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Forever Young

Chris Young
The Mariners signed RHP Chris Young to an MLB deal this morning, meaning the Mariners finally signed a starting pitcher! He likely thrusts either Blake Beavan or Roenis Elias out of a rotation spot (odds are it will be Beavan). The Mariners made room on the roster by designating LHP Bobby LaFramboise for assignment.

First, a note on LaFramboise. He's a side-arming lefty reliever who has been very productive in AAA the past two seasons. He got a quick look from the M's last year and in 10 innings gave up quite a few runs. However, he also struck out over a batter an inning without many walks. He's a capable bullpen arm and I'll be very surprised if he sneaks through waivers. Somebody will claim him, and he might even get some legitimate big league time depending on who claims him. Hector Noesi seemed like a more logical DFA candidate, given that he is out of options, seems to fit the role that Chris Young will now fill, and has struggled more than LaFramboise the last two seasons. I won't get up in arms yet though; it seems likely that there will be more casualties to get non-roster guys on the roster.

Young got cut loose by the Nationals just days ago so he wasn't an option when the Mariners signed (and cut loose) veterans like Scott Baker and Randy Wolf. Young is more interesting than either Baker or Wolf, and he just might be better too.

The first thing that stands out about Young is him standing - literally. He is 6'10", the same height as Randy Johnson. The height likely makes him more True to the Blue than either Baker or Wolf, both of whom are diminutive in comparison. That's about all that Young and the Big Unit have in common though.

Young is now tower of power on the mound. His fastball topped out in the low 90s when he cracked the majors back in 2007, and averaged a stunningly low 84.6 miles an hour in 2012. He didn't pitch at all in the majors in 2013 thanks to major shoulder problems. Furthermore, Young combines his soft pitches with extreme fly ball tendencies - so extreme, in fact, that he has a lower ground ball percentage than any other pitcher in the past decade.

Ladies and gentleman, your fifth starter! A 6'10" monolith to fly balls, finesse pitching, and shoulder problems. In all honesty I make this move sound worse than it probably is, though it is every bit as absurd as I make it sound.

Chris Young's injury history the past four seasons very strongly suggests that he will break down at some point this season. That's probably okay though. What the Mariners really need to know is that he can make it through April, and since he's healthy right now that's not a bad bet to make.

Also, velocity has never been a big part of Chris Young's game. That 85-mph heater in 2012 was good for a 4.15 ERA and 0.9 WAR over 115 innings with the Mets. Moreover, his only bad season was an injury-marred 2009 campaign (other than the missing seasons he has accumulated with injuries.) There are reasons to believe that the Mariners will get some solid starts out of Chris Young until he inevitably gets hurt.

In the end I wonder what makes Chris Young more desirable than Scott Baker or Randy Wolf. I will say that Young performed better in Nationals camp than Baker did with the Mariners. He's had a year off like Wolf, but was more productive before his injury than Wolf was with his, and Young's shoulder woes are arguably less impactful than Wolf's Tommy John surgery. However, it's worth noting that Chris Young got an MLB deal from the Mariners, which is a much higher commitment than the non-roster deals both Baker and Wolf signed.

Chris Young is a Mariners starting pitcher as of today. That's probably a good thing despite the odd, twisting path that got Young and the Mariners to this point. There is a good chance he pitches better than Beavan, Wolf, or Baker would have. I don't understand how the Mariners justify giving him the money they wouldn't hand Randy Wolf, but whatever. The Mariners added a starting pitcher today instead of dropping one and that's a positive development.