ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported yesterday that free-agent starting pitcher Chris Young is currently weighing options between the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals. Olney says that the Mets are likely the best fit for the right-hander, but that the Nats are “in play:”
“Chris Young is getting closer to making a decision on where he will pitch in 2011; the Mets, as we know, are interested, and the Nats may be in the running, as well. It’s expected that he’ll probably sign for a base salary for something in the range of more than $1 million, plus incentives of something in the range of $3 million.”
Young, 30, has struggled to stay healthy over the past three seasons. Since 2007 he has only pitched 192.1 innings combined, while only making 36 starts. To put that in perspective, last season alone Livan Hernandez pitched 212 innings in 33 starts. Unfortunately for Young, a series a shoulder injuries have kept him off the mound for the last several years.
As is usual for players who remain relevant despite constant trips to the DL as the result of shoulder injuries, Young can flat out pitch when healthy. He has a career 48-34 record with a 3.80 ERA, and in his last full season of work, 2007, he posted a 3.12 ERA in 173 innings of work for the San Diego Padres. Over the past three seasons the Padres have attempted to get the 6 foot 10 hurler on the mound, but only to frustratingly inconsistent results.
The good news for Young is that his pitching style isn’t dependent on pitch speed. His incredible height makes up for his lack of velocity, because his release point is much closer to the plate than other starers, meaning the amount of reaction time for the batter is still small. In fact, the only year that Young’s fastball averaged over 90 MPH was his rookie season in 2004, ever since he has been a young Jamie Moyer. Instead of power he uses deception to force hitters into an incredibly low BABIP (.263 in his career).
Bill James projects that he will start 20 games next season with a 3.46 ERA, which would easily make him worth a $1-3 million gamble. If he is hurt, it’s a small price to pay. If he is healthy, he could be one of the best pitchers on the staff.