October 07, 2011
The former No. 1 overall draft pick (2003) was batting .266/.305/.357 with four home runs and 32 RBIs in 325 plate appearances for a team that was planning not to tender him a contract for next season.
As the Twins were heading toward Comerica Park for a three-game set with the Detroit Tigers, Young was informed he'd been traded — to the very team he was getting ready to face that night. He'd cleared waivers and was claimed by the Tigers, who desperately needed an offensive boost in their outfield.
The whole thing happened so fast that his new teammates and the media thought Young was playing a prank when he showed up in the Detroit clubhouse.
Nearly two months later, Young is playing for a chance to go to the World Series. He became the first Tigers player to hit three home runs in a postseason series, helping Detroit to an ALDS win over the New York Yankees.
As soon as Young put on a Tigers uniform, he began paying dividends. In his debut with Detroit, he hit a home run off Francisco Liriano(notes) (who was his teammates just hours beforehand) in his first at-bat.
From there, Young's production increased in almost every category. He hit eight home runs — twice the number he had with the Twins — in nearly half as many games. His OPS was nearly 100 points higher (from .662 to .756). Even his heavily criticized defense in left field seemed to improve.
For anyone who scoffs at the idea that the proverbial change of scenery can benefit a player, Young put together a very convincing case that it can make a difference.
Maybe it was because he moved to a team contending for the playoffs (Young had 112 RBIs in 2010 for the AL Central champion Twins). Perhaps he no longer felt the pressure of living up to his high draft status or being part of a big trade that sent away a talented pitcher.
Maybe he just needed a clean slate, with a manager and teammates that believed in him because they had no reason not to. Maybe he was relieved to play for a team that didn't ask anything more of him than to hit. Or, if you're the sort that believes in lineup protection, maybe he just gets better pitches now because he bats in front of Miguel Cabrera(notes).
Whatever the reason for Young's success, what looked like a desperate deal before the waiver trade deadline turned out to be a vital acquisition for the Tigers. For general manager Dave Dombrowski, it's been yet another shrewd move among the several he's made this season.
The question now is whether or not Young can continue to get big postseason hits for the Tigers, after he left Game 5 with a left oblique strain. Will fast healing be another skill he displays for his new team?