This late in the season, the Dodgers are cruising to win the NL West, so why would they make a move and trade for Michael Young?
One big reason is that third base has been the Dodgers’ weakest slot on offense: Through Friday’s action, Dodger third basemen had among their position players put up a lineup-low .646 OPS. Most of that was other people bringing down what they were getting from Juan Uribe, and Uribe’s .722 OPS at that point was identical to Young’s mark. Add in Uribe’s significantly better defense (plus-9 Defensive Runs Saved to Young’s minus-17 at third this year), and you might still wonder what the point of getting Young was.
To that, I’d make two points. First, this shouldn’t be a one-for-one change in the lineup. Maybe Young gets the job at third base, maybe not. Of course you’re not going to platoon Uribe and Young at third, not in the traditional sense: They’re both right-handed, and they’re both not doing as well against lefties as they have in the past.
But you could play matchup games and use both of them, going by the opposing pitcher’s stuff, not handedness. Young has been hitting fastballs effectively this year (worth 5.0 runs above average on fastballs, per FanGraphs) and he’s stronger on sliders as well (1.7 above average), while Uribe isn’t as strong against those pitches but is in the black against curveballs and changeups -- which Young has fared much less well against. So, maybe we could look forward to some interesting mix-and-match possibilities at the hot corner for the Dodgers down the stretch, as Don Mattingly gets used to having both and deciding which one he’s more comfortable with on his lineup card against different pitchers.
Beyond that, there’s also the depth to the roster that Young adds for the Dodgers at positions beyond third base. While Uribe used to be a good shortstop and still is a good third baseman, he hasn’t played short since last year, and not for any serious amount of time since 2010. And he hasn’t played much second base since 2011. So he isn’t really a great choice to bump back into a utility role to make up for what Jerry Hairston Jr. hasn’t been able to do -- but Young might be able to.
After all, Young was able and willing to bound around the diamond for the Rangers in 2011 and 2012 while playing every day; while his defense at second base wouldn’t be anything to get excited about, slotting him against particular pitchers while someone like Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke pitching -- pitchers who don’t allow a lot of balls in play in the first place -- the Dodgers could net an offensive benefit they might not get from the sporadically healthy Mark Ellis, the punchless Nick Punto or the used-up Hairston.
But the most important consideration is this: Would you really want to bank on Juan Uribe in this season, after he’d already given the Dodgers two disastrously awful seasons peppered by injuries? As insurance moves go, it’s a nice one to have made, for third base, but also more than just third base. Given the Dodgers didn’t give up a prospect they’ll miss and only have to pay for the benefit, it’s a low-risk, some-possible-reward pickup they might have reason to appreciate in short order.
Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.