|Delmon Young was MVP of the ALCS, but an incident in New York made him a risk. (Getty Images)|
Delmon Young took nearly a 90 percent pay cut in guaranteed dollars after a year in which he hit 18 home runs and 74 RBI at age 26, had a 1.000-plus OPS in both the ALCS and World Series and won the ALCS MVP.
And he may be lucky to get what he got.
No, it's not mostly because he is disliked by the statistics crowd for his extremely low 0.6 lifetime WAR (and worse -1.2 this past season). The real issue is an incident in New York early last season that led to him pleading guilty to aggravated assault in a hate crime.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro agreed to sign Young to a $750,000 guaranteed deal (down from the $6.75 millon he made with the Tigers last year), but not until after many interviews regarding Young's character, Amaro said in a phone interview with CBSSports. Amaro admitted that the incident was a "big part" of the consideration as he weighed whether to gamble on Young.
Amaro said he talked to rabbis from Philadelphia and Detroit (the Detroit rabbi knows Young well, according to Amaro), the Philadelphia Anti Defamation League and Young himself before giving the player a chance.
"I certainly feel comfortable with the due diligence we put together. But it's really up to Delmon to prove us right," Amaro said.
Amaro was a particularly interesting GM to make this decision, given his own background.
"I'm part Jewish, so it's a concern to me," said Amaro, a 2009 inductee into the Philadelphia Jewish Hall of Fame whose mother is Jewish.
Ultimately, Amaro concluded that Young shouldn't be kept from employment with them based on one incident, no matter how ugly. Young was said by police to have uttered an anti-Semitic slur while roughing up a tourist (who turned out not to be Jewish) in Manhattan on April 27, 2012. Young, who had no prior arrests, was sentenced to 10 days of community service and suspended seven days by MLB.
"He's not an anti-Semite. He made a mistake," Amaro said. "Hopefully, he can move on from that."
Amaro pointed out that Young's two agents, Arn Tellem and Joel Wolfe, are Jewish. But the key for Amaro was a meeting with Young a few weeks back. Amaro said it was a "very long" meeting.
"I got a good feel for the player," Amaro said.
The Phillies have looked at several corner outfielders this winter, including Cody Ross, who signed with the Diamondbacks, Scott Hairston, who is still a free agent, and trade targets Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells. Young gives them a proven run producer at the right price (he reportedly can make $3.5 million if he hits his incentives).
Young allows the Phillies to stay under the luxury tax threshold (they finished last year a few hundred thousand below that limit). While they may have a few dollars left, Amaro indicated he's not uncomfortable going with the seven outfielders he now has for three spots, with trade acquisition Ben Revere set in center field, Young favored to take right field, and youngsters John Mayberry Jr., Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and others vying for playing time.
Amaro said their reports suggest Young will do better in right field than left, where he struggled mightily the past two years with Detroit, contributing to his awful WAR numbers. The Phillies see Young improving since there's no DH option for them.
"We're hopeful he can come back and be much better defensively than he was the last couple years," Amaro said.
Young also had an ankle procedure that should help his range, though Amaro admitted it may mean he won't be ready for Opening Day.
"We're not going to rush him," Amaro said.
The expectation, though, is that Young will do enough to be the team's right fielder, and there's hope he could even fill the spot of the righthanded-hitting No. 5 hitter they've been seeking. Amaro pointed out he filled such a role for the AL champion Tigers. Young, still only 27, had 112 RBI in 2010 for the Twins.
Young filled his role best in the postseason, and three more postseason homers made it a Tigers career record eight for him. He had 1.186 OPS in the ALCS to win the MVP award, then a 1.043 OPS in the World Series.
Amaro see the Phillies marriage as one that can be "mutually beneficial."
In more ways than one, Young certainly has a lot to prove.