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Philadelphia Phillies Find Low Risk, High Reward in Delmon Young

Phillies Agree to One-Year, $750,000 Deal With 2012 ALCS MVP

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COMMENTARY | If this was a normal situation, Delmon Young probably would have been signed over a month ago to a contract worth about $7-$10 million per season.

If this was a normal situation, the 2012 ALCS MVP would have had several suitors looking for a right-handed outfielder -- perhaps the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves or Cincinnati Reds.

If this was a normal situation, a 27-year-old former No. 1 overall pick who received MVP votes in 2010 signing in late January for only $750,000 would be considered a bust or an injury risk.

But this isn't a normal situation, and Delmon Young is now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. It is an example of how hard it can be for even good ballplayers to find a job when they make heinous public transgressions.

Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a particularly interesting article this morning detailing Young's arrest last April in a New York City hotel and the fallout from his anti-Semitic slur.

Young's remorse will undoubtedly be questioned for some time, but what is clear is that the Phillies did not come to this decision lightly. They went beyond a routine physical and spoke to the Anti-Defamation League as well as a rabbi in Detroit named Joshua Bennett, who has befriended Young since the incident.

Based on these conversations, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is apparently comfortable signing Young to a one-year deal and believes he will not repeat his reprehensible behavior from last spring. The Phillies have been fortunate when it comes to off-the-field issues in large part because of Amaro's diligence when recruiting players with a history of such issues.

If they believed Young was a risky investment, even at a favorable $750,000, he would not be wearing a Phillies uniform in 2013.

Following the signing, Amaro said Young will have every opportunity to win the starting job in right field this spring, a promise he also made to Domonic Brown. A little competition may be good for Brown's development since he clearly hasn't performed up to his "top prospect" designation after being handed the job in 2011. Now he has to earn it, and that may just be the spark he needs.

Amaro has also committed to giving Darin Ruf a chance to win an opening-day roster spot this spring but if he fails to match his performance from the end of last season, he could start the year in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

This signing fits Amaro's "low-risk, high-reward" designation that he so often covets. In Young he gets a 27-year-old corner outfielder who was the MVP of the 2012 ALCS when the Detroit Tigers swept the New York Yankees. In 2010 with the Minnesota Twins, Young hit .298 with 21 home runs and 112 RBIs and finished 10th in the MVP voting.

His career average of .284 would be serviceable in the middle of the Phillies' lineup and could provide protection for Ryan Howard, who is looking for a bounce-back year after he labored through an Achilles injury in 2012. In Howard's best seasons he was protected by Jayson Werth, who has a career batting average of .267 and strikes out more than Young, averaging 152 strikeouts per year to Young's 115.

Young's downside would be his questionable fielding with a career defensive WAR of -8.0. He spent the majority of 2012 has a DH for the Tigers and needs to improve on his -1.7 dWAR last season if he's going to survive in the National League.

The bottom line with this signing is the Phillies picked up a viable right-handed outfield option who could fill multiple roles.

With interleague play spread out through the entire season in 2013, Young will likely be their DH option against left-handed pitchers. His career batting average against lefties is .307 with a .341 on-base percentage and .824 OPS, which would be a welcome addition to a team that has struggled mightily against southpaws in recent years.

What used to be a lefty-dominated lineup now has the potential to have three quality right-handed bats in Young, Ruf, and recently acquired Michael Young. That could turn into four once Carlos Ruiz returns from his 25-game suspension.

If nothing else, Young is the definition of that low-risk, high-reward type of player Amaro always likes in these situations. He could plateau and be the average player his numbers have indicated over the last two seasons -- which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world -- or the change of scenery could help him repeat the 100-plus RBI season he had in 2010.

At $750,000, almost any outcome is a bargain.

Scott Lentz is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker from Philadelphia. He is a freelance writer for Yahoo! Sports and TheGamingAdvisory.com. For more sports commentary, questions or general comments follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlentz27.

All stats and figures courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

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