Former Royals righty Chris Young has his eyes set on a return in 2018, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). The 6’10” hurler turned 38 earlier in the season, prior to being cut loose by Kansas City.
It seems that some other organizations reached out with interest, but Young decided against a return during the current season. Instead, he is working with a trainer and physical therapist to prepare for camp next spring.
There’s little doubt that Young will find an audition somewhere, perhaps gaining a shot at cracking a rotation during Spring Training. But it’s unlikely he’ll command a Major League deal, and he certainly won’t approach the two-year, $11.75MM commitment he picked up to rejoin the Royals before the 2016 season.
When he last hit the market, Young was fresh off of a solid two-year run with the Mariners and Royals. Across 288 1/3 innings in 2014-15, he boasted a 3.40 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. While ERA estimators didn’t support the hype, Young seemed a sturdy enough option who may have found a way to suppress the batting average on balls in play (.238 and .209, respectively, in those two years) by generating loads of weak fly-balls.
Since landing that new contract, though, Young has been a totally different pitcher. He drastically increased his slider usage, expanding upon some prior efforts and deploying it more frequently than his fastball. With that shift, Young’s swinging-strike rate suddenly jumped to over 11 percent for the first time since 2007. However, that change also caused his overall fly-ball rate to plummet while his homer-to-fly-ball ratio and opponents’ BABIPs each soared. The bottom-line results were not promising, as Young ended up carrying a 6.52 ERA in his final 118 2/3 innings with Kansas City.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of approach Young brings to the table in his next iteration. With about eight months between his last start and the start of camp, he ought to be rather well rested for an attempt at a 14th major league campaign.