Phillies sign Delmon Young to deal for one year
Right-handed slugging outfielder was ALCS MVP last year, had 112 RBIs in 2010
PHILADELPHIA -- This is Delmon Young's latest fresh start.
Can he take advantage and be the player the Phillies hope he can be?
The Phils announced Tuesday they had signed Young to a one-year, $750,000 contract, which a source said can become worth $3.5 million based on roster and performance bonuses. Philadelphia hopes Young will be the club's everyday right fielder and provide the lineup the balance it sorely needs from the right side of the plate. But a productive season is far from a certainty, and there are risks involved, which the Phillies acknowledge.
That is why Young signed for as little as he did and why he was still available this late in the offseason.
"I've done some things where there is a reason for it," Young acknowledged in the Phils' clubhouse. "If I went out there and was an All-Star six years in a row and healthy and a model citizen, that wouldn't have happened. That's where I'm looking to make a change. I made a change last year after the incident. It made me wake up. I've had a full offseason to get healthy and a full offseason to reflect on life and having good people around me. Being a good person, everything good can still happen."
The incident occurred last April in New York, where police arrested him on a second-degree aggravated harassment charge. Major League Baseball suspended him seven days as a result. Young pleaded guilty on Nov. 7, and the league ordered him to undergo anger management and alcohol counseling. Young also served 10 days of community service.
"You live and you learn," Young said. "I put myself in a bad situation. Nothing good comes out when you're out that late by yourself. I have to put myself in better situations. You think before you go out and do stuff now. You think, 'I have a game and I don't need to be doing any of this stuff.'"
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he did his homework on Young, speaking to numerous people. He insists he has a good feeling about the person he has brought into the Phils' clubhouse.
"I think, more than anything else, the conclusion we came up with is he made a mistake and whatever is written about him in the past doesn't really depict the kind of person he is," Amaro said. "Obviously, we want to have good character guys in our clubhouse, and I think he's going to be one."
If Young stays out of trouble -- he was suspended twice in his Minor League career, once 50 games for flinging a bat at an umpire -- and is a good teammate, he still has to get healthy and prove he can play capably in right field, a position he has not played since 2007. Young had microfracture surgery on his right ankle in November, and the Phillies acknowledged Young might not be 100 percent by Spring Training. If that is the case, they might get less of an opportunity to see how he performs defensively, which is a legitimate concern.
"We had interest in him offensively for a long time, but the defense means something and he'll have to proven he can play defense enough to be able to play every day out there," Amaro said. "I think he's motivated. That's one of the things. Reports are when he was a little bit of a younger player, he was at least an average, probably a plus defender in right field as he was coming through the Minor Leagues in the Tampa organization. He always had a good arm. It's backed off a little bit since he's been doing more DHing. There is some risk here. No question about it, but we think it's a low-risk, high-reward [move], because the guy can hit."
And that is why Young is here: offense. He hit .267 with 27 doubles, 18 home runs, 74 RBIs and 151 games last season for the Tigers. Young also hit .313 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 13 postseason games, including American League Championship Series MVP honors. His best season came in 2010 with the Twins, when he hit .298 with 46 doubles, 21 home runs, 112 RBIs and an .826 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
If Young can approach those numbers, the signing will be a steal.
But Amaro would not proclaim Young the everyday right fielder Tuesday, but if he is healthy and can play competent defense, the sure bet is Young will be there.
And what does that mean for the rest of the outfield?
Ben Revere is the everyday center fielder, with Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix competing for time in left. Mayberry is a smart bet to make the team because he is the only viable option to back up Revere in center, plus he has no remaining options and he has been productive hitting against left-handed pitchers.
Nix also seems safe because the Phils need a left-handed bat coming off the bench.
That leaves the final outfield spot for Brown or Ruf. Brown has the edge, but if Ruf outperforms Brown in Spring Training, it would not be a stretch to see Brown open the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Brown vs. Ruf should be a good competition in Clearwater, Fla.
Young should be interesting to watch, too. Nobody knows how much he will play because of his recovery from ankle surgery or how he will play once he is out there. And nobody knows if everything will be drama-free, either.
"Get to know me and then make judgments for yourself," Young asked. "I don't want to sell a brand, and it's not the brand. I'd rather you get to know the brand and take what you want from it then. I'm not going to come preach a Tim Tebow speech and say I'm going to do all this stuff and if I don't do it, you guys are right here to criticize me on it. I'll be here all year and you get to see if you like me or not. Hopefully you guys do like me."
Young just completed his community service before he traveled to Philadelphia to pass his physical. He spent time cleaning parks.
"All that is behind me now, it's just about trying to get that red hat into the World Series," Young said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.