An outfield competition will still take place in Clearwater, but the Phillies hope they have solved at least one of their question marks on the corners.
The Phils on Tuesday signed outfielder Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 performance-bonus laden contract with the expectation of him earning the job as their starting right fielder. Its a low-risk, potentially high-reward acquisition for the Phillies, who had been searching for another proven outfielder to add to the mix.
Now, if Young can prove his defense in right field is up to par, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix will compete for playing time on the opposite side of Ben Revere.
"I view this is an addition of depth in our outfield, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. While obviously Delmons got a lot more track record as far as success in the major leagues, he still can be competing for playing time. Ideally, hed be playing right field every day for us but thats not etched in stone. That will happen when he shows that he can play every day in right field for us."
Young, a career .284 hitter, played left field in just 30 his 151 games last season for the American League-champion Detroit Tigers. The 27-year-old has not played his natural position of right field since 2007, his first full major league season, when he appeared in 130 games there for Tampa Bay. The former first-overall pick switched to left when he was traded to the Twins in November 2007, as Denard Span was occupying the right side in Minnesota.
Young does come without his fair share of baggage. He was suspended 50 games in 2006 as a minor leaguer for flinging his bat at an umpire. And then, in April of last year, he was accused of shouting an anti-Semitic slur outside a New York hotel, an incident that led to him pleading guilty of aggravated harassment and a seven-game suspension from MLB. He recently completed his allotted hours of community service, helping to clean a New York City park.
"It was an unfortunate incident," Young said. "I put myself in a bad situation, but it was a one-time thing. Its not like it was a daily thing. I've learned a lot from it and how to rebound from it. I have a great support system, from family and friends to teammates in Detroit. Id like to thank them because they kept my spirits up and told me I could get through."
Young's past was something Amaro said and the Phillies did their homework on. In addition to meeting with Young, the GM spoke with the anti-defamation league in Philadelphia and rabbi acquaintances.
"The off-field stuff is something that we did think about," Amaro said. "[We] did a lot of due diligence on what kind of person he is. I think more than anything else the conclusion that we came up with was that he made a mistake and whatever was written about him in the past I think doesn't really depict the kind of person he is. Obviously we want to have good character guys in our clubhouse, and I think hes going to be one."
Amaro said there's a chance Young could start the season on the disabled list, as the outfielder underwent microfracture surgery on his right ankle on Nov. 10, just after the World Series. Young, who has already lost 20 pounds on a healthier diet, continues to work through a four-to-six month rehab process in preparation for spring training.
He admitted there will likely be a learning curve moving back to right field but added that with Minnesota he often found himself looking across the field and is looking forward to the opportunity. Hes also familiar with Revere, a teammate from the Twins.
"As a younger player [Young] was at least an average, probably a plus-defender in right field as he was coming through the minor leagues in the Tampa organization," Amaro said. "Always had a good arm. Its backed off a little bit since hes been doing more DHing. And there is some risk here, there's no question about it. But we think it's one of those situations where it's kind of a low risk, high reward because the guy can hit."
Young understands the position he's in, signing with just three weeks until spring training for much less money than the $6.75 million he made last season.
"I've done some things where theres a reason for it," he said. "If I went out there and was an All-Star six years in a row and was healthy and a model citizen, then yeah. But this is where I'm looking to make a change. Ive had a full offseason to reflect on life and have good people around me."