Friday, December 05, 2008

Is Delmon Finished? Not So Fast...

Much fuss has been raised over Ron Gardenhire’s recent admission that he’d prefer to open the 2009 season with Carlos Gomez, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer as his starting outfield alignment, leaving Delmon Young out in the dark. Many view this as the manager overplaying his hand, potentially upsetting a historically volatile player, and lowering Bill Smith’s leverage when it comes to trading the 23-year-old outfielder (which, to some, seems like a foregone conclusion at this point).

Overreact much?

First of all, Opening Day is still four months away. A lot can change over that time, and the notion that Gardenhire’s stated preference during an informal Q & A session in Fargo sets in stone Young’s role on the bench seems awfully misguided.

It could be that Gardenhire truly has lost taste for Young and has no problem letting this negative sentiment be known to the public. But there are a couple other possibilities that are being overlooked here.

One is that this was a calculated move to play up the value of Michael Cuddyer, who has battled injuries over the past two years and whose contract is much more of a liability than Young's. If other teams get the sense that Cuddyer is of more value to the Twins and that the manager has lost faith in Young, doesn’t Cuddy immediately become the more valuable trade piece?

Another possibility is that we are simply seeing an example of a manager trying to light a fire under an under-performing player. Early last season, Gardenhire wrote Young’s name into the lineup on a daily basis and the coaching staff continually sang the outfielder’s praises to the press. In Young’s 2007 season in Tampa Bay, he literally played every game. In neither of those seasons did Young have any prolonged periods of excellent play, or any tangible signs of significant improvement. There is little evidence that working to increase Young’s confidence leads to improved production, perhaps because confidence was never an issue for him in the first place.

So, if the coaching staff believes that Young’s problems are at least partially mental or due to a lack of motivation, perhaps a change in approach is necessary. Perhaps the very public reports of Young being on the trading block and now the manager’s public assertion that Young is not viewed as one of the team’s top three outfield options are deliberate moves intended to challenge Young to live up to his potential. According to La Velle E. Neal III, Young already “has hit the gym big-time this offseason and has lost weight.” It is entirely possible that this is a response to the way the Twins have presented him during this offseason so far.

If you follow Young’s career from high school to minor leagues to major leagues to present, you see a pretty clear and steady trend. He is on a path, and if he stays the course, he is on his way to a very unremarkable career as a mediocre corner outfielder with attitude problems. Something needs to change, and perhaps all these trade rumors and this public “diss” from his manager are calculated maneuvers aimed at that exact goal.

14 comments:

neckrolls said...

I'm with you, Nick. And the part about raising Cuddyer's perceived value is a great insight.

My only worry is that hearing that he's in Gardy's favor will make Gomez become complacent. He's got a long way to go before he's even an average MLB hitter. It would be better if, as LaVelle suggested, nobody knew they had a guaranteed job, so all four of them would bust their butts to improve by spring training.

Josh's Thoughts said...

both of your explanations are very plausible and very well thought out, nick.

i just cannot fathom why the twins would trade a 23-year-old healthy player with a world of potential who is getting paid very little instead of a soon-to-be 30-year-old with health concerns and 2-years and $15.25 million remaining on a contract.

i understand that young would net a bigger return at a position we really need, however we finally have a few young, high-potential bats to go along with a young starting rotation. i think the twins need to keep the "young theme" and get rid of cuddyer if they were to trade any of them...

however bill smith said it best...
"Everybody said it wouldn't work, but the Red Sox didn't do too bad,"--regarding boston's 4-man rotating outfield

we'll have to wait and see, but i agree that this is a long off-season and anything can happen between now and opening day.

John said...

There really is nothing the Twins can do to make Cuddyer more desirable to other teams. He hasn't been productive in a while and most teams are tightening up payroll wise. The Twins would have to eat a big chunk of his salary and needless to say that's anathema to them.

The likely explanation for Gardy's comments is that he just forgot to keep his low opinion of Young under wraps. He has criticized much better young players than Young in the past.

Nick N. said...

