MLB Trade Scenarios: 5 (More) Kevin Youkilis Deals That Make the Most Sense
I looked into the farm systems of the Reds, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Phillies, and Dodgers, and sought to determine what prospects they would be willing to give up for Youkilis. If you haven’t read the piece, or want a refresher on what Youkilis’ trade value is and what the Red Sox may look to get for him, you can click here.
Back to the article on hand; more teams have emerged as possible trade partners for the Red Sox. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote that in addition to the five teams first mentioned, the Angels, Brewers, Giants and Indians might also be interested in trading for Youkilis. Moreover, NESN reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates have inquired about his availability.
In the next five slides, I’ll look into what those teams may trade in order to acquire the Red Sox 1B/3B.
Keep in mind, though, that even in merely the past week, Youkilis’ trade value has deceased due to his continued struggles this season.
The Pirates were a surprising team much of last year, winning 47 out of their first 90 games and finding themselves in first place as late as July 25.
Alas, they could not keep that success going, as the team faded and finished out of the playoffs for the 19th straight year.
A similar situation—at least the first part—is emerging this year.
The Pirates are second in their division, only two games behind the Cincinnati Reds. However, they do have a minus-25 run differential. Acquiring a player of Youkilis’ caliber could go a long way into improving that and banking more wins for this Pirates team.
At third base their team production has been awful, and it belongs to one man: Pedro Alvarez. The 25-year-old out of Vanderbilt was once a promising prospect, but is hitting .195/.259/.391 on the season, not much different than the .222/.259/.391 mark in his career.
It may not be time to give up on him yet, but getting a decent hitting third basemen could help for a potential playoff run this year.
Over at first base, lefty Garret Jones has 129 of his 138 at bats against righties this year, producing a .266 batting average with seven home runs. The reason he rarely plays against lefties because of his career .195 batting average against them.
Youkilis is batting .281 for the year against lefties as opposed to .198 facing righties, and for his career shows an overall preference for lefties, hitting .300 compared with .281.
Playing Youkilis at first base with a lefty on the mound, and him at third base some of the time with a righty on the mound, could substantially improve Pittsburgh’s offense if executed correctly.
The Pirates have two of the top pitching prospects in all of the minors in Gerrit Cole and Jameson Tallion, so they should be willing to part with other pitchers in the organization.
Kyle McPherson could be that player. Since being drafted out of high school in 2007, he’s slowly climbed the organizational ladder with success, and in 2011, had a 3.02 ERA in 16 starts at AA. He is, however, starting the year off on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation and has yet to pitch this year.
If the Red Sox would like to stay away from an injury risk, they could look at Jeff Locke. After a solid 2011 season in the minors, he was called up to the big league club, where he didn’t fare so well with a 6.48 ERA.
But he’s rebounded in 2012 at AAA with a 3.27 mark in 11 starts, including eight strikeouts per nine and less than two walks per nine. FanGraphs writes that he has a great chance to be a back of the rotation starter.
The Indians were not expected to have this level of success this season, as they’re only 1.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. Their offense, though, has the third lowest Wins Above Replacement in the major leagues, and is putting up an overall line of .249/.327/.376.
That’s not going to cut it as they contend for a playoff spot, and it hasn’t been helped by their production at first base.
Although Casey Kotchman has been lauded for his fielding, he’s currently hitting .215/.285/.320. Those numbers are terrible for any position, but especially for first base, a position known for power hitters. If Youkilis regains his form, he would provide a huge boost to this mediocre offense.
The Indians farm system is in flux right now, with only one player on FanGraphs top 10 list in 2011 appearing on the same list in 2012. Poor draft performance, trades for veterans, and high level talents moving on to the major league level has left the system as one of the weakest in the game.
They still do, however, have some players the Red Sox should covet.
Austin Adams is a right hander out of Faulkner University that was a two-way player in college. Once he started pitching exclusively in the minor leagues, he became a much better prospect. After recording a 3.54 FIP in high A ball in 2010, he followed that with a 3.35 FIP in AA ball in 2011 and improved his K/9 rate from 7.82 to 8.67.
He did have surgery on his right shoulder to begin the 2012 season though, so he’s out for the whole year. If the Sox don’t want to solely take a chance on him, they can also look at Felix Sterling.
A 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic, he was rated by FanGraphs as the Tribe's 10th best prospect entering the year.
He possesses a mid-90s fastball, which helped him strikeout over ten batters per game in his two season at rookie ball. He hasn’t fared especially well as he’s moved up the organizational latter, as he has a 5.72 ERA and 1.57 K/BB ratio in A ball this year.
But Sterling is still only a teenager, and has plenty of time to develop. The Sox would be wise to take a chance on him.
Los Angeles Angels
After a rough start to the year in which they went 8-15 in April, the Angels are back in playoff contention, a mere 3.5 games behind Texas for first place in the AL West.
They do still, however, have a weakness at third base. The combination of Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis has combined to put up a line of .231/.308/.278, and their slugging percentage is the second-worst mark in the majors. An upgrade at third base would be just what the Angels need to help them make up the ground they lost earlier in the year.
The Angels system has produced a number of prospects who recently have found success at the major league level, so the top tier depth is not as strong as it once was. A couple of middle range prospects, though, might be enough to persuade the Sox to trade Youkilis.
Nick Maronde, a 2011 third-round pick out of Florida, has posted a 2.83 ERA and strong K/BB ratio in six starts in high-A ball this year after dominating rookie league hitters in 2011. He has a mid-90s fastball coupled with a slider and changeup, and FanGraphs predicts him to be a number three starter with the ability to throw over 200 innings a year.
Another pitcher they could look at is John Hellwig.
After a 2011 season in which he had over 11 K/9 but 6 BB/9 at high-A ball, he was promoted to AA for 2012, but his strikeouts have decreased substantially while his walk rate has stayed the same. He does wield an upper-90s fastball, however, so if he can ever harness his control he has the potential to be a solid MLB performer.
At the beginning of the year the Brewers would have seemed to be unlikely trade partners for either a third or first basemen, with Aramis Ramirez manning the hot corner and Mat Gamel ready to take over at first.
But after a torn ACL for Gamel and an injury to his 28-year-old backup Travis Ishikawa, Milwaukee has been forced to play right fielder Corey Hart out of position at first base, ironically the opposite situation that Adrian Gonzalez faces with the Red Sox.
As with Gonzalez, the circumstance cannot go on for much longer, and inserting Youkilis at the first base spot would help the Brewers and their offense, which is now only league average after the departure of Prince Fielder last year.
The 25-year-old Gamel may be their first basemen of the future, but if Milwaukee did decide to let Youkilis go at the end of the year, they would collect the draft picks in compensation, as well as a better shot to make the postseason.
With a staff led by Zach Greinke, the Brewers are always a threat to succeed in the postseason.
In their ranking of the Brewers top 15 prospects, FanGraphs writes that “pitching is definitely the strength of [Milwaukee’s] system.” Third-ranked Wily Peralta could be just what the Sox are looking for in a trade for Youkilis.
The 23-year-old was signed in 2005 out of the Dominican Republic, and from 2009 through 2011 posted sub-4.00 ERAs at each of his minor league stops. Last season, he posted a 2.03 ERA and 11.6 K/9 rate at the AAA level.
He hasn’t seen the same success this year, as he has a 6.34 ERA at AAA with a decreased K rate and increase BB/9. But the potential is there for the righty starter, as FanGraphs compares him to Bartolo Colon.
The Sox could also look to Jimmