BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 22: Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 22, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Kevin Youkilis' future is uncertain, but right now it appears it will not be in Boston. Where will the Sox ship the third baseman, and what can they expect in return?
To call the Red Sox' desire to ship Kevin Youkilis to parts foreign the "worst kept secret in baseball" might honestly be to mistake the meaning of the word "secret". As much as it's true that the team hasn't openly admitted they want to be rid of the corner infielder to make way for Will Middlebrooks, that there are so many stories confirming said goal is telling, especially given that this is the team that signed John Lackey and Carl Crawford before the fact that they were talking even got out to the media.
Hmm... Maybe there's something to be said for not sneaking deals past the media.
But I digress; what's important here is that the Red Sox are trading Youkilis, and if anyone can meet their price, the first baseman who has brought so much to the team over his career will be gone from the Red Sox organization for the first time since he was drafted.
The question is: where will he end up, and what will the Sox get in return?
It's important to understand that trading Kevin Youkilis now is nowhere near the same thing as even trading Kevin Youkilis three months ago. This is not the All-Star Kevin Youkilis, or even really the workhorse at this moment. Kevin Youkilis is a flyer. A shadow of his former self who teams are hoping still contains a spark to be ignited by a change of scenery. Such a shadow doesn't cost much. Long story short, any team that wants Kevin Youkilis has enough to get him.
So who are we talking about here? A recent report from Ken Rosenthat and Jon Morosi suggested that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Chicago White Sox would all be interested in acquiring Youkilis' services-in spite of the almost unanimously negative reports from scouts on Youkilis' present abilities. It's not hard to see why.
For the White Sox the problem is at third base, where the likes of Eduardo Escobar, Orlando Hudson, and Brent Morel by far the worst production of any team's third baseman. A shocking -1.4 combined WAR powered by a .178/.252/.236 line means that the White Sox would be better off with Youkilis even at his current level.
The Indians, too, fall short at third. While Jack Hannahan is back from the disabled list, he's not exactly an impressive specimen taking the whole of his career into account, and he's not been able to hit lefties, which is something Youkilis has still pulled off well enough even in his diminished state. Ryan Roberts is about as bad for the Diamondbacks.
Really, only Los Angeles has no reason to want Kevin Youkilis at third thanks to Jerry Hairston and Elian Herrera. Unfortunately for them, James Loney has about as much power as a little leaguer so far this year and, like Hannahan, is completely useless against lefties. Having Youkilis as a platoon bat and pinch hitter could be a decent boost for them as well.
What the Sox can get from each team will likely depend on whether they're buying or selling at the trade deadline-Youkilis is likely in line to be traded regardless of whether the Sox are looking to build the team or break it down. As a seller, the Sox would likely be willing to pick up the rest of Youkilis' contract in order to increase the value of the prospect(s) they might receive in return, whereas if they're buying they'll probably be in it either as a three-way trade or at least to free up some salary for another move.
If they're selling, then the likes of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Cleveland look a bit less appetizing. Given the free-spending ways of the new LA ownership, it seems unlikely that they would want to give up talent for Youkilis rather than simply take the financial hit, especially since their ability to impact the draft and international free agency is being greatly diminished by the new CBA. The White Sox, on the other hand, have pretty much nothing in the way of the farm system. Cleveland is not much better off.
That leaves the Arizona Diamondbacks-a team which isn't likely to want to drop some $6 million on Youkilis to begin with, and has a very deep farm system to boot. They're still not in for a blue chip prospect, but there's a decent possibility for getting someone worth watching, who could slot into Boston's top-20, which is actually a decent achievement this year.
What remains to be seen is which group the Sox will be targeting come July. While a few games ago the Diamondbacks may have seen like the best match, that the Sox are now 34-33 to Arizona' 33-35, well, it somehow doesn't look as good. Of course, in that vein, they may not be interested in trading to an NL Central team that could cost them a wild card spot.
We'll know more in the coming weeks and, if Youkilis can finally start swinging the bat, maybe the team will even be in line to pick up something better.