On Saturday, the Rangers traded Michael Young to the Philadelphia Phillies for Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla. The Rangers are kicking in 10 million dollars of Young’s 16 million dollar salary (2013 is the final year on his contract) and gave Michael Young 1.2 million dollars to entice him to wave his no trade clause. Young will also receive a no trade clause in Philly (which is not customary, as he no longer has his 10-5 rights). So the Phillies get Michael Young on a 6 million dollar salary, while the Rangers save about 4.3 million dollars (once you factor in Lindblom’s salary, which will be around minimum MLB pay, as he is not arbitration eligible until after the 2014 season) and get 2 pitchers that we will profile below.
So Young is expected to have a 1.2 WAR in 2013 just to offset his salary for the Phillies (using FanGraphs 5 million per year), and this doesn’t count the pitchers they are giving up. In 2011, he had a 2.1 rWAR, but had a -2.4 rWAR in 2012, and aside from maybe Jeff Francoeur, was the worst every day player in baseball. Now 36, is there any reason to think that Young will bounce back in 2013 back to 2011, or even somewhere in between his last two seasons? When you look at defense, Young was roughly the same in 2012 as he was in 2011, that is, not good. If you average the three major defensive metrics (FRAA, UZR, DRS, not necessarily advisable, but it will work for our purposes here) together, Young was worth -10.73 runs in 2011, and -10.83 runs in 2012. So the difference clearly was in offensive value. FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus had him as a positive baserunner in 2011 and for his career, but in 2012, he was negative according to both formulas. His speed score also dropped from 4.5 (4.7 in his career) to 3.2 in 2012. When you look at his offensive numbers, you notice that not only his BABIP dropped, but his ISO dropped as well (to under .100 for the first time in his career). This suggests that the drop has less to do with luck/randomness and more to do with a drop in power, and worse (as we saw with the speed score drop), a decline in skill set. In 2011, the average batted ball hit by Michael Young went 255.613 feet. In 2012, the average batted ball hit by Michael Young went 244.661. It is hard to be as bad as Michael Young was in 2012 (just basic regression to the mean), but there are no rational reasons to believe he will be a productive every day 3rd baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.
Josh Lindblom was a 2nd round pick by the Dodgers in 2008 (after being drafted in the 3rd round by the Astros in 2005, in which he didn’t sign) out of Purdue University, where he was a very solid pitcher (mainly a reliever) with good strikeout rates, walk rates, and home run rates. Lindblom was traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies at the trading deadline in 2012 as part of the Shane Victorino trade.
A fastball heavy right-handed reliever, his average velocity is lower than what you would expect out of the bullpen, averaging about 92 MPH and getting up to 94.6 MPH. He throws a lot of sliders (nearly a quarter of the time) along with an occasional curve and change (10% of the time combined). His slider moves horizontally similar to the sliders of Josh Kinney, Javier Lopez, Raul Valdes, Arthur Rhodes, and Sean Marshall. Vertically, it moves like the sliders of Arthur Rhodes, Jeff Bennett, Luke Gregerson, and Matt Capps. Linear weights seemed to like Arthur Rhodes slider, even towards the end of his career (in the Pitch F/X era).
In his 100.2 career MLB innings, Lindblom is statistically known for his home run problem. Considering that the Texas Rangers play in a very hitter friendly park, whether or not Lindblom has a legitimate home run problem is pretty important. Despite pitching most of his innings with the Dodgers, who play in a pitcher friendly park, Lindblom has a 1.16 HR/9IP, all 13 homers coming in 2012. While his ground-ball rate is pretty poor, he also sports a high infield fly-ball percentage. He had a 15.7 HR/FB % in 2012, making his MLB career average 10.7%, not too far off MLB averages (1.16 is not too far off MLB averages either). He actually threw harder in 2012 velocity wise, which makes his sudden home run problem a little strange. In the minors, his career average .8, which is relatively high. In AA (104.2 innings), he gave up a .6 HR/9IP, while in AAA (134 innings in the hitter friendly PCL), he gave up 1.0 HR/9IP. These rates aren’t appalling by any means, but the lack of ground-balls is a serious concern in Texas. Lindblom has a solid strikeout rate in the Majors of 23.3%, but it comes with a 10.7 BB %. In the minors, he had a strikeout rate of 22.1 % and a walk rate of 6.62 %. Lindblom takes Young’s spot on the 40 man, but I believe he has 2 more options remaining, as the only one that was used was in 2011.
Lisalverto Bonilla is a 22 year old right-handed pitcher that was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 by the Phillies, where he began his professional career in the Dominican Summer League. After 11 exceptional starts, Bonilla started 2010 state side in the Gulf Coast League. He struggled in A- Williamsport, but spent all of 2011 in A-ball in the South Atlantic League, which was roughly an age appropriate league for him. He had a FIP .60 better than league average and a SIERA .51 better than league average, but the park played extremely pitcher friendly that season. Used both as a reliever and a starter, Bonilla walked just 6.6% of batters with a 49.4 GB %. In 2012, he only pitched as a reliever and split the season between A+ and AA. With just 46.1 innings pitched in the season, small sample size caveats obviously apply, but he was really good. He had a gigantic strikeout rate along with solid GB/BB rates and he kept the ball in the park. He has been virtually unhittable against righties over the last two years (2.58 FIP, 2.79 SIERA), but solid against lefties (3.25 FIP, 3.67 SIERA). Listed at 6-1 164, it isn’t surprising, despite the success he was having, that the Phillies moved him to the bullpen. His delivery possesses a strange small leg kick in which he brings his leg up to his bottom. A shoulder turn gives him a little deception and he brings his hands pretty low. Despite this, his delivery is pretty free and easy, and looks rather repeatable to me (though some have concerns). In video I saw of him, his hard curve/slider looked effective, and he throws a fastball that can hit 95 MPH out of the bullpen along with a changeup that gets good reviews. Baseball America had Bonilla as the Phillies’ 12th best prospect coming into 2012 and many think that he can become a back of the bullpen/high leverage type pitcher. Bonilla was assigned to AA Frisco’s roster, so he will most likely begin the year there, but he could move fast and even be in the big league bullpen by the end of the year.
I like this trade for the Rangers, as they free up a small amount of money and get what seems like a legit prospect reliever. Even if Lindblom struggles, which he probably will, he will be easy to send down or even (worst case scenario) designate for assignment. In my opinion, the Phillies have not solved their 3rd base problem, and I still think Freddy Galvis will be a better solution, as least he provides defensive certainty.