There are rumors circulating that the Indians have interest in free agent Kevin Youkilis, with the hope of him filling in as a first baseman/DH. The Indians supposedly had interest in trading for Youkilis earlier this season when he was involved in a tumultuous situation in Boston as they favored young third baseman Will Middlebrooks and (at the time) had Adrian Gonzalez at first. He was battling injuries and (now fired) manager Bobby Valentine, and was hitting just .233/.315/.377 with four home runs in 146 at-bats. Youkilis instead went to the Chicago White Sox, where he hit .236/.346/.425 with 15 home runs in 292 at-bats. Even though both totals were well below his career average of .283/.384/.482, his home run totals were on par with his 2011 and 2010 seasons. Would the 33-year-old Youkilis be a good fit with the Indians?
One of the most positive aspects of a Youkilis signing is that he’s a right-handed bat that has hit left handed pitching well throughout his career – his .298/.417/.511 line is well above his overall career averages. Despite his diminished numbers in 2012, he still managed to hit .275/.386/.492 against lefties. If you mainly keep him at first base and DH, with Lonnie Chisenhall doing most of the heavy lifting at third base, it also increases the odds that he will remain healthy throughout the season. This is not the first time I’ve typed this phrase this week, but he’d also be reunited with former manager Terry Francona. It’s like they’re getting the band back together!
I think Youkilis could be a good signing this offseason. While I’m concerned about his health, and the drop in his numbers last season, his home run totals remained basically unchanged and he still managed to hit left-handed pitching well. If you keep him at first and DH, I think it could limit the wear and tear to his body enough to at least make it a mild success. My primary fear is that in a thin free agent market this winter, Youkilis will be priced out of the Indians’ likely meager budget.
In other news:
– The Blue Jays claimed LHP Scott Maine off waivers from the Indians last month. The Jays already designated him for assignment today in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Jeremy Jeffress.
– The Indians signed RHP Hector Rondon and infielder Luis Hernandez to minor league deals with an invite to spring training. Rondon, once a promising prospect with the Indians, is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery and a broken elbow. He’s playing winter ball in Venezuela in an attempt to prepare for next season. Hernandez spent last season with the Texas Rangers, where he had just two at-bats in two games, where he went hitless. The 28-year-old switch-hitter spent most of 2012 with the Rangers’ Triple-A Round Rock affiliate, where he hit .262/.303/.376 with eight home runs. Hernandez has also played in the majors with the Mets, Orioles and Royals.
– RHP Kevin Slowey and outfielder Vinnie Rottino have both filed for free agency after they were transferred to the Triple-A Columbus roster. The Indians traded Zach Putnam to the Rockies last offseason for Slowey immediately following Roberto Hernandez’s arrest in the Dominican Republic. Slowey pulled his rib cage in May and did not play the rest of the season. It’s not that I thought Zach Putnam was shaping up to be the next Mariano Rivera or anything, but he could have been part of a more useful deal if nothing else.
– There are a number of trade rumors regarding the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Justin Upton, but there have been no indications the Indians have been involved in any talks on the young outfielder. It’s been reported that Cleveland is one of the teams on Upton’s no-trade list, although Oakland was one of the teams on Chris Young’s no-trade list and he still accepted a trade to the Athletics last month as part of a three-team deal with Miami.