Red Sox sign Chris Young to 2-year, $13 million deal


The Boston Red Sox have reached an agreement with free agent outfielder Chris Young on a two-year deal. Will he live up to it?

We learned yesterday that the Boston Red Sox plan to sign free agent outfielder Chris Young to fortify their outfield depth, but the terms of the deal remained a mystery. Now we know.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that it will be a two-year deal worth a total of $13 million, with the salary being equally distributed between 2016 and 2017. The deal is still pending a physical, but is expected to be finalized later this week.

As we previously discussed, Young is expected to serve as a fourth outfielder that provides insurance in case Jackie Bradley or Rusney Castillo fail to meet expectations. This signing does not represent a significant shakeup in the outfield alignment or signal a trade is on the horizon. The Red Sox needed a right-handed bat with some pop on the bench, as well as outfield depth. Young crosses both needs off the list.

Young no longer profiles as an everyday player at this stage of his career. He’s always had significant platoon splits, with a career .263 average and .837 OPS against left-handed pitching, compared to .224 and .704 against right-handed pitching. That gap was even wider in 2015, when he smashed lefties to the tune of a .327 average and .972 OPS, but was brutal against right-handers (.182 average, .585 OPS).

If Young is essentially useless against right-handed pitching it begs the question of whether or not he is worth the $6.5 million per year that the Red Sox will pay him.

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The cost of a free agent is typically between $5 million to $7 million per win above replacement level, according to a study done by FanGraphs last year. For argument’s sake, we’ll put it right in the middle, at $6 million per win.

With that figure as our projected estimate, Young would need to be worth just over 1.0 WAR to live up to his contract. That’s essentially what he accomplished last year, when he was worth 1.2 WAR in 356 plate appearances with the New York Yankees. If he can duplicate last year’s performance in each of the next two years, his contract will return fair value.

Even if Young performs at the same level as last season, will he receive enough at-bats to produce over 1.0 WAR? Last season Red Sox outfielders combined for 1,871 at-bats. Let’s optimistically assume the offense will improve slightly from last year and round that number up to an even 1,900. Mookie Betts is virtually a lock for 600 at-bats, health permitting, given his spot near the top of the lineup. It would be rather disappointing if Bradley and Castillo didn’t combine for at least another 900 between them, which would leave about 400 at-bats left over for the backups to take.

We can’t assume all of those leftover at-bats will go to Young. While Brock Holt is expected to be the primary backup at every infield position, he’s bound to get some work in the outfield in order to keep his bat in the lineup on a fairly regular basis. He should get about 100 at-bats as an outfielder, which is about what he received in 2015 in time split between all three outfield spots.

Ideally we would only see Young at the plate against lefties, but that doesn’t mean he’ll always start when a left-hander is on the mound. All three of Boston’s starting outfielders hit over .300 against lefties last season, as did Holt. Who exactly is he supposed to platoon with?

Manager John Farrell may need to get creative in order to get Young the at-bats he needs to reach his expected value. He won’t want to make a habit out of sitting David Ortiz, but the 39-year old may need a bit more rest than usual in his swan song season. Given Ortiz’s struggles against lefties, perhaps Young can steal some at-bats as a DH.

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As long as he continues to rake against left-handed pitching, Young should still be a useful asset off the bench. His contract is reasonable, especially considering it’s a short-term deal. Unless the Red Sox suffer from a rash of injuries in the outfield, Young may struggle to get enough plate appearances to exceed the value of his contract, but he should at least come close to earning it.