According to a report by Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, the Red Sox have made Kevin Youkilis available to other teams, and “definitely intend” to trade him. This comes as no surprise, as there’s currently a logjam in the Red Sox infield with Youkilis, Will Middlebrooks and Adrian Gonzalez. Although Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington called the report “inaccurate” in an email to WEEI.com, he also added, “It’s our job to listen if teams have interest.”
The emergence of rookie third basemen Middlebrooks, hitting .314/.340/.559 with 22 RBIs in 26 games, has forced manager Bobby Valentine into what he calls “tomfoolery”—switching Youkilis between first and third, having Adrian Gonzalez play right field, and occasionally sitting the red hot rookie. It’s a temporary fix to a situation that can’t continue for much longer. With Middlebrooks hitting so well, there’s no sense in having him on the bench every third day or even once a week. Plus, playing the Gold Glove winning first basemen in the outfield is severely limiting Gonzalez’s defensive value.
Both CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, and ESPN Boston, listed five teams as possible landing spots for Youkilis: the Dodgers, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Reds and Phillies. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweeted Sunday that both the Phillies and Diamondbacks were in Toronto scouting Youkilis during Boston’s weekend series with the Blue Jays.
For insight into what teams may be willing to part with to acquire Youkilis, one can look to the Mets trade of Carlos Beltran last year. In exchange for the six-time All-Star, New York received highly regarded pitching prospect Zach Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants—the team's first-round pick in 2009 and their number two prospect going into 2011.
There’s no reason to think that the Sox won’t look for a similar swap. Although Daniel Bard was recently demoted to Triple-A to sort out his control issues, Valentine stated that he intends the stay to be short. Other than Bard, the Sox have four capable starters, if you believe Clay Buchholz is back on track. The rest of the pitching staff is solid, as their bullpen has pitched extremely well of late even without the arms of Andrew Bailey or Mark Melancon. And rather than add depth to an outfield that’s performed admirably without its top three players, the Sox should look to acquire pitching at the minor league level.
Before he was traded in 2011, Beltran was hitting .289/.391/.513 for the Mets, numbers consistent with his career averages. Knee injuries kept him sidelined for over 170 games in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, but before then Beltran had played at least 140 games for eight straight years.
Although Youkilis is currently hitting .234/.308/.383 for the season, since coming off the disabled list May 22 he’s at a .289/.372/500 clip, much more in line with his career norm. The three-time All-Star, however, has never played more than 147 games in a year, and his totals the last three seasons are 136, 102 and 120.
Beltran was a free agent at the end of the year, while Youkilis has a team option for 2013, on a lesser salary than Beltran. With Youkilis’ limited durability and slow start to this season, Beltran was probably slightly more valued by other teams last year than Youkilis is this year. But Youkilis isn’t far removed from a dominant stretch over the 2008-2010 seasons, during which he had a .404 OBP and accumulated 15.9 wins above replacement. The latter figure was top 10 in MLB, higher than players such as Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez over the same time period.
Beltran’s trade for Wheeler is a great place to start when determining Youkilis’ value. The next five slides show some possible trades the Red Sox can make with each of the five teams mentioned by Heyman and ESPN Boston.