and Alderson was praised by many for that acquisition.

    I really wonder what the payroll will be like for next year…if the Mets do things in the offseason like release Parnell b/c they don’t want to pay him b/c they have a cheaper option in Mejia that is a huge misfire and sends signals to the fanbase about the commitment to winning.

    • Joe Janish August 10, 2014 at 3:10 pm
      Well of course you are going to use a stat guy to support Alderson’s theory that Young would have a “bounce back” year — that’s the whole point, that this front office puts far too much emphasis on the paperwork, and clearly either doesn’t have enough scouting in place or doesn’t trust the scouting reports on veteran players. I’m betting on the former, considering that over the past few years the organization cut down the “boots on the ground” and replaced them with video technology. Relying on advanced stats is quickly becoming the new “old school” — everyone is doing it, everyone knows about it, and everyone has access to the same data. What is going to be the next “Moneyball” tactic is, ironically, the exact opposite — using eyeballs and human judgment to augment the data.
      • Bat August 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm
        Joe, every team needs both scouting and statistical tools and I personally do not think the Mets overemphasize the former instead of the latter. Moreover, I don’t think you have any evidence that this front office does indeed over-rely on statistics at the expense of scouting.

        Citing things like the winter 2010 signing of D.J. Carrasco for 2 years at $1.25 million per year as evidence that Alderson doesn’t know what he’s doing in “the higher-risk category” doesn’t make any sense.

        • Dan42 August 12, 2014 at 5:14 am
          Nobody in their right mind would sign Chris Young for 7.5M if the watched him play since he was injured two years ago, especially in a pitcher’s park. And I still think Granderson is even worse, with 3 more years of declining performance to remind us of Alderson’s folly.
  10. Bat August 10, 2014 at 12:43 pm
    I guess what I am saying in the previous post is that we shouldn’t even be talking about the D.J. Carrasco signing not working out: you are talking about a guy who signed for $2.5 million over two years in the winter of 2010!

    I mean, can you imagine the Dodgers or the Yankees (or their fans) worrying about such a signing? Colletti and Cashman have misfired on tons of signings like this – it’s not an exact science.

    Shaun Marcum – signed prior to the 2013 season for one year at $4 million. Again, probably a worthwhile gamble and there is something wrong with ownership rather than the stewardship of the GM if we as New York fans are worrying about this two years later.

    Andres Torrez and Ramon Ramirez are essentially one misfire: Pagan was traded for these two guys but that is the only bad trade of the Alderson era that comes to mind? No one is going to have a 100% perfect track record on trades.

    The Frank Francisco signing in December 2011 for two years at $12 million was the biggest free agent misfire of the Alderson era (reserving judgment on the Granderson signing…too early to say). But again no GM in the game is perfect. You think Billy Beane or Theo Epstein or Jon Daniels (the Matt Garza acquisition and the Adrian Gonzalez trade come to mind) haven’t made moves they regret?

    Overall, I am not displeased with the Alderson regime’s work as the talent on the major league club has improved and recently Keith Law had the Mets as the fourth ranked farm system in the game.

    I think we’re on the right track, but we need a Gary Carter-type acquisition: a big hitter in the middle of the batting order that lengthens the entire lineup. Think also about the Carlos Delgado acquisition prior to the Mets sustained period of the mid- to late-2000s.

    Ideally, this acquisition would be Stanton and then you can live with Tejada (and his last in the majors in slugging percentage of qualified players) at SS. But the Mets have to find a way to convert some of their surplus prospects into a big hitter that solidifies and strengthens the batting order.

    • Joe Janish August 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm
      Wow, how quickly memories fade.

      The Carrasco and Marcum (and Francisco, for that matter) signings were MAJOR at the time — they were among if not THE biggest signings for those offseasons. The cost of the free agent is not the point, the point is that the Mets had so little spend, and so little mistakes are much bigger — and adds insult to injury when they’re overpays. Who were the Mets competing with to sign D.J. Carrasco? Or Francisco? Or Chris Young — this past offseason’s second-biggest signing.

      I don’t expect Alderson to be perfect in trades. I do expect him to know his organization’s talent better than anyone else. My main problem with Alderson and the front office in general is that Alderson / De Podesta / Ricciardi was hailed and hyped as some kind of super-brilliant team of geniuses that was going to do so much with so little, and in the end, they’re not remarkable and no better or worse than the average MLB front office.

      As for that Gary Carter acquisition, well, unless something has changed with the Wilpons’ finances, I’m not seeing it. They’re going to have a coronary when they realize how much it’s going to cost to keep Daniel Murphy in orange and blue. Better to hope that Lucas Duda’s streak is for real, and he carries it into and through 2015. Oh, and hope that Granderson and Wright don’t continue to degrade.

