Michael Young is a career .300 hitter over 14 seasons. (Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)
Detroit — Among the things the Tigers still don’t know, here in the second week of August:
* When will second baseman Omar Infante finally return from a bad shin injury?
* When will slugger Miguel Cabrera’s abs/back/hip finally feel 100 percent?
* Will slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias hit enough?
With the Tigers starting to pull away in the American League Central, and finally looking like the World Series contender they were dubbed back in March, don’t be surprised if general manager Dave Dombrowski still is shopping to address those concerns.
And, interestingly, one man could be all the insurance the Tigers need.
FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday that Young, the Phillies veteran infielder, has cleared waivers — and, thus, is available to be dealt with no roadblocks.
And the Tigers have to at least be exploring this rather intriguing option, just like they did in finding August additions like Delmon Young and Aubrey Huff in recent years.
There’s a lot to like about Young, even if he is 36.
For starters, he’s still a rather productive player — hitting .276 with a .343 on-base percentage this year. He has eight homers and 36 RBIs in 106 games.
He’s got plenty of big-game experience, having played two World Series with the Rangers.
He’s also a rather cheap investment. His salary for this entire season, the last of his current deal, is $16 million — but the season’s more than two-thirds over, and the Rangers, for whom he played from 2000-12, remain on the hook for most of what’s still owed. He also shouldn’t cost much in the way of players in return, either; a second- or third-tier prospect probably would do.
But most importantly, Young is versatile. He has played every position on the infield the last three seasons — and, during his career, he’s been a regular starter at second (before the Rangers acquired Alfonso Soriano), shortstop (before Elvis Andrus came up) and third (before the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre). (That shuffling, by the way, also speaks to his appealing selfless attitude.)
No, he’s no Gold Glover at any defensive position. But the Tigers just happen to have concerns at each of those positions.
Cabrera isn’t close to 100 percent, though he’s showing grit in playing through the pain. Still, he’s coming out of most games early — and it almost came back to bite the Tigers on Thursday night, when he homered to give them the lead, then came out in the eighth inning, only to have the Indians tie it up.
Stunningly, without his bat available, the Tigers still won in 14 innings.
At shortstop, Iglesias is going to wow the masses with his slick defense. He’s already had impressive moments in each game as a Tiger. He’s also had good moments with the bat, too, driving in three runs. But that’s not his strong suit — a reason manager Jim Leyland decided to pinch-hit for him late in Wednesday’s game. And he was scratched from Thursday’s lineup with a toe injury.
And at second base, the Tigers desperately are wanting Omar Infante back. But he hasn’t played since Colby Rasmus obliterated his shin and ankle July 3, and it’s not clear when he will play. He’s on a rehab assignment in Toledo, but was scratched Wednesday night because of lingering pain. Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin told The Detroit News he was expecting Infante to give it a go Thursday, at second base. The last time Infante played defense, though, he suffered a setback at Single A West Michigan last week — so even when he does return to Detroit, the Tigers might not want to risk playing him every day.
Young, by the way, also can play first base — which is nice to know, as Prince Fielder, Wednesday’s big extra-inning hit aside, is looking like a man who might need a rest for the first time since 2010.
The Tigers have some decent versatility with the likes of smooth-fielding Ramon Santiago and suddenly dangerous Don Kelly, but who’d you rather have?
Young, the seven-time All-Star, of course. He’s a legitimate “super sub.”
Young is a free agent at year’s end, and isn’t going back to Philadelphia, a team that aged in a hurry and should be rebuilding (and not signing frail Chase Utley to a two-year extension). That’s why GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tried to unload Young ahead of July 31 non-waiver deadline.
But that proved a bit tricky, for this reason: Young has a full no-trade clause, and isn’t afraid to use it. He could say no to Detroit — though if he really wants to win, what team gives him a better shot?
There were rumblings he would waive that to go New York last month, though a deal never materialized — and now, the Yankees, fresh off getting swept by the White Sox, looks like they won’t be playing in October.
It’s believed Young would love a Rangers reunion, too, but, frankly, they have much bigger fish to fry. They just lost Nelson Cruz for 50 games in the Biogenesis fallout, and now are believed to be feverishly looking for a power hitter to take his place, like Alex Rios of the White Sox.
The Tigers also lost a player for 50 games — their starting shortstop, Jhonny Peralta. That’s why they traded for Iglesias. And in doing so, they gained a whole lot on defense, but lost a whole lot on offense.
Young is one man who would, at least, help make sure they lose a little less on offense.