Giants: Dodging The Delmon Young Bullet

Delmon Young signed with the Phillies today on a one-year, $750,000 contract that includes performance bonuses that could make the contract worth up to $3.5 million.

Whew. Deep breath, everybody.

Young was mentioned infrequently as a player the Giants could target, and on the surface one can see why. He plays outfield (“plays”), he crushes lefties, he seems to fit the Pat Burrell model of gargantuan dude who hits dingers. But there are several reasons why Young wouldn’t have made sense for the Giants. One is that he can’t play defense at all. He fails the eye test, the stats test, the sniff test, you name it. He’s a DH only at this point, which makes the Phillies’ assertion that he will play right field all the more hilarious. Mark your calendars for May 6th, folks. That’s the day that the Phillies will come to San Francisco for the first time in 2013, presumably with Delmon Young in RF. Remember what Vlad Guerrero looked like in right in the 2010 World Series? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

There’s ample evidence to the idea that the Giants front office is very interested in players who play good defense. Since 2007, the Giants lead the majors in UZR, which obviously isn’t a perfect measure of defensive skill but over such a large sample can be reasonably counted on. Since 2009, I can only think of one player the front office acquired who was clearly a poor defender, and that is the aforementioned Burrell. But Burrell was a) basically free and b) a great clubhouse presence, another attribute the Giants clearly take seriously when acquiring players.

Lack of defensive ability is likely the main reason the Giants didn’t make a run after Michael Morse, as well. Morse has similar defensive value to Young in the outfield (that is to say, negative), and is three and a half years older, but has – unlike Young – shown an ability to hit, against lefties and righties alike. The Giants, as they should, have shown a tendency to avoid players charitably labeled “outfielders” and more accurately described as “DH types”, which is smart, seeing as they play in a league that doesn’t have a DH.

In that vein, there’s really only one player still on the market who makes sense for the Giants, given their needs and the criteria which seem to dictate their personnel decisions. Oh sure, I suppose there could be a Ryan Theriot signing, or a Freddy Sanchez minor-league deal, or even a Scott Hairston signing, but there’s still one fish out there that could help the Giants in a big way and fits a need. I’m speaking, of course, about Michael Bourn. Two months ago, Bourn seemed nothing but a pipe dream. His agent, Scott Boras, was throwing around words like “nine-figure contract,” which all but ruled the Giants out. But now, he’s gotten a bit more intriguing.

The main reason for that is that, having not signed yet, his demands have presumably come down significantly. Whereas before he was looking for a five- or six-year contract, now perhaps he’d listen to a three- or four-year offer. And I have to admit, this lineup looks pretty darn good:

  1. Bourn
  2. Belt
  3. Sandoval
  4. Posey
  5. Pence
  6. Pagan
  7. Scutaro
  8. Crawford

I don’t even mind giving up the draft pick, under the condition that the player acquired makes the Giants a significantly better team. But the thing is I don’t know if Bourn is that player. His value lies significantly in the health of his legs, both for his baserunning ability and his ability to play perhaps the best centerfield defense in the majors. But he’s now 30 and the health of his legs is not sure thing. I would rather have pursued Nick Swisher, who ended up signing a deal with Cleveland that will likely be less than Bourn’s eventual contract, and also cost the signing team a draft pick. So, while Michael Bourn would have been a fun signing, and he’s one of the last exciting free agents remaining on the market, he just doesn’t make that much sense for the Giants, given his likely cost.

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