Because everything involving the Boston Red Sox this year is like something out of a soap opera, you probably heard about the fact that they became disenchanted with Kevin Youkilis in favor of third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Youkilis had been playing at first base until the team acquired Adrian Gonzalez; then he moved back to 3rd. After an injury to Youkilis this season, Middlebrooks gained a foothold and appeared to steal the position right out from under the veteran. That meant that Boston was looking to trade him in true fire-sale fashion – eating a fair amount of salary and taking mediocre players in return. Since Youkilis is a right-handed bat, it only makes sense that the Indians at least considered this deal. It sounded like he could play at 1B in a platoon with Casey Kotchman and could serve time at DH with Hafner on the DL. Still, with his injury issues and struggles at the plate this season, would he really be any kind of improvement? I personally think it was for the best that this deal fell through for the Indians, even if he did end up with a division rival.
The White Sox want Youkilis to play third, since they obviously have Paul Konerko at first and Adam Dunn as the DH. I’ve seen some opinions that blame Youkilis’s return to third for some of his injury issues. He’s 33-years-old and perhaps his body isn’t ready for the daily wear and tear. The White Sox have had such poor production from their third basemen this year, that as long as Youkilis stays healthy, he’s still probably an improvement over their current options. While Kotchman hasn’t exactly been tearing it up at the plate, he has seen steady improvement throughout the season. I’m not sure if Youkilis is a major improvement over the Indians’ internal options. As the front office seemed to imply, if they made this deal with the Red Sox for Youkilis, it may impede their ability to make other deals closer to the July 31 deadline. Even though there are supposedly fewer sellers this year with the additional wild card, you still want to wait for the market to shake out a bit before pulling the trigger.
In fact, when I stop to think about it, the only reason I really wanted the Indians to nab Youkilis was to keep him away from their competitors. Like a greedy child that doesn’t really want to play with his or her toys, yet doesn’t want the other children to have them either. I guess I always live in fear of those trades that just seem to turn a team’s season around and light a fire under them. I’m more afraid of looking back a month or two from now and thinking, “if only the Indians ended up with Youkilis…” That’s not necessarily a valid reason for making a trade. Besides, even major trades sometimes have a way of being meaningless to the team’s overall fortunes – just look at the Ubaldo Jimenez trade last season. I think it would be even more miserable to have another right-handed bat that I dread seeing in the lineup (they already have Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham for that purpose). Plus I think my image of Youkilis’s abilities are dated by several years; he’s not quite the player he once was. Even though he has a career .287/.388/.487 line, in 2012 he’s hitting just .233/.315/.373 with just 4 home runs. His 2011 line wasn’t much better: .258/.373/.459. He’s had double digit totals in home runs every year since 2006, but the numbers have dropped over the past several years – 2008: 29, 2009: 27, 2010: 19, 2011: 17.
Perhaps my views are also slanted by the fact that I’ve never been a big fan of Youkilis. I’ve admired his abilities, and am still somewhat haunted by his performance against the Indians in the 2007 ALCS (.500/.576/.929, and an OPS of 1.504 with 3 home runs). At the same time, he always seemed to be a very petulant player that was prone to tantrums if things didn’t quite go his way. I once saw him smash a cooler in anger after he made an out during a game in which the Red Sox had a sizable lead. I know it’s impossible sometimes to avoid being frustrated with yourself, but I felt like perhaps you should control it and worry primarily about your team’s performance. While I’ve heard reports that he’s a great clubhouse guy, I still worry that bad feelings may travel with him from Boston in a trade. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that the new environment causes him to leave all of that behind and start fresh.
So even though the Indians were supposedly a finalist for Youkilis, it’s probably for the best that this one slipped out of their grasp. Not that they couldn’t use all the help they could get, but I don’t think we’re quite to the point where these desperate times call for these particular desperate measures.