The Return Of Chris Young, Who Never Left

WASHINGTON, DC: Chris Young #55 of the New York Mets pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The New York Mets have signed Chris Young to a minor-league contract. Chris Young won't go away - nor should anybody want him to.

The New York Mets are kind of spending on a budget. That's a funny sentence to some, and a factual sentence to everybody. If you want to distill this entire offseason into an easily consumable sentence, it'd read: the Miami Marlins out-spent the competition to lure Jose Reyes from the Mets. That doesn't capture all of the offseason, but it captures most of the National League part.

We all know why the Mets are spending on a budget. Even if we don't understand the details, we understand the general idea. And because they're spending on a budget, they're having to get creative. The Mets scouted Scott Kazmir, who these days is hopelessly lost. They gave a hard look to C.J. Nitkowski, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2005. And they've re-signed Chris Young to a minor-league contract. It doesn't get much more low-budget than a minor-league contract. The only thing lower-budget than a minor-league contract is no contract.

I don't think I need to go into detail explaining Chris Young to you. Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, here's his injury history:

Younginjury_medium

You can't read that, because I shrunk it down too small to read. I figured it was the right compromise since I don't know if this injury stuff is behind BP's paywall. I guess you can still kind of read it if you squint and sit really close to your monitor. Go ahead, nobody's watching.

Chris Young's a pitcher. Dude gets hurt. It probably has something to do with the fact that he's unusually large. I've had this picture bookmarked for years because just look at them hips!

159499_padres_spring_baseball_medium

Chris Young's also a pitcher with a 3.74 career ERA. A lot of his innings came in Petco, which is a more comfortable environment for pitchers than a mattress superstore, but he has a 111 ERA+. There's talent in there.

So Young keeps getting chances. He's 32, and here are his starts, year-by-year:

31
31
30
18
14
4
4

His shoulder is the problem. In 2009, he had surgery. In 2010, he had a bad sprain. In 2011, he had surgery. It was to repair a torn anterior capsule, and he's not expected back in 2012 until midseason. But he is expected back because people are optimists, and though Young is on a minor-league contract, he'll make the major-league team if and when he's healthy.

Young pitched for the Mets last season. He made four starts before getting hurt. The Mets were long rumored to want to bring him back, and now they've sealed the deal. They saw something they liked, when Young could throw, and perhaps Young has a loyalty to the organization that made an investment with a lousy return.

Young's one of a few injury-prone pitchers who keep getting chances. Rich Harden, Mark Prior, Erik Bedard, Brandon Webb ... what's interesting about Young is that, unlike those other guys, he doesn't have real promising stuff. With the other guys, you can dream about a return to ace-hood. With Young, you can dream about an 86 mile-per-hour fastball. Yet Young can have and has had success with his limited repertoire. Young's stuff is mediocre and his throwing motion is absurd, but he misses bats. This probably comes back to his height and deception. Young releases the ball from ten feet in front of the plate and so it doesn't matter so much that he doesn't have Andrew Cashner's heater.

On paper, Chris Young is an injury-prone pitcher who might be all right if he can ever again stay healthy. In reality, he's so much more interesting than that - he's a human giant with deteriorating stuff trying to make it back from serious shoulder problems. That sounds terrible, but because Young is a giant, that deteriorating stuff doesn't affect him the way it might someone else. There's reason to think he could make it and be even goofier than before.

If he gets healthy and stays healthy. Which he probably won't. But he could, which is why the Mets are highly interested, and why we should all be highly interested. Chris Young's a freak the way Tim Lincecum is a freak and the way Jamie Moyer is a freak. He's a different sort of pitcher, and baseball's better when he's active.

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