Delmon Young is probably the poster boy for this series as he has a past, a present, and just maybe a future with the Rays. Let’s take out a page of the Rays’ history book and discuss how Young got to where he is today.
Young was the first pick of the then-Devil Rays in the 2003 draft, and he was expected to be a superstar outfielder in the big leagues before long. His first three years of minor league ball were an on-field success as his potential remained evident, but off the field, they were a total disaster. From 2004 to 2006, Young worked his way to the big leagues at just 20 years of age, hitting .318 with 59 homers and 75 steals as minor league pitchers didn’t stand a chance., However, it was in 2006 that the infamous incident in which he threw a bat at an umpire saddled Young with a 50 game suspension and earned him the reputation of a problem child. Despite the incident he was called up by the talent impaired Devil Rays in the fall of 2006 and played in 30 games, hitting .317. Then next year, Young was in the Devil Rays’starting outfield and played in all 162 games, putting up a a .288/.316/.408 slash line with 38 doubles, 13 homers, and 93 RBI as he finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. But just the next year, the first chapter of his Rays career came to an end.
Following the 2007 season, Andrew Friedman and company were building a new-look Rays team. Young didn’t seem to fit their image and he was traded to the Twins for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. Young played four years for the Twins and had three average years and one terrific year. The terrific year was 2010 when he had a .298/.333/.496 line with 21 home runs and 112 RBI. It would turn out to be the only year that Young would hit 20 home runs or drive in over 100 runs. When Young struggled in 2011, though, Young was sent to the Tigers in mid 2011 for a pair of nondescript minor leaguers. He played for the Tigers for a year and a half, but he was unimpressive throughout aside for his incredible performance in the 2011 postseason. That postseason was his pinnacle, the one moment where it seemed like he had lived up to his potential, but it was counterbalanced by an incident where he uttered anti-Semitic remarks in a hotel lobby in New York. Yes, alcohol was involved.
Young’s contract year in 2012 ended in the worst possible way as he broke his ankle, and as a player never known as defensive asset and not getting any slimmer, the injury only gave him fewer suitors. Finally the Phillies, desperate for outfielders, offered him a contract just above at the league minimum. He played in 80 forgettable games with the Phillies and was such a liability in the field that they finally released him and went with younger players. But not long after, we heard the Rays were interested in a reunion, and before long, it came to fruition.
Following his release by the Phillies, the Rays picked up Young off the scrapheap and suddenly his career had gone full circle. Hoping for a DH that could stay healthy and hit, Joe Maddon inserted Young into the lineup against left-handed pitching. He made an immediate impression with his pitch recognition, ability to hit to the opposite field, and positive attitude as he worked his way into the Rays’ regular DH role. His stats as a Ray were a .258/.329/.452 line with 3 homers and 7 RBI in 70 plate apperances before topping it all off with a solo homer off Danny Salazar in the AL Wild Card Game that turned the entire contest around.
This takes us to where we are today. Young is a free agent, again not a sought-after player and probably reduced to a DH in the American League. But that might play right into Andrew Friedman’s hand. Friedman has never been able to find a decent DH and he doesn’t have a lot of money to spend. Most DH’s on the market are expensive, and if they are not, they are usually extremely injury prone. Maybe Delmon Young, on the second time around, could be the answer.