Delmon Young Signing Representative of Orioles Winter

It is a move that likely sums up just about every Orioles fan’s feelings about this winter. With teams spending their newfound television money and free agents getting paid quite handsomely, the Orioles announced the signing of oft-troubled, oft-allergic to getting on base, and oft-prone to the strikeout Delmon Young to a minor league deal. It seems that most Orioles fans have grown accustomed to being left out of the premium free agent market, but in a winter that offered some hope, this is what the Orioles have brought in.  The collective groan from the fanbase with this announcement has been heard quite often all winter long.

In Young, the Orioles are getting a player who has averaged .266/.301/.404 since the start of the 2010 season. They are getting a player who has struck out on average 92 times and walked just 21 times while averaging 14 home runs in 460 at bats. Of course, there is also the well documented off the field troubles and behavior that have derailed the once “sure thing” from becoming a star.

{Discuss the Young move on the BSL Boards}

We tend to put too much stock into the idea that these off field issues impact the clubhouse and team chemistry. Most of the times, that is a media and fan creation. Can players do things to alienate the clubhouse? Sure. But, if that player performs there usually isn’t a problem. As long as a team has a solid core of players and a Manager who can handle issues, a player with Young’s past can be absorbed. Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay Rays Manager, didn’t have a problem with Young during the 23 games Young played for the Rays last season. Young’s behavior has been, at times, inexcusable and unconscionable. But, that doesn’t mean Buck Showalter and the Orioles won’t get something positive from him in 2014.

If used in the proper role, Young could be a positive. Right now, barring anything unforeseen, Young figures to be the right handed portion of the designated hitter spot. While he could play left field against a southpaw, his lack of defensive skills have been well chronicled. In fact, as bad as the reports have been, the metrics show he has been worse than perception.

So, the Orioles look like they have a right handed DH. Young hit southpaws to the tune of .261/.341/.343 in 2013. The slugging percentage is low, especially compared to his career line of .303/.341/.471. Against left handed pitchers, Young has produced a career .168 ISO, .348 wOBA, and wRC+ of 115. While he missed those marks in 2013, his 2012 marks of .192 ISO, .357 wOBA, and 124 wRC+ are right in line with those career statistics.

He isn’t the ideal player and he isn’t one that will make the Orioles any closer to being able to compete for the American League East. He is, however, a type of player who can succeed if used properly. If he is strictly the right handed DH, the Orioles lineup is better against left handed pitchers. In a division that features the likes of Matt Moore, David Price, Jon Lester, and CC Sabathia, being strong against southpaws is almost a prerequisite.

Despite the Minor League deal, it is almost a certainty that Young will make the roster. Before the signing, many projected Nolan Reimold as the right handed DH or left fielder. The problem with that is two-fold. Reimold has a problem staying on the field and he is only a career .242/.323/.426 hitter against left handed pitching. If you believe in Steve Pearce’s 351 career plate appearances, then the argument can be made that Young’s presence wasn’t needed. For some reason, Pearce has never gotten a full chance to be the right handed DH for any team–he’s played for 4 teams in the past 5 seasons. Buck Showalter’s reputation as a “veteran guy” certainly helps Young considering his 3,936 plate appearances and the fact that Young has seen playoff action for the past five seasons.

The Young signing clearly illustrates what the Orioles have been about this offseason. To put into perspective, their most impactful move has been trading for David Lough. While they haven’t spent money foolishly–a good thing considering the lack of true impact talent available–the Orioles have not made significant improvements. While waiting out the market is wise in these cases, they have waited it out for Delmon Young. They didn’t add an everyday player cheaply. They haven’t addressed the rotation (yet) and seem to be collecting a bunch of outfielders and designated hitters.

Can the Orioles compete? Absolutely, they will compete because of their core players. But, they will not be legitimate contenders without a rotation upgrade and an addition of an everyday player. The rotation upgrade can still happen, but Dan Duquette has driven the point home–perhaps not by choice–that this is what the Orioles offense will be about: Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Manny Machado (once recovered), a hopefully resurgent Nick Markakis, and the home run power (but little else offensively) of JJ Hardy and Matt Wieters. Can they piece the final three spots together? Sure, but their current pieces are flawed after projected left fielder David Lough.

The Orioles didn’t need to add a superstar bat. They just needed a better than league average bat who gets on base at an above average rate. Instead, they got the short side of a DH platoon who comes with some baggage. Maybe it all works. Maybe Showalter works the platoons long enough for Duquette to acquire some help around the deadline. Maybe the Orioles add a significant starting pitcher or two. Maybe there’s a trade. Maybe they sign someone else. After all, this is just a minor league deal that will only cost $1 million plus incentives if Young makes the team.

The problem is that it’s been “maybe” since the 2013 season. It’s getting too late to keep saying maybe. This signing could be met with more positivity if the Orioles had made more impactful moves earlier. Instead, this appears to be it. It’s not good enough.

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About the author


Gary Armida  

Orioles Analyst

Gary Armida is a Father to the best little girl in the world. After that, he is a writer who has been covering Major League Baseball since 2007. During that time, Gary operated FullCountpitch.com, one of the first independent online sites that gained Major League Baseball media credentials. Over the years, he has covered two Winter Meetings and has written feature articles for a variety of outlets while interviewing Major League personnel such as Rick Peterson, Jason Giambi, Zack Wheeler, Jeff Luhnow, Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, and many others. In addition to his work at BSL, Gary contributes to USA Today Sports Weekly and maintains his personal site, garyarmida.com, that serves as his portfolio as well as a place for additional content.


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