The likely explanation for Gardy's comments is that he just forgot to keep his low opinion of Young under wraps. He has criticized much better young players than Young in the past.

He has, but it seems to me that he has frequently done so with an underlying motive. As an example, I seem to recall that when Francisco Liriano struggled mightily during his first call-up last season after he had repeatedly claimed that he deserved to be in the big leagues, either Gardy or some member(s) of the front office made some negative comments about Liriano's work ethic. That struck me as a challenge to Liriano, and it could be that this payed off, as the pitcher returned to Triple-A and showed vast improvement over the next couple months.

Waukesha Twins fan said...

Thank you for a reasoned reaction! The Strib's blogs were going crazy, and I just didn't think Gardy's comments spelled doom for either Delmon or the 2009 season (as some said).

An unintended effect of the comments seems to be rising popularity for Delmon. Fans who previously derided him and dissed BS for trading for him are now lining up to defend Delmon's potential and production. Go figure.

Strutz said...

First of all, can you imagine any other manager in Major League Baseball revealing personel discisions at an agricultural trade show? This just shows what an odd organization we Twins fans fallow.

Seccond, I agree with you that Gardy's comments could very well be intended to light a fire under Delmon, but wouldnt you think the other three outfielders could use that as well? Gomez is a horribly undisciplined batter, and Span had a break out season last year, largely because he went into the season with a huge chip on his shoulder. Cuddyer had a horrible season after signing a huge contract, you would think he has a lot to prove himself.

I dont see why Gardy wouldnt just say that the three best players will play, and keep the pressure on all of them to work hard and show up to Spring Training ready to compete for a job.

Nick N. said...

I don't think the problems experienced by Gomez, Span or Cuddyer have anything to do with a lack of motivation. Gomez was already humbled last season by being benched a few times and knocked from leadoff to the nine-hole mid-season. Span, as you mention, has already gotten his slight (being left off the Opening Day roster last year) and it looks like it helped him immensely -- he should be rewarded for his excellent season with the guarantee of a starting spot to open the season. I don't Cuddyer has any motivation problems, he's just injury-prone and not all that good to begin with.

Young seems like the guy out of that group he could most benefit from a swift kick in the rear.

Benjamin said...

There's no burning rush to trade Young, IMO. He still makes <$1M/year. He still might be an above average player -- maybe even excellent.

Also, what's wrong with having him as an outfield reserve? or playing him 3-4 times a week? What are the odds that Span, Gomez, Cuddyer and Kubel will all be healthy and productive all year long?

That said, I'm not saying he's untouchable. If the right deal came along, for a left side infielder or an premier 8th inning guy, that might be a wise trade. (Maybe Young +1 for the Nat's Zimmerman?)

I'm just saying we don't need to dump him just because he may be the least spectacular of our rather strong outfield.

I also say this because I'm not that impressed with the available trade targets (I heard the Rockies wanted Slowey AND Span for Atkins? Pu-lease.)

Nick N. said...

I agree with everything you said Benjamin. Although I don't think the Twins would be able to pry Zimmerman from the Nats for Young +1 unless the "+1" was someone like Liriano or Baker.

Benjamin said...

Tru dat. There may be no 3rd basemen on the trading block or free agency pool that is worth the asking price. Every team with an available 3rd basemen will ask for one of our starters.

That may even end up to be a liability in our offseason trade hopes. In reality, I don't think Smith and the Twins want to trade any of Liriano/Baker/Blackburn/Slowey/Perkins for less than A+ proven major league talent.

So while we have this depth of young pitching talent, there will be plenty of GMs looking to land that very talent off of Smith for less than they may be worth.

Smith should be very cautious sending any off those pitchers elsewhere. It may even be a better idea to stand pat with what we have than to make risky trades involving one of our starters.

Ted said...

I'm in the DC area and you can forget getting Zimmerman. You'd have to throw in one of the M&M boys with Young and two starting pitchers to get him and the fans would still probably burn down the stadium (which by the way has a spectacular view of the Capitol from the upper decks between Home and First Base).

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