On Friday, the Philadelphia Phillies designated Delmon Young for assignment. He was nine plate appearances away from a $150,000 bonus. I'm sure that was just a coincidence.
On the other hand, consider why the Phillies signed Young in the first place. Okay, pretend like you can consider that. Pretend you could pretzel-logic your way into thinking Young was a good gamble before the season started. Now you're thinking like a Ruben Amaro. And here's what Amaro was hoping for:
- A contending Phillies team
- Lightning in a bottle with Delmon Young
The tools-monster-gone-good in baseball lore the last couple seasons is Carlos Gomez. He's basically peak Andruw Jones right now, just a couple years after being peak Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Gomez always had tools. He finally got an instruction manual. Now he's one of the most electric players in baseball. The Phillies were hoping for something like that. Well, maybe not that dramatic. We're kinda down to one tool with Young, so he's more of a tool monster. But the idea of a former prospect figuring it out late isn't unusual.
If you want a better comp than Gomez, take Phil Nevin, who was the first-overall pick in the 1992 draft. He didn't reach the majors until 1995, and that wasn't exactly on merit. The Astros gave up on him and shipped him to the Tigers, who shipped him to the Angels, who gave up on him and shipped him to the Padres, with whom he became a 40-homer All-Star. The comparison works right down to the part where Nevin was reputed to be a little prickly and rough around the edges, just like Young.
That's what the Phillies were hoping for. Halladay/Lee/Hamels, a healthier Utley and Howard, maybe a renaissance from Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins, and Delmon Young turning into Phil Nevin. You laugh, but World Series are going to be won on dumber gambles, and perhaps this year too. Nate McLouth? Come on. And both the Pirates and Phillies gave up on Brandon Moss, who might help the A's to the playoffs. Almost every team has a surprise success story that's even more surprising than Delmon Young, who's the same age as Chris Davis, you know.
When it became clear that the Phillies weren't going to contend, and that Young was more of a flaming bag than lightning in a bottle, the Phillies figured they'd save $150,000, and now he's likely to become a free agent. If the Phillies can't trade him, he can still accept an assignment to the minors. Just a guess, but I'm thinking that won't happen. No, Delmon Young is probably a free agent, and he's interested in what your team thinks about him.
Here's the assignment of the day, then: Pick a team for him. Pick the team that best measures up with his variety of risk and reward. Let's break the teams down into categories:
Example: Astros, Marlins
Maybe rebuilding teams want the next Phil Nevin because they want to trade him for a gaggle of prospects. Sounds good, but there's a wrinkle in the risk/reward spectrum. The reward is something like a raffle ticket, but the risk is a player who can embarrass the organization or act up in some way.
Yeah, like that. If I'm the Astros, I don't want any part of that gambit.
Teams that kinda think they have a shot, even if that's not especially realistic
In this scenario, teams that have a few pieces in place sign Delmon on the off-chance that he somehow spins his draft pedigree into gold.
The Phillies are the best example of this team, and they've actually taken the plunge on the actual Delmon. There aren't a lot of teams that will fall into this category over the offseason. The Rockies? Mariners? White Sox? Dunno. None of them make a ton of sense.
Example: Teams that are good
If you're looking for a lefty-mashing bench option, maybe Young's your guy. Maybe that Nevin-like potential is appealing to teams who just need a spare part. If he's just the 25th man off the bench, why not get a player with some latent talent?
But if you're looking for a lefty-mashing bench option, how about one who can field? Or throw? Or run? If you want a right-handed-hitting outfielder who can field, throw, and run, the minor leagues are absolutely dripping with them. Are you going to give up all of those guaranteed skills to chase after a promise of tools? Not when every game might mean the difference between a short season and the postseason. Take the sure thing. Leave the speculating to the rebuilding teams.
Conclusion: I absolutely cannot figure out where Delmon Young is going to play next year.
That isn't to say it's Japan or Korea time just yet. Just that I've looked at all 30 teams and said, "Nope ... nope ... nuh-uh ... nope ... no way ..." in order. One of those 30 will probably sign him, chasing after a potential that may or may not exist.
Danged if I can figure out which team that is, though. Welcome to Stage Five of Delmon Young's career: the vagabond stage. He was the top prospect before he was the traded top prospect before he was the reclamation project before he was the free-agent flier before he was a disappointment for four consecutive teams. It'll be interesting -- and hard to predict -- to see where he goes next.