Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Washington Nationals outrighted Dmitri Young to Class AAA Syracuse on Tuesday, a move that underscored how far the veteran first baseman has fallen in the organization.

Young, a two-time All-Star and the 2007 National League comeback player of the year, accepted the assignment and no longer is on the 40-man roster. He is due $5 million next season even if he is not on the big league roster.

General manager Jim Bowden said the transaction was less a reaction to Young’s declining status - he played only 50 games this past season while battling a variety of ailments, including diabetes - than a procedural move to make room for younger players. The Nationals now have five open slots on their 40-man roster, most of which will be filled by minor leaguers who need to be protected for next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Unlike former closer Chad Cordero, who was outrighted last week, Young chose not to become a free agent. Had he done so, he would have forfeited the remainder of his salary; the chance of another club offering the 35-year-old $5 million is nonexistent.

Bowden said he expects Young to report to spring training as a nonroster player. Young did not return a message seeking comment.

The Nationals’ intention to seek another first baseman is obvious. Although Nick Johnson, who is due $5.5 million in 2009, remains on the roster, the organization does not want to count on the 30-year-old staying healthy for the first time in his career. Bowden, who’s at baseball’s GM meetings in Dana Point, Calif., is seeking trades that could land a first baseman. Failing that, he could try to get involved in a free agent market that boasts high-priced first basemen Mark Teixeira, Adam Dunn and Jason Giambi.

Young’s demotion is the latest setback for one of baseball’s most-inspirational stories of 2007 - and one of the game’s biggest disappointments of 2008. After emerging from alcohol rehab and the discovery of his diabetes, Young hit .320 with 74 RBI for the Nationals in 2007, becoming a clubhouse favorite. Bowden rewarded him with a two-year, $10 million extension - it includes a $6 million option for 2010 that kicks in if Young gets 500 plate appearances next season - but the good will quickly deteriorated.

Young reported to spring training overweight, admitting he hadn’t picked up a bat during the offseason. He lost the starting job to Johnson - who was coming back from a broken leg - and went on the disabled list after two games.

Young wound up getting 150 at-bats in a two-month span but, after complaining of light-headedness and blurred vision after the All-Star break, spent the rest of the season on the DL.

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