|Youkilis Trade Surprising Yet Necessary||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on June 30, 2012
The Red Sox traded the corner infielder to the White Sox for utility man Brent Lillibridge and right-handed pitcher Zach Stewart. Youkilis had been a face of Boston’s franchise for the past several years, not to mention a fan favorite, so the trade was quite surprising.
Photo by Kieth Alison, used under creative commons license.
However, based on all the confounding factors, the Youkilis trade actually makes plenty of sense for both sides. Let’s start with the White Sox.
The White Sox find themselves on top of the AL Central after the first three months of the season. It hasn’t been all that pretty, but the team is finding ways to win.
Before the trade, the team’s offensive production from its third basemen ranked last in the league in all statistical categories. Brent Morel opened the season for Chicago at third base, but he struggled offensively and is now contemplating season-ending back surgery after going on the disabled list.
The White Sox then traded for Orlando Hudson, who had been playing second base for the San Diego Padres. Hudson’s always had a good glove at second, but the team asked him to move to third. He’s made four errors in 28 games in addition to his .170 batting average.
Once the Red Sox made Youkilis available, the White Sox were the logical choice from the beginning. They are hoping he can regain his form and provide protection for Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn in the batting order.
Part of the reason why Boston was willing to trade him was that Youkilis was struggling at the plate. After seeing his production slip last year due to injury, he got off to just a .233 start with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 43 games.
His struggles led the Red Sox to call up star third base prospect Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks has been a sensation in Boston, batting .318 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs in 43 games.
With Middlebrooks at third, Youkilis shifted across the diamond to first base, and Adrian Gonzalez moved from first base to right field. Gonzalez is athletic enough to play the outfield sparingly, but that was definitely a short-term solution, especially based on Gonzalez’s lucrative contract to be the team’s first baseman.
Fans in Boston loved Youkilis, so it was tough for them to see him go. He was an integral part of the 2007 World Series champion team and was a role player for the 2004 Fall Classic winners.
Is it warranted to anoint Middlebrooks as the third baseman of the future so quickly in Boston? The organization surely thinks so, as the Red Sox were willing to pay $11.13 million of Youkilis’ 2012 salary. He has a $13 million team option for 2013.
It’s unfortunate how Youkilis’ career in Boston ended so abruptly. He was called out for his lack of hustle by new manager Bobby Valentine early in the season, even though he’s easily the guy who hustles the most and plays with the most grit.
Red Sox fans gave him a standing ovation during his final game in Boston. They’ll get a chance to see Youkilis again for a four-game series in mid-July when the White Sox come to Fenway Park.
Will the Bostonites be so gracious when Youkilis is the enemy, especially if he rakes like he once did in that ballpark? This will be a must-watch series for any baseball fan.