The Yankees' answer at third base might be preparing to play his season for another team right now. He might be a franchise player, loved by fans. And he might be the perfect fit for New York.
Versatile Rangers infielder Michael Young meets all the qualifications the Yankees are looking for in their quest for a short-term replacement for Alex Rodriguez, who will undergo left hip surgery in January.
Here are seven reasons Brian Cashman should track down Rangers GM Jon Daniels at the Winter Meetings this week and talk deal:
(1) He's likely available. The Rangers have tried to trade Young several times in the past, and there's no indication they would cling to him now, one year away from free agency, with an already-elite offense. The arrival of prospect Mike Olt could reduce Young's role substantially in 2013 anyhow. Potential stumbling block: as a player in the majors for at least ten years and with one team for five years, Young has the right to refuse a trade. Though he's also reportedly demanded trades in the past.
(2) He doesn't ruin the 2014 payroll mandate. Young is expensive this season, with a salary of $16 million. But he's a free agent after the season, with no option years, and the Yankees have shown a willingness this offseason to give out high-salary, one-year deals in order to clear the books as much as possible for the 2014 season, when they plan to be under the $189 million luxury tax threshold (see Kuroda, Hiroki; Pettitte, Andy; Rivera, Mariano). Young fits that strategy.
(3) He's versatile. Young has played 358 games at third base, 447 games at second base, 793 games at shortstop and 77 games at first base during his career. This fits Brian Cashman's goal of acquiring a third baseman who can become a part-time player, or super-sub when Rodriguez returns during the summer. Here's the rub: he's not really a slick fielder at any position. But he is sure-handed and experienced, which the Yankees hierarchy seems to value.
(4) He's a veteran. Yes, that's a nice way of saying he's old. But who on the Yankees isn't? Young will play next season at the age of 36, which is still younger than Rodriguez or Derek Jeter. Plus, New York is unlikely to trouble him. He's played in the postseason and been a team leader, a resume that nicely fits the Yankees' clubhouse.
(5) He's not a total offensive waste. There are several players who can handle third base (Brandon Inge, perhaps Stephen Drew), but their bats are mighty lacking. Young isn't the player he once was, but he's not useless either. He hit .277 with eight home runs last season, one of his worst seasons to date. But as recently as 2009 and 2010 he hit 20-plus home runs, and he batted .338 during the 2011 season. It's reasonable to expect some kind of bounce-back. Bill James' projection on fangraphs.com sees Young hitting .294 with a .343 on-base percentage and 12 home runs in 2013.
(6) He probably won't cost much. Money? Yes. Texas would probably love to get Young's contract off the books to help make a run at Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke. But prospects? The Yankees could probably get away with giving up a low-level player they don't particularly see a use for in the deal. Older players who are declining and owed a lot of money don't normally command a high price in prospects.
(7) He's a right-handed bat. The Yankees have enough left-handers. Though he won't replace Rodriguez's thump, he will make Joe Girardi's ability to split up the lefties in the lineup a little easier.