Nationals ink Young to two-year deal
Once viewed as trade bait, first baseman happy to stay in D.C.
NEW YORK -- The Nationals made it official on Saturday afternoon by signing first baseman Dmitri Young to a two-year, $10 million extension with a vesting option.
The move comes a few days after the team signed infielder Ronnie Belliard to an extension. It also means that Young is off the trading block for the rest of this season.
Young, 33, has been the most important player for the Nationals this season. He is pacing Washington in hitting (.331), RBIs (53) and on-base percentage (.384) entering the second game of the day/night doubleheader on Saturday.
Young also was key to improving team chemistry. He is the leader and is always trying to give a young player a helping hand.
"He was interested in the commitment to us, and we were interested in the commitment to him," team president Stan Kasten said. "We agreed on terms that were comfortable for both sides and continue to allow us to stay together. We couldn't be happier. He has been so great for us all, and we hope that continues into the future. ... I'm not sure it would have been a decision we would have made three months ago, but it was the right one right now."
Young said it wasn't hard to sign the extension because the Nationals gave him a chance to revive his career. Young thought his career was over after the 2006 season. He was released by the Tigers and was put on probation for domestic violence. Young said that person last year was not the real him.
The Nationals were the only team interested in Young. He had a history with general manager Jim Bowden, as the two worked together when both were with the Reds from 1998-2001.
After he signed a Minor League contract in February, Young was regarded as trade bait provided he had a good year. Washington was looking to acquire prospects in return, but Young proved too valuable to give up.
Young's father, Larry, also played a role in Young staying in Washington. The elder Young said it shouldn't be about how much money his son makes. It's about being comfortable. Dmitri is happy in D.C.
"For me, this is the organization that believed in me when my chips were down," Young said. "I have a great support system in Washington and I see the good things that are happening in this organization -- from within and what we have in the farm system. D.C. fans have been very supportive of me since I've been there. I would like to thank them, of course. We get a new stadium next year. We don't get to play in RFK Stadium after next year. I'm glad to be able to open up in the new stadium."
While Young most likely will remain the starting first baseman for the rest of the season, it has not been announced where Young's future is in the field, because Nick Johnson is expected to resume his role as the regular first baseman in 2008.
Both Young and manager Manny Acta would not comment on Young's future on defense. But a source with knowledge of the situation said that Young will be the everyday left fielder next year. But in order for that to happen, according to the source, Young must lose about 20 pounds.
Most of Young's experience with the glove has come in the outfield. He has played 403 games in left and 103 in right field.
"Right now, I'm going to be at first base and then we are going to go from there," Young said.
Acta said he was pleased by the positive influence Young has had on and off the field.
"Dmitri has meant a lot to this club," Acta said. "He has proven to us [that he has a great work ethic] since we gave him a chance here. He wants to be part of our team. It's a good addition to our club. We have a chance to lock up a guy that has been huge for us."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.