In early March, Chris Young was on the verge of signing a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then the Kansas City Royals called, offering a one-year, major-league deal with a $675,000 base salary.
That is how the Royals acquired the man who will start Game 4 of the World Series for them on Saturday night.
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Young went 11-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 123 1/3 innings for the Royals during the regular season. He's been even more effective in the postseason, allowing a .506 OPS with a 2.31 ERA over 11 2/3 innings as a starter and reliever.
Without Young, the Royals might've missed the World Series altogether.
With Young, the Dodgers might've made it.
Indeed, there is great irony in the Dodgers -- with their record-setting $300 million payroll -- refusing to guarantee Young a one-year, $675,000 contract. The Dodgers' reticence likely had to do with the multiple shoulder surgeries Young underwent earlier in his career. But the fact is that Young has been very healthy since the true source of his injury -- thoracic outlet syndrome -- was properly identified and repaired surgically in 2013.
The industry's general lack of interest was more stunning, considering Young was named AL Comeback Player of the Year with Seattle last year after going 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA. But Young doesn't throw especially hard, and baseball teams are enamored with velocity -- now, it seems, more than ever.
So, what made the Royals comfortable giving Young a guaranteed contract? That's hard to say. Even general manager Dayton Moore has had difficulty explaining what moved him. Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star described Moore's motivation as "a primal need to protect his roster" despite having a full starting rotation on the time.
"He would have been successful wherever he went," Young's agent, Jon Fetterolf, told me this month. "He's prepared like no other and thrives on competition. But Kansas City is a good spot for him. He likes to win and they are."
Thanks, in many ways, to the winning pitcher no one else coveted.