Chris Young front office WAA impact: +2.1 games for Texas Rangers. Rank in MLB: 11. Rank in division: 1.
Give Rangers general manager Chris Young proper credit. He took the biggest gamble of the 2022-23 offseason, it totally blew up in his face, yet he still emerged as one of the more effective front office leaders by season’s end.
More than that, as the ALCS opens Young remains one of only four front office execs with a chance to hoist the commissioner’s trophy.
The gamble, of course, involved Young’s decision to sign free agent pitcher Jacob deGrom. The cost: $222 million through 2028. The return: Marginal at best.
The injury-plagued deGrom lasted just six starts before the inevitable arm injuries sidelined him for the season. Those six starts — encompassing just 30 innings — were good ones, yielding +0.6 WAA. But all the rationalizing in the world won’t get around the fact that this season alone Young paid $30 million for six starts ... which is what most of us knew all along would happen.
deGrom’s signing was only part of an aggressive effort on Young’s part to restore the Rangers into contention in the AL West, a status they had not held since winning the division in 2015 and 2016.
It was one of 41 moves made by Young’s front office since the conclusion of the 2022 postseason impacting a major league roster. As measured by the Wins Above Average of the players involved in the transactions, 17 of those moves worked out to the benefit of the Rangers, 21 were harmful, and the final three were neutral.
WAA is used in this series of front office evaluations because it is a zero-based version of WAR, therefore enabling valid approximations of impact against wins and losses.
Three moves (one signing, one trade, one promotion) illustrated the varied ways by which, the deGrom episode notwithstanding, Young helped the Rangers.
In December, he signed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, whose own arm injuries appear to be behind him, for three years at the bargain rate of $52 million. When deGrom went down, Eovaldi emerged as a staff ace, with a 12-5 record and 3.63 ERA in 25 starts. That’s good for a +1.8 WAA.
At the trade deadline, he pried Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton away from St. Louis at a cost of two prospects and a fringe major leaguer. Montgomery was the key; in 11 starts, he went 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA.
Then in early September, Young summoned outfielder Evan Carter from Triple-A Round Rock. Carter batted .306 down the stretch with five homers in 62 at-bats. Through two postseason rounds, he was batting .429.
Here’s the full short-term and long-term statistical profile on the 2023 performance of the Young front office. Again, all figures reflect group Wins Above Average.
Acquired by trade, waiver claim or purchase:
- Since October 2022, 5 players, +2.4 net impact
- Prior to October 2022, 8 players, +2.9 net impact
Signed as a free agent or extended for multiple seasons:
- Since October 2022, 9 players, -0.4 net impact
- Prior to October 2022, 5 players, +10.5 net impact
- Since October 2022, 7 players, +1.5 net impact
- Prior to October 2022, 11 players, +0.5 net impact
Traded away, waived, sold, released or lost to free agency:
- Since October 2022, 16 players, +1.6 net impact
- Prior to October 2022, 9 players, +11.6 net impact
The real story of Young’s restoration of the Rangers to contender status doesn’t involve what he did this season. The real story involves what he did in prior seasons to lay the solid foundation for this 2023 team. I call that a GM’s long-term impact: the value of moves made prior to this past season that impact this season.
In Young’s case, there were lots of them and, in several cases, they were brilliant.
Prior to the 2022 season, he signed middle infielders Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. In 2023, that tandem brought +10.5 games worth of WAA to the Rangers.
In 2021, he acquired Jonah Heim and Dane Dunning in trades. Both remain under team control, and their joint 2023 contribution works out to +2.8 WAA. He got Mitch Garver in a 2022 trade with Minnesota, and this season Garver was worth another 1.0 WAA to the Texas cause.
He also had the good sense to dump popular but low-performing assets onto the open market. Between 2021 and 2022, Young cut ties with Jordan Lyles, Corey Kluber, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Joely Rodriguez, each of whom has gone on to demonstrate the wisdom of Young’s action in facilitating their departure.
The sum of the long-term impacts of Young’s various pre-2023 moves on his 2023 team works out to a fairly astronomical +25.5 games. That’s not only the largest long-term impact of any 2023 GM, it’s the second largest long-term impact in two decades (Houston GM Jeff Luhnow reached +27.1 long-term in 2019).
It's also the 15th largest-long-term impact in the nearly 150 years that professional baseball has been played.