Most of the teams on that list are contenders, including your Minnesota Twins. And while not more than two weeks ago I would have probably ripped on anyone who thought Minnesota was a legitimate trade target, right now having something get done seems far more palatable. For one reason.
The Rangers have zero trade leverage.
Texas has somehow managed to completely botch this thing up, but it's not much of a surprise that Young is disillusioned with the franchise he's spent his entire Major League career with. Between acquiring the pieces that essentially would relegate him to a bench/infield utility role and then telling him they weren't going to trade him when it's now clear that they were shopping him, Young clearly decided he'd had enough and decided to fight back. By saying:
I want to be traded because I've been misled and manipulated and I'm sick of it.
...he's put Texas in a precarious situation akin to what happened with the Twins and Johan Santana. The Rangers now have a limited range of teams to which Young will approve a trade (because of the nature of his no-trade clause in his contract), which means it will become pretty easy for anyone who's even mildly interested to see how little they can get away with offering.
One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is the $16,000,000 per year he's owed for the next three seasons. $48 million is a lot for any team to take on, particularly for a player who just turned 34 and didn't look good in the stretch run to the playoffs (.252/.279/.365 from August 1 to the end of the season). His .619 post-season OPS also doesn't bode well for any Texas leverage, either.
Age, performance and money--the triple threat of red flags. We'll examine the situation for each of the eight teams on his approved list after the jump.
Cardinals - From left to right, the Cardinals have David Freese, Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker and Albert Pujols starting through their infield. Freese turns 28 this spring but has hit .299 with a .360 on-base percentage in his brief Major League career. He also costs significantly less than Young. Theriot came on board from a November trade and is making $3.3 million this season. Schumaker regressed a bit last year, but he's making $2.7 million and no doubt the Cardinals are looking at him to bounce back a little. And of course they just brought in Nick Punto. Then there's Pujols. Young would certainly make this a deeper group, and they might be willing to give him a shot starting at third base, but how much salary would they be willing to take on considering they're in the middle of the Pujols negotiations? Their 2011 payroll is already at a franchise-high $104 million.
Yankees - Young wouldn't be starting in New York, and with Jorge Posada holding down DH duties it's hard to see him getting much time there. In the Bronx, he'd likely be a frequent fill-in for all members of the infield if a trade were to go through. How likely that is, I'm not too sure--New York's payroll is below $200 million for the first time since 2007, but with Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez already in the fold it would have to depend on how often Cashman and Girardi think Young would get to play. Barring another ego trip from the Steinbrenners, at least. New York is always in play, though, so we probably have to forget about any value-versus-cost conversation. If he'd make the team better, and he would, anything is possible.
Astros - At first base, Brett Wallace is a 24-year old minor league slugger (.304/.375/.487) who will get every opportunity. Chris Johnson at third is a bit more of a gamble, and Young could provide some solid insurance there at the very least. Clint Barmes and Bill Hall occupy the two middle infield positions and will likely start going forward, but Young would provide insurance there as well. The main issue would be payroll considerations, as Houston has just $64.7 million on the books for 2011, their lowest in years as they attempt to re-set and rebuild a competetive roster. Young would make them better without a doubt, even if he's not the same player anymore, but I wonder whether Houston would be willing to commit those kinds of dollars to a guy when Houston really isn't in the playoff picture. I imagine that only a deal that blows their hair back gets it done.
Rockies - The leader in speculation is Colorado, with one of the primary names involved being infielder Eric Young Jr. The recently acquired Jose Lopez has also been mentioned. The movement of both, or even just one, of these names would make room for Young at second base for the Rockies, and would also give them an impressive infield including stalwart Todd Helton at first, Ian Stewart at third and of course Troy Tulowitzki at short. Shifting Lopez and his $3.6 million salary in 2011 would be of some financial help, but the Rockies reportedly are looking for Texas to pick up at least $20 million of the remaining $48 million on Young's contract. If Texas plays ball, the Rockies still have to be the favorite here.
Dodgers - The Dogers are already paying $10 million this season towards players no longer on their roster, bringing their 2011 committment to more than $100 million. Their current starting infield consists of James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake, with Jamey Carroll and Jay Gibbons as the primary backups. I'm not sure the Rangers would want any of those players in return, which means a third team might have to get involved in this scenario. This is a tough one to read, unless Los Angeles is willing to shift one of those starters to the bench and jettison either Carroll or, more likely, Gibbons.
Angels - Think they'd swap an arbitration-eligible player to Texas and then pay the rest of Young's salary? No, they probably wouldn't screw the pooch twice in a row. But he would have a role in Los Angeles, combining with Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, Alberto Callaspo and Brandon Wood to create a deep and talented infield pool. Third base would seem his likely target. Unfortunately the Angels don't seem capable of taking on much, if any additional, salary...as their 2011 payroll is already at $124 million. The Angels seem like an unlikely option.
Padres - In spite of their $38 payroll this season, San Diego is fielding a pretty decent infield. Chase Headley, Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson and Brad Hawpe form, at the very least, recognizeable names for the fanbase. They also signed Jorge Cantu to a very team-friendly contract, and Everth Cabrera is in-house. Young might provide them with better coverage in the field and a more reliable bat off the bench, and considering how their team is set up for the next few seasons they might not balk too hard at the dollars if Texas doesn't ask for a lot in terms of prospects. Of course, that all depends on how much faith the organization has in the six guys they already have, and whether or not they'd be willing in invest in an aging star who will make more than double the salary of their current highest-paid player.
Twins - Now we come to our own boys, and honestly, while I know Young would make the Twins better (as he would most of the teams on this list), I know it would take a virtual steal for such a move to transpire. Texas has very little leverage, yes, but enough to make a move worth Minnesota's time? History says probably not, not when dealing with such a contract. But he would certainly have a role. Whether backing up Danny Valencia at third, or playing second if Alexi Casilla falters and Tsuyoshi Nishioka shifts over...or if Nishioka has issues himself. Even as a backup plan for Justin Morneau, so Cuddyer doesn't have to shift around again.
In terms of odds, I think the Twins are probably closer to odds-off than odds-on. Colorado, San Diego and New York would all seem the most likely destinations, while Houston and both Los Angeles teams seem highly unlikely. I'd put Minnesota and St. Louis squarely in the middle.
Whatever happens, Nolan Ryan and the Rangers are in an unenviable situation. Either they trade him for what he's not likely to be fair value, or they hold onto a player who clearly wants out and might be something of a distraction.