The Tampa Bay Rays easily could have brought back Delmon Young. All it took for him to re-sign with the Baltimore Orioles was a one-year contract worth $2.25 million with some incentives. No matter how cheap the Rays are, that is a deal they could have matched.
With only a few possible upgrades to their lineup available, why did the Rays let Young go for so little money? There are certainly some reasons–particularly, his horrific defense–but even if those are not enough for you, the Rays have done enough to warrant some trust regarding the handling of Young. After all, since 2003, they have gotten so much out of such a flawed player.
Was Delmon Young the wrong pick for the Rays at first overall in the 2003 MLB Draft? Nick Markakis, John Danks, and Rickie Weeks are other notable players from the top 10 of that draft, but the Rays got as much mileage out of Young than they could have with any of them.
I’m not the biggest fan of WAR, but Markakis had the most WAR out of that group at 25.3. Add up the 0.9 WAR that Young gave the D-Rays in 2007 with the 8.5 WAR they received from Matt Garza and the 10.4 from Jason Bartlett, and we’re at 19.8 WAR. Then you can count 4.7 WAR from Chris Archer and the other contributions that have come from the players the Rays acquired in the second Garza and Bartlett trades and we’re up to 29.5 WAR…so far.
Danks is the only player of the other three still with his current franchise, but he hasn’t been effective at all since 2011. Weeks also declined in 2012 and 2013 before playing well in a part-time role this past season, making Markakis the only one who is still a productive starting player. In any event, he didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Baltimore Orioles, meaning that his contributions to their team are now over.
Somehow, even though Delmon Young has delivered just the 16th-most WAR among the players in the first round of the 2003 MLB Draft, he gave the Rays more value through the players for whom he was traded than anybody else. There is certainly a degree of luck that is involved with that, but the trade that Andrew Friedman made following the 2007 season to deal Young at the peak of his value was clearly a stroke of genius.
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Then, in quite possibly the biggest irony of all, the Rays brought Young back in August of 2013 even though he had been replacement level or worse in 2011, 2012, and 2013. What did Young do? He hit to a .258/.329/.452 line (117 OPS+) in 70 plate appearances with the team and then he drilled a solo home run off Danny Salazar that turned the AL Wild Card Game entirely around. How could the Rays possibly have known that Young could help them?
We can talk a little bit more about the Rays’ decision not to re-sign Young following the season, but the bottom line is that the Rays have made unbelievably good decisions regarding Delmon Young twice now. Let’s give them a little leeway before we say that they don’t know what they’re doing as they let him sign with the Orioles for next season.