As the Phillies were taking stock of their offseason plans – who to trade for, who to acquire via free agency – I’d imagine that at some point, Phillies President David Montgomery gave General Manager Ruben Amaro a directive with regard to the type of player the team needs on its roster: get younger!
From the way the offseason has shaped up thus far, I’m thinking Ruben misunderstood the directive and thought his boss told him to ‘Get Youngs Here!’ They acquired Michael Young, their new 36 year-old third baseman in early December and, more recently, signed Delmon Young who projects to be the Phils’ starting right fielder.
For the record, I’m not really disappointed with either acquisition. I can see the upside in both players. However, in Delmon Young’s case, this is a signing that is extremely similar to one last offseason. Can you guess who it is? Okay, enough of the suspense: Jim Thome.
The Phillies signed Jim Thome in 2012 to play first base while the then-injured Ryan Howard rehabbed his Achilles injury and worked his way back into playing shape. Here’s the rub: Jim Thome hadn’t regularly played the position since 2005 – during his first stint with the team. I’ll admit I was slightly optimistic after I saw him make a couple of flashy plays with the glove in Spring Training. The wear-and-tear eventually caught up with 41 year-old “Gentle Jim” and his balky back, relegating him to pinch hit duties when healthy. After playing in only 30 games, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for a minor league pitching prospect.
So given his propensity to sign American League designated hitters and put them in the outfield at Citizens Bank Park, it’s no surprise to me that Ruben signed Delmon Young, and has already named him the starting rightfielder. Less than a quarter of his at-bats last year (24%) were as an outfielder, a leftfielder no less. The majority of his at-bats were as a DH. Why is this important? While age was no-doubt a factor in why the Jim-Thome-as-first-baseman-experiment failed, it’s just as foolish to give an outfielder a starting job at a position that he’s unfamiliar with. The guy hasn’t played right field with any regularity since 2007! Maybe this signing shows how little Ruben thinks of the outfielders already on the team.
Ruben told the fans last year after signing Jim Thome: “Our medical people are surprised at the shape he’s in,” Amaro said. “They think he might be better now than he was when we first signed him in 2002.” In the words of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies: ‘Riiiight.’ How’d that work out for you Ruben? This year he’s making a similar gamble on one Delmon Young. For this team to add some younger right-handed power is a good thing. But I’m not convinced that that decision should be made at the expense of getting even weaker fielders in an already shaky defensive outfield.
What do you think? Is signing Delmon Young a good low-risk/high-reward move or did Ruben Amaro not learn his lesson after signing Jim Thome last year? Leave a comment below.