  11. Bat August 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm
    We disagree on some of these points and I don’t suspect that we’ll be able to resolve those disagreements in these posts.

    Indeed, I do think this front office is better than the average front office. Not a “super-brilliant team of genuises” but better than the average MLB front office.

    Ripping Alderson for the Carrasco acquisition is silly. As stated for months now in similar yet different ways but re-stated again now in this vein, criticizing Alderson for spending $2.5 million on Carrasco because this was (for example) 30% of his offseason budget and the “signings were MAJOR at the time” misses the point entirely. You are basically expecting Alderson to turn straw (i.e., an incredibly limited budget) into gold (i.e., quality major league players). He’s good, but he can’t turn $1.25 million per year into some stud pitcher and again I’m not sure why you are talking about the Carrasco acquisition and blaming Alderson rather than pointing the finger squarely in the direction of the Wilpons.

    Put another way, you are stringing up Alderson and his management team on stuff that is by and large outside their control (current finances of the team plus – in the beginning of his tenure – the team crippled by acquisition that transpired before he took control, something that is not an issue for (by way of example) Beane because he has been in control for so long). Going forward Alderson has less and less excuses in respect of the latter point as each year more and more of the players are guys he chose to acquire via draft, trade, or free agent signing.

    I point again to the fact that a leading reviewer of minor league system recently ranked the Mets farm system as 4th in the majors: this front office is moving the team in the right direction.

    One area where Alderson should be heavily criticized is the performance of the manager: TC was his chosen selection and Alderson is essentially liable if TC isn’t up to snuff. While TC has the team playing hard, his bullpen management is atrocious and there are way, way, way too many fundamental errors / simple mistakes made over and over again. Other issues like the failure to play Flores to see if he’s better than Tejada and the fascination with EY early in the season are also perplexing if not outright wrong. I cannot believe Alderson thinks EY is a starting player and, if so, I take back all kind words said about him in this and previous posts.

    • Joe Janish August 10, 2014 at 5:53 pm
      Yes, we’ll agree to disagree on a number of points. For one, I never have and never will give a flying fruitcake what any pundit says about any minor league organization — it’s completely, 100% subjective. A farm system can’t be truly evaluated until after the fact, and by then, it’s too late to matter (though I would like to see someone, some day, do a retrospective report on farm systems).

      At least we agree that Terry Collins is a less-than-excellent manager. But I don’t think Alderson or the Wilpons ever cared whether he was, because he was hired to be a baby sitter and his main purpose is to handle questions from the press after every ballgame. As long as he stays calm in front of the microphones, and continues to make positive remarks, he’ll have the job. Going to the postseason within the first five years of the new regime was never a serious part of the plan — it’s all about placating fans and paying off debt.

      As for Carrasco, he was ONE example in a long string of mistakes that I mentioned. You may not know why I included him but I don’t know why you continue to harp on it.

      Alderson is an extension of the Wilpons and their well-paid spokesman. And he is very good at speaking.

      • Bat August 11, 2014 at 10:35 am
        Joe, as usual you say things don’t make any sense whatsoever. The latest case in point:

        Yes, we’ll agree to disagree on a number of points. For one, I never have and never will give a flying fruitcake what any pundit says about any minor league organization — it’s completely, 100% subjective. A farm system can’t be truly evaluated until after the fact, and by then, it’s too late to matter (though I would like to see someone, some day, do a retrospective report on farm systems).

        Joe, if you don’t care what anyone says about any organization and by extrapolating, what anyone says about any player, then you are basically saying scouting is useless. Because reports on organizations are basically compilations of the scouting reports of all players in the organization and then benchmarking such an organizational report against the organizational report against every other team.

      • david August 11, 2014 at 9:14 pm
        Even though I laid most of the blame on the Owners, I agree that Sandy should take the blame for giving TC a 2 year extension last year. He’d make a great bench coach or, as he previously was, a roving instructor throughout the minor leagues. But his shortcomings a MLB manager are pretty clear to see (bullpen and lineup) and this year would have been a good time to bring in new leadership in the dugout.
  12. Locode August 11, 2014 at 4:36 am
    You linked to the wrong Chris Young’s BR page.
    • Joe Janish August 11, 2014 at 9:41 am
      Thanks. It’s an automatic script provided by BR. Usually it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
  13. Jason M. August 11, 2014 at 10:18 pm
    “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.” — the truest thing I’ve ever seen written about the Mets’ current front office regime. Awesome.
    • Joe Janish August 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm
      Thanks Jason. Glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way, and is mystified four years later.