Now, he's going to be paid like one.
The D-backs signed Young to a $28 million extension that runs through 2013 with a club option for 2014. The contract buys out all of Young's arbitration years and his first year of free agency and possibly the second if the option is exercised.
Young received a $1 million signing bonus and will make $1.75 million in '09, $3.25 million in '10, $5 million in '11, $7 million in '12, $8.5 million in 13. The club option for 2014 is for $11 million with a $1.5 million buyout should the club choose to decline it.
It's a big commitment for an organization that continues to try to dig out financially from high payrolls in its first few years of existence. When the D-backs began internal discussions about approaching Young with the extension proposal, one thing they kept coming back to was not just his numbers, but his character.
"You're always trying to identify core players and he's certainly one," D-backs GM Josh Byrnes said at Tuesday's news conference announcing the deal. "He's an unbelievably talented player, but we wouldn't have done a contract like this unless we believed in the person. Getting to know C.Y. the last few years, he's smart, he's determined, he's genuine, a great person to have on a team as we try to win championships here."
Young, sitting next to his father, Robert, at the podium, recalled being drafted in the 16th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft by the White Sox. The long path that he traveled to get to this point included being dealt to the D-backs along with Luis Vizcaino and Orlando Hernandez for Javier Vazquez and cash.
"I feel like I've come a long way," Young said. "It's been a long road, but it makes me appreciate it that much more that I had to work that much harder to get to the position that I'm in right now. You don't take it for granted. This is just the first step, There's still a long way to go. Hopefully I can play another 15 years in this game at least."
There's no question that if he continued to play at his current level that Young would make more money going through arbitration and free agency. But he is trading some of that salary potential for security.
"Just having the security and understanding that if something didn't work out for whatever reason you're going to be fine either way, if you got injured or something," Young said. "That's what goes through our minds when signing something like this. It takes the pressure off. It allows you just to go out there and play ball and have fun. It takes the weight off your shoulders so you can just go out there and compete."
The D-backs have a tight-knit clubhouse that Young fits into.
"I'm extremely happy to be part of this organization," he said. "I'm clearly happy here with my teammates and it's a great time for me and my family, so I couldn't ask for anything more."
Said third baseman Mark Reynolds, "If it's going to happen to someone, I'm glad it happened to him. It's awesome."
Last year, Young became the first rookie in baseball history to hit more than 30 homers and steal at least 25 bases. The 32 homers and 27 steals were nice, but Young focused more on his batting average of .237 when it came to looking ahead to 2008.
"You could see from day one of Spring Training how committed he was to getting better and working on his deficiencies," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "He's come a long way in a short period of time. All the way around, this is guy very committed to getting better."
So far the commitment has paid off as Young went into Tuesday's game tied for the National League lead in walks with eight.
"I really feel like I'm getting better every day," Young said. "My strike zone discipline is getting better and I feel myself getting more comfortable as I see pitchers over time. Last year was my first time seeing a lot of those guys; this year I'm seeing them the second, third or fourth time around so I feel a lot more comfortable."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.