The Mets acquired a familiar face over the weekend, sending the Atlanta Braves cash considerations for Eric Young Jr. For the second time in three years, they'll look to receive an energy jolt from the speedy outfielder. Except this time they're no longer operating on an empty tank.
Back in 2013, their seemingly cheap gamble payed off when Young notched a .318 on-base percentage and 38 stolen bases, giving them a competent spark in the outfield. Although far from perfect given his mediocre .329 slugging percentage, he still represented an upgrade over the barren wasteland there before him.
The following year, his speed and defense failed to make up for a .229/.299/.311 batting line, causing him to eventually fall from the top of the order to the bench. To make matters worse, Collin McHugh, who went to Colorado in exchange for Young, transformed from organizational depth into a viable starter, tallying a 2.73 ERA for the Houston Astros, who claimed him off waivers from the Rockies.
A once-successful deal doesn't look so hot anymore, but the Mets didn't part with any players to reclaim the 30-year-old. Hitting .169 with a minus-0.6 fWAR with Atlanta, Young earned a one-way ticket to Triple-A, where he batted .248/.349/.312 before getting shipped to the Mets. Young expressed his joy to come back on his blog:
I always say that it's important to treat people with respect and leave on a good note because you just never know what could happen in the future and you have to keep those lines open. And here I am now returning to the Mets. It's a reminder about why it's important to leave on a good note. When they heard the news, most of the coaching staff, and pretty much everybody that was there when I was there, reached out to me. I knew I had good relationships with my Mets teammates before I left, but now that I'm coming back, and everybody is excited...it feels great.
Once the rosters expand on September 1, he'll return to Flushing for a team that has stolen 46 bases all year. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have swiped fewer bags (31) in the National League. Fortunately, the Mets no longer need Young to lead off or start. He'll serve almost exclusively as a pinch-runner, a useful asset to have down the stretch.
Over his career, Young has stolen 141 bases in 174 attempts, giving him an efficient 81% success rate. That savvy on the basepaths will help in September. With their bench suddenly crowded, he'll need to dazzle in order to earn a postseason roster spot, if there's baseball to be played in October.