Major League Baseball’s non-waiver claim trade deadline is still well over two months away; however, the Milwaukee Brewers—per usual—have wasted no time in vocalizing their needs and interests within the trade market.
After watching long-time first baseman Prince Fielder walk through free agency last January and grimacing at 26-year-old replacement first baseman Mat Gamel tearing his ACL earlier this month, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin reportedly searched the free-agent market for a veteran first baseman to help provide depth. Reports indicated that Melvin contacted 37-year-old first baseman Derrek Lee a few days back, though a potential contract never came to fruition.
Now, it seems Melvin could shift his attention to the trade market. MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds voiced his opinion about a move that could fix Milwaukee’s current situation at first base. What he said was rather surprising.
Reynolds claimed that the Brewers should attempt to trade setup man Francisco Rodriguez for 33-year-old Boston Red Sox first baseman/utility infielder Kevin Youkilis. The biggest question worth asking at this juncture is if such a deal is a legitimate possibility.
Rodriguez, who the Brewers acquired shortly after the All-Star Game last summer, has struggled considerably this season, posting a 5.28 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 15.1 innings of work. The least attractive part of his ineffectiveness, however, is that he’s due to receive $8 million by the end of this season.
Many surmised that Milwaukee would keep Rodriguez throughout the 2012 season despite his hefty contract. Now that manager Ron Roenicke and company find themselves sitting at 14-18 through Saturday, second to last in the NL Central, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Melvin actively shopping his veteran setup man for a quality first baseman—possibly even Youkilis.
Likewise with Milwaukee, the Boston Red Sox have looked nothing short of appalling thus far. Coming into Saturday’s action, Bobby Valentine’s crew boasted a 13-19 record good enough to place last in the highly competitive American League East division.
Valentine has labored to keep clubhouse continuity and has moreover grappled with Youkilis on a few occasions. Youkilis has garnered a .219/.292/.344 line with just two home runs this season, and is due to make $13 million by the end of 2012.
The promotion and palpable success of third base prospect Will Middlebrooks has taken away some of Youkilis’ playing time. Couple that with his distaste toward Valentine and a lofty contract, and it seems the writing could be on the wall for Youkilis. Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com certainly believes it.
Having said that, is a deal between these two needy clubs a possibility?
For the Brewers, who have already come out to say that they’re committed to winning this season, that could be a definite possibility. Owner Mark Attanasio had this to say to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy ealier this week:
“We’re only  games in,” he said. “It’s going to depend where we’re at, at that point in time. Look at where we were when we added CC [Sabathia]. We were over .500, but we were several games back.”
The Brewers have a reputation for making big deadline deals (see CC Sabathia), and I highly doubt that their historical trade deadline aggressiveness will subside this season. Bringing in a veteran presence such as Youkilis could be the difference between making the postseason and watching at home.
For the Red Sox, who after losing longtime closer Jonathan Papelbon witnessed newly acquired closer Andrew Bailey go to the disabled list with an injured thumb, the need for an effective relief arm is clearly there.
Throw all that together, and a deal may not be as farfetched as originally thought.