Right-handed starting pitcher Chris Young opted out of his minor league contract after throwing four strong innings tonight, making it likely he will depart the Nationals for a major league deal and rob them of their best insurance policy behind their starting five.
The Nationals needed to place Young on their 25-man roster by yesterday in order to prevent Young from using the opt-out clause. Young has thrown nine consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, which he said has attracted enough “interest” from teams that he could draw a guaranteed major league contract.
Young, 33, has “loved” playing for the Nationals this spring and would like to stay. His agent and the Nationals, he said, have discussed the possibility of negotiating another, creative deal for him to stay. But Young has made pitching in the majors his top priority, and since the Nationals’ rotation remains healthy he knows that won’t be possible in Washington.
“I’m realistic that the roster is full. I understand that,” Young said. “We’ve talked about maybe trying to work something to where I can stay. We’re not there right now. But there’s interest from other clubs. I just have to weigh all the options and see what’s best for me and my family.
“I love it here. I would love to stay. This has been just a terrific spring training, being around a great group of baseball people. There’s nothing negative to stay about this place – maybe that they 15 pitchers deep. I’d like to work something out if I could be here. But if not, I understand the circumstances.”
Manager Davey Johnson seemed resigned to losing Young. “Ball’s in his court,” Johnson said. “He’s a helluva pitcher.”