The Kevin Youkilis Trade And All Its Angles

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Yesterday the Red Sox traded 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox for INF/OF Brent Lillibridge and RHP Zach Stewart. Let’s look at the ins and outs.

For the Red Sox:

They had to get Youkilis out of Boston in part because they had nowhere to play him and in part because his time as a centerpiece in the lineup had passed.

Bobby Valentine has gotten the bulk of the blame for Youkilis falling out of favor, but he’s the lightning rod. In truth this became inevitable last September and should’ve been done over the winter.

As GM Ben Cherington said, Will Middlebrooks needs to be in the lineup. He’s injected a desperately needed freshness and enthusiasm into a stagnant atmosphere.

Last season Lillibridge played all over the field defensively making memorable plays and broke out offensively with 13 homers; this season he’s reverted back to normal and his normal—a career slash line of .215/.283/.358—isn’t good.

Stewart has an average fastball and is a 4-A pitcher who the Red Sox can use as an emergency starter or long-man out of the bullpen. He’s going to Triple A Pawtucket.

The Red Sox paid $5.5 million of the $7.6 million Youkilis is guaranteed.

For the White Sox:

The disappointing Tigers have left the AL Central wide open and the White Sox are in surprising contention.

Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson were so bad at third base that 45-year-old manager Robin Ventura could’ve pulled a Roger Dorn and activated himself and couldn’t have been worse.

They needed a third baseman and got a good one for nothing.

For Youkilis:

If he’s healthy, Youkilis can still play. He was stale in Boston, wasn’t in the lineup enough to gain a rhythm and the relationship with Valentine was beyond repair. At age 33, he still has something left. The change-of-scenery plus desire to shove it to the Red Sox will rejuvenate his bat.

Players like Youkilis are judged on the now. When he was hitting, his sour faces were viewed as an intense player hating to fail. When he wasn’t hitting for a losing team and there was a replacement in the wings, he was viewed as an annoying baby.

One year ago today, Youkilis had an .890 OPS, 11 homers and 33 extra base hits. He was an All-Star. The idea that 365 days later the Red Sox would get two journeymen for him and pay him to leave was unthinkable.

But it happened.

It’s best for everyone involved.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates—Kevin Youkilis

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Name: Kevin Youkilis
Tale of the tape: 1B/3B; 33-years-old; bats right; throws right; 6’1”; 220 lbs.
Contract status: $12 million in 2012; $13 million club option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout.

Would the Red Sox trade him?

Barring injury to Will Middlebrooks, Adrian Gonzalez or David Ortiz, they’re going to trade Youkilis somewhere.

What would they want for him?

Whatever they can get.

Perhaps they can move him for a player who’s not performing well with his current club but could be of use to the Red Sox like a Grant Balfour or Ryan Roberts.

Even if they pay the rest of his 2012 salary, they’re not going to get much of a prospect for him.

Which teams would pursue him?

The Orioles have been mentioned in certain circles, but I doubt the Red Sox are going to trade him in the division.

Casey Kotchman has been a disaster with the Indians and they could slot Youkilis in at first base. The AL Central is winnable for them and Youkilis might be a change-of-scenery player who goes on a tear (if he’s healthy) once he’s out of Boston.

The White Sox have been playing Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson at third base and neither one has hit or played particularly good defense.

It would be an admission that they were wr-wr-wr-wrong (think Fonzie from Happy Days), but the Tigers could get Youkilis and put Miguel Cabrera where he belongs—in the DH spot.

Gaby Sanchez has been atrocious for the Marlins but putting Youkilis in that hair-trigger clubhouse is a bad idea.

The Phillies might make one last desperation move on Youkilis to try and save the season before taking offers on Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino.

The Pirates are an intriguing option because they’re hovering around contention and could use a veteran with name recognition and send a signal that they’re serious about winning without giving up the farm.

The Cardinals could use insurance for their questionable status at first base as they wait (hope) for Lance Berkman to come back; David Freese has had frequent injuries in his career and Youkilis is insurance for that.

It would be an odd acquisition for the Cubs, but Theo Epstein knows Youkilis and they’re not giving up on 2013 in spite of the rebuild they’re planning. They can try and steal a Wild Card next season while simultaneously stocking the farm system by trading other veterans on their roster.

Both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks could use a corner infield bat.

The Athletics would be a weird landing spot but given the bizarre moves made by Billy Beane—clearing out the house of his starting rotation and closer and signing Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez—maybe he’d like to get his hands on the player he coveted back when Moneyball was believed to be reality. The Greek God of Walks was almost an A when Beane was taking the Red Sox job and Paul DePodesta was going to be the new A’s GM. Youkilis was the compensation for Beane being let out of his A’s contract. But Beane backed out on the Red Sox and Youkilis became a star in Boston.

The A’s need a first baseman and with their young pitching and needs at first and third base, they could trade for Youkilis and renegotiate his 2013 option to sign him for a couple of years. He might be rejuvenated as a fiery leader and dirt-caked, win at all costs type to show the young team how it’s done.

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