photo © 2009 Keith Allison | more info (via: Wylio)Michael Young seems to be forcing his way out of Texas, and since he’s a (former) shortstop, it’s only natural for some people to wonder if he’d be a better option than Yuniesky Betancourt.
Well, no. He’s actually worse defensively.
There’s a reason the Rangers moved him off shortstop and brought Elvis Andrus up to the majors at age 20, and it wasn’t because Andrus was tearing the cover off the ball in the minors (.275/.343/.361 career minor league line). It was because Young was possibly the worst defensive shortstop in the game for much of the 2000s.
Take a look at the Defensive Runs Saved column on his FanGraphs page. He was 28 runs below average at shortstop in 2004. The next year, he was 31 runs below average. That’s Ryan-Braun-at-third-base bad. To his credit, he was much better there in his last three years at the position, but he was still far below average (-7, -12, -5). In the past four years, Betancourt has posted figures of -7, -13, -19, and -21 in DRS. He’s getting progressively worse, but both Yuni and Young have played five full seasons at short, and in terms of career totals, Yuni (-60) hasn’t been nearly as bad as Young (-83).
Young is also worse in UZR (-55.6 to -41.9) and UZR per 150 defensive games played (-10.2 to -8.3). When you break UZR down into its different components, Young beats Yuni in Error Runs (+20 to -5.1), but that sure-handedness doesn’t mean much when he’s so far behind in Double Play runs (-8.4 to +2.5) and Range runs (-67.2 to -39.4) above average.
Factor in the contracts — Young is still due $16 million a year through 2013 — and it’s not crazy to say he’s less valuable than Yuni. He still hits fairly well, but over his career, he’s hit .279/.322/.411 away from Arlington. The offensive numbers would likely be better than Yuni’s, but at the same time they’d probably be a touch worse than Casey McGehee‘s.
If the Brewers want that kind of production (offensively and defensively) from short, they’d probably just be better off playing McGehee at short, putting Gamel in the lineup at third, and fielding the worst defensive infield the game has ever seen. At least that way they’d save $16 million a year.
Thankfully, the Brewers aren’t being brought up in these trade talks, and he’s not on the list of 8 teams to which Young can be traded without his consent. Of course, neither stopped the Brewers from landing Zack Greinke.