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Young Is Restless

Popular Texas Ranger Michael Young wants to be traded, but it is looking more and more like he won't be dealt. On many levels, this is not surprising.

Texas is in a tough spot. Young is an aging middle infielder in the twilight of his prime. At 33 years old, he will not necessarily drop off considerably, but he is at that age where a team has to start considering that possibility. With 3 years remaining on his deal, and each of those years paying him $16 million, it is easy to see why a team would think twice about acquiring him.

On top of that, Young is a popular Ranger. It would not look good if they dealt him for pennies on the dollar, especially given that he is still in his prime. It is not the type of move that a defending AL champion typically faces.

However, how many AL champions ask the de facto face of the franchise to move from the field to DH? Especially after moving him off of shortstop a few years ago to make room for a youngster with no MLB experience? Granted, that youngster is Elvis Andrus, but still, would the Yankees have moved Derek Jeter off of short if Robinson Cano had been a natural shortstop?

Michael Young, as a player and professional, unintentionally challenges the boundaries between personal connections and professional decisions that any franchise inevitably faces. He is a more interesting case study than his rather pedestrian name and game suggest.

When Young first broke into the league, I thought he was underrated. He didn't do anything great, but he knew how to spray the ball around the field, and he was a good enough defender. At second base, that added up to a good player, but not a flashy one that would get much recognition.

Then, Michael was asked to move to shortstop, and he moved like a consummate professional. From there, his production did not really change that much. Surprisingly enough, his fielding did not dip a ton either, despite playing a more demanding position. Along with that, Alex Rodriguez had moved to third base, and Nomar Garciaparra moved to the NL. When it was all said and done, Young emerged as an All Star selection, which boosted his notoriety significantly.

As a player, Young has had many good years, but really he is not a great ballplayer. He is good, but not great. However, as circumstances turned him into an annual All Star candidate, continued to post high batting averages, and take advantage of a great lineup around him in a great hitter's ballpark, he got treated more and more like a great player. On top of that, the humility he showed to move positions, and his ability to hit to all fields, gave him a reputation as a guy that "plays the game the right way." Young's skillset and on-field persona are easy to admire and use an example for others.

Still, Texas understood what kind of ballplayer that Young is. His best tool is his bat, and his glove has never been noteworthy. It was logical for them to move him to third base when fielding prodigy Elvis Andrus was ready to take over shortstop. It made the Rangers a more talented team.

The shortstop is the captain of the infield though, and Young had emerged as the de facto captain of the team. From a personal, hierarchal standpoint, the move made no sense at all - especially considering that Young's production did not slip.

Wins, championships, and prodigies have a way of smoothing potential issues over, but Young also helped by again agreeing to move. There was more angst when he moved to third, but at the end of the day, he further buoyed his reputation as a team-first player.

Now, after advancing to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, Texas is asking their de facto face of the franchise to move yet again, this time completely off the field. Once again, from a sabermetric perspective, it makes sense. Nobody in their right mind would move Adrian Beltre off of third base. However, once again from an interpersonal perspective, it looks like a slap in the face to a tenured leader on the team.

As much as I love numbers, this is another story where numbers do not tell the whole story. If I were in the Rangers front office, I would have thought a little bit longer and harder before moving Young to DH. While I believe Young when he says that he requested a trade once he found out Texas was shopping him around when they said they were not, I think it was more of a final straw than the only thing.

Young is still a productive player, and his recognition and accomplishments cannot be ignored. His peers are certainly aware of who he is, and Texas fans are as well. Both of those groups have a bunch to do with how successful the Rangers are in any given year. Sabermetrics are not designed to measure these things.

Really, the problem is that Young is a bit overrated as a player (again, he is good, just not great), and now the Rangers have complicated that by underrating the "intangible" implications of moving him to designated hitter. In this case, the two do not balance each other out. Instead, they lead to a messy, incongruous situation.

No matter what happens, the Rangers will have a solid season, and Michael Young will produce too. These are talented professionals. It is an bad-tasting situation though, created by quirky circumstances.

This could happen to Seattle someday too, only it could be even more difficult. What if Ichiro, in his early 40s, is 100 hits short of 3,000, but has lost two or three steps? What if at that point he is clearly worse than Dustin Ackley, but does not want to give up the leadoff position, or his spot in right field? How would the Mariners handle that?

My hunch is that the M's would let Ichiro keep playing where he wants to play. Texas wouldn't though, and now they have a disgruntled player on their hands. However, they also have an AL pennant. Is there a right answer for how to handle these kind of situations?

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