Delmon Young had his magical homers during his return to Tampa Bay in 2013, managing a .258/.329/.452 line (117 OPS+) in 70 regular season plate appearances and then drilling a game-changing home run against Danny Salazar in the AL Wild Card Game against the Cleveland Indians. But that will be all for Young’s return to the Rays. Young has agreed to a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles with an invite to spring training.
Why would the Rays let Young leave? He is a defensively limited player and one good month is not enough to make up for the disappointment he has been the last several years. Even when Young was going strong, he still had times when his plate discipline would completely evaporate and he would be overaggressive at the plate. For every home run, he had five or six weak groundouts on the first pitch of at-bats on offerings he should never have swung at. The bottom line is that Young is a flawed player, and there is only so much he can bring your time. The Rays had nothing to lose on a minor league deal, but Young had more promising opportunities available and went elsewhere. We will have to see whether Young cracks the Orioles’ roster and steps the Rays up for some matchups against the player they drafted first overall back in 2003.
In other news, the Rays have signed outfielder Justin Christian to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Christian, 33, is a righty-hitting outfielder with 76 big league games under his belt between the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants. In 2013 for the St. Louis Cardinals‘ Triple-A Memphis affiliate, he managed a .270/.332/.353 line in 411 plate appearances. Christian is the Rays’ next signing in the Rich Thompson mold, although he does have a few interesting things about him.
Christian has been a prolific basestealer in the minor leagues, swiping 367 bases in 429 attempts, an incredible 85.5% success rate. He has stolen just 26 bases the last two years, but if he is running strong he could be a weapon as a pinch-runner at some point. Christian also has a better history as a hitter than Thompson, managing a .301/.362/.431 line in 1969 Triple-A appearances. Finally, Christian is a strong defensive outfield who actually began his career on the infield, although he hasn’t played there since 2006. It will be interesting to see if the Rays try him at second and third base in spring training nevertheless. Christian is likely a long-shot to make the Rays’ roster out of spring training, but he has enough ability to be halfway-decent outfield depth if the need arises. It’s always nice to have players like Christian sticking around at Triple-A, and we’ll have to see if he comes in handy at the big league level.