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Some steps Phillies could take to acquire Rangers' Michael Young

THERE DIDN'T seem to be any way the Phillies would get Roy Halladay. They got Roy Halladay. There didn't seem to be any way they would get Cliff Lee. They got Cliff Lee.

Michael Young batted .284 with 21 homers and 91 RBI for Texas last season. (Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)
Michael Young batted .284 with 21 homers and 91 RBI for Texas last season. (Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)Read more

THERE DIDN'T seem to be any way the Phillies would get Roy Halladay. They got Roy Halladay.

There didn't seem to be any way they would get Cliff Lee. They got Cliff Lee.

There doesn't seem to be any realistic way they can get Texas Rangers star Michael Young, not with a payroll already pushed to another record high and most of their prospects close to being ready for the big leagues having have been dealt away in previous trades.

Or is there?

A major league source suggested recently that obtaining Young might not be as far-fetched as it appears at first glance if the Phillies are really serious about it.

This is not a prediction that a deal for Young is imminent. This isn't meant to write off second baseman Chase Utley, whose season is under a cloud because of patellar tendinitis in his right knee. It's just a primer on how it conceivably could be accomplished if the Phils decided to pursue it.

* Step 1: Utley hasn't played yet this spring. His prognosis has gotten progressively bleaker. If the Phillies become convinced his condition could significantly impact their chances in 2011, they might focus on Young as the best possible replacement.

* Step 2: Young, who batted .284 with 21 homers and 91 RBI for Texas last season, is unhappy because he's been asked to move to designated hitter this year to accommodate Adrian Beltre and has asked to be traded.

While the Rangers are under no obligation to honor that request, they might do it as a parting gift to a longtime good soldier, much like the Astros did when they sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia last June. Or a team that went to the World Series last October just might not want to take a chance on having a disgruntled player in the clubhouse.

* Step 3: Working out the money. The Phillies have some $168 million of payroll on the books. But the source suggested that their actual limit is likely the luxury tax threshold of $178 million this year.

Young makes $16 million each of the next 3 years. However, some of that is deferred. The Rangers have reportedly said they are unwilling to eat any money to make a trade happen.

However, the Phillies also carry insurance on Utley's contract. If he's seriously injured, the team will recover a portion of his $15 million salary this season, depending on how much time he misses.

The Phillies are on record saying they don't want to trade righthander Joe Blanton. But if he's included, that shaves $8.5 million off their payroll each of the next two seasons, cutting the net payroll gain of adding Young in half.

* Step 4: Agreeing on the players. The Rangers list Brandon Webb as their No. 3 starter on their official website. He didn't pitch at all last year and hasn't thrown an inning yet this spring. They have only two set starters: C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. So, yes, they'd probably be interested in Blanton.

The Rangers would want top prospects in return, too. Assuming the Phillies still won't part with Domonic Brown, Texas would have to decide whether it would accept lower-rung rising stars like Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart or Brody Colvin.

The Phillies would have to decide whether to further deplete their farm system to go for it all this season as well as weigh whether the addressing a potential need now outweighs the ability to make a move later in the season. They probably can't do both.

But they can probably figure out a way to take a legitimate run at Young if they really want to.


* Fan friendly: Reds non-roster catcher Corky Miller, who is fighting to hang on, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that it really makes him unhappy to hear teammates complain about being asked for their autographs. "If you don't like it, play worse," he suggested tartly.

* Men at work: When Kirk Gibson joined the Dodgers in 1988, he was credited with bringing a no-nonsense approach that helped Los Angeles reach the World Series. So it's probably not surprising that one of his first official acts as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks this spring was to ban radio-controlled toys and similar gadgets from the clubhouse.

* Labor pains: The Basic Agreement expires after this season and there has been some loose talk that Major League Baseball might try to use the threat of contraction as a bargaining chip. There has been loose talk that the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics would be candidates to be legislated out of existence. But Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, says the union would strongly oppose any such proposal.

* Problems brewing: It was bad enough that the Brewers' scheduled Opening Day starter Zack Greinke has been sidelined with a cracked rib suffered while playing a pickup basketball game. Making it worse is that Milwaukee doesn't have a solid solution to replace him. The obvious candidate, rookie righthander Mark Rogers, has yet to pitch in a spring game because of shoulder tightness. Former starter Manny Parra has thrown just one inning while also fighting physical problems. And Kameron Loe has pitched so well in relief, they don't want to move him.

* Naming rights: When Rawlings sent the Angels first baseman a new glove for this season, "Kendrys Morales" was stitched on the side. The equipment manager offered to send it back since everybody knows that his first name is Kendry. Except that, uh, it's not. He dropped the last letter when he joined the Angels in 2004 but has now decided to go back to his given name.

* Etc.: Non-roster Dodgers lefthander Ron Mahay is the last remaining active replacement player who crossed the picket lines in 1994 . . . reports that while troubled actor Charlie Sheen has developed a huge Twitter following, he follows just 28 people and only two baseball players: Giants closer Brian Wilson and Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher . . . Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar was sidelined by an odd injury this week after a bug bite on his arm became infected.


* OPTIONS CLAUSE: Even if the Phillies decide not to pay the price, in terms of both money and prospects, to get Michael Young from the Rangers, there are still a boatload of second basemen believed to be available. That list would include: Mark DeRosa (Giants), Eric Young Jr. (Rockies), Kelly Johnson (Arizona), Brian Roberts (Orioles), Jeff Baker (Cubs), Ramon Santiago (Tigers), Bill Hall and Jeff Keppinger (Astros), Chris Getz (Royals), Jamie Carroll (Dodgers), Craig Counsell (Brewers), Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena (Yankees), possibly Emilio Bonifacio (Marlins) and, in the right deal, Chone Figgins (Mariners).

* CULTURE CLUB: When the contract extension for manager Charlie Manuel was officially announced yesterday, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a point of mentioning Manuel's role in helping change the culture of the clubhouse. Which can help perpetuate itself. Winning and having happy players create an environment in which pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee made coming to Philadelphia a priority. And Roy Oswalt was willing to waive his no-trade clause with the Astros to come here, in part because Brad Lidge told him how much he'd like it here.

Manuel isn't solely responsible for that, of course. But he played a pivotal role. And it demonstrates once again that the value of a manager goes beyond knowing when to take a pitcher out of a game and when to put the bunt sign on.

* ADD MANUEL: Contract terms weren't announced, but here's a guess on how it might have come down: It had been widely reported that he was seeking $4 million per year and that the Phillies didn't want to pay that much. So it was interesting that they also renegotiated this season on his expiring deal.

One possible resolution: He could get, say, $3.75 million in 2012 and 2013. He was reportedly supposed to make $2.4 million in 2011. So if they upped that to $2.9 million, Manuel would get the additional $8 million he was seeking over the life of the contract and the team can say it held the line and didn't go to $4 million. That's a win-win situation.

* THE AGE OLD QUESTION: According to Major League Baseball, the Phillies' 40-man roster has an average age of 28.9, the oldest of any team. The average is 27.6. The Indians have the youngest average at 26.0.