Michael Young is one of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's favorite players. He long has been one of Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo's favorite hitting pupils and could fill a nagging need of the Cubs as a leadoff hitter/second baseman.
Could Young wind up in spring training with one of Chicago's teams instead of the Rangers?
It's a possibility. A trade to the Cubs or White Sox — or Dodgers, Mets, Rockies, Astros or Tigers, for that matter — makes more sense than anything that has happened to Young since he helped push the Rangers, his team for the last 10 seasons, to the World Series.
Young asked for a trade last week, saying he felt "misled and manipulated'' because general manager Jon Daniels signed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and traded for catcher/first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers' position players are to report to spring training Feb.20 in Arizona and it's likely the Young situation will be resolved by then.
In surveying the landscape after Young's trade request, the Rangers discussed a variety of possible landing places, with the Cubs among them.
Center fielder Marlon Byrd, a productive Ranger under Ron Washington in 2007-09, is believed to be on the list of players they would consider for Young. But what if Daniels was so determined not to deal with daily questions about the unhappy Young that he would consider another former Ranger in exchange — outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who could replace Young as a primary DH?
While a source with the Cubs indicated Friday there were no ongoing conversations with the Rangers regarding Young, they are monitoring the situation like many other teams. And why not? Young-for-Soriano might be the best possible fit.
For all the knocks on Soriano, last year he had 24 home runs and 79 RBIs in 496 at-bats. His .818 OPS was better than all but four American League teams (Rangers, Twins, Red Sox and Orioles) got from designated hitters.
While Young played a shaky third base a year ago, scouts believe he still has the range, arm and instincts to be a solid second baseman. He started his big league career there before moving to shortstop to accommodate the addition of Soriano in the Alex Rodriguez trade seven seasons ago.
Young was strictly a shortstop when Guillen managed him in the 2006 All-Star Game, but his willingness to play second base helped Guillen engineer a dramatic victory for the AL.
Soriano has a full no-trade clause. But if he would waive it to go back to the Rangers, Cubs GM Jim Hendry would jump at the chance to clear an outfield spot for Tyler Colvin, with prospect Brett Jackson on his way and a large cast of potential fourth outfielders (including Reed Johnson, Fernando Perez, Lou Montanez, Brad Snyder, Bryan LaHair and James Adduci) expected in Mesa, Ariz.
Young, a career .300 hitter who has averaged 185 hits per season, has a limited no-trade clause that would block deals to all but eight teams: the Angels, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Rockies and Padres. But he appears so angry with Daniels that he would waive his no-trade deal to go to several other places.
Any move the Rangers make would have to be one that could help them in 2011, as they are in a win-now mode and already have a deep farm system. They are apparently willing to pay a significant portion of Young's remaining $48 million ($16 million a year through 2013). But the difficulty of making a deal that would bring salary relief and useful players could force them to consider other teams' contract mistakes, such as Soriano, the Astros' Carlos Lee or the Mets' Jason Bay and Francisco Rodriguez.
The White Sox don't appear to have a huge need for Young, but he would be a major upgrade over rookie third baseman Brent Morel. The best fit here would be Edwin Jackson and Morel or Dayan Viciedo for Young, an advanced pitching prospect and enough money to offset the differences in salary.
Looking to rebound: Once one of the best shortstops in baseball, Jose Reyes heads to spring training hoping to show the Mets and 29 other teams he still can be an impact player. He will be a free agent after this season, but the jury's out on the 27-year-old who was a shadow of himself after hamstring surgery in 2009.
"Right now, I don't think about my contract," Reyes said last week.
Reyes has worked hard in the offseason and said he will report at 205 pounds, almost 10 above his old playing weight.
"I spent the winter working out, getting myself strong and 100 percent for spring training,'' he said. "I'm going to be the same as in 2008. There's no doubt in my mind (because) I've been working so hard this offseason."
Potential stunner: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon has a theory that's worth considering. He believes the Royals — of all teams — would be a likely destination for Albert Pujols if he reaches free agency.
Consider the factors.
Kansas City, where Pujols attended Maple Woods Community College, is a second home for him and his wife, Dee Dee. The Royals appear to have such a deep stable of elite prospects, they could mature into a version of the 2008-10 Rays by 2012 or '13, a young team capable of a sustained run. And they have such a stripped-down payroll, they could give Pujols $30 million a year without straining before at least 2015, when players such as Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Montgomery and Aaron Crow could be becoming big-ticket items.
The clock continues to tick loudly on Pujols' deadline for the Cardinals to sign him to a contract extension. He could report to Jupiter, Fla., as early as Wednesday and has said he won't negotiate a contract after he has started his spring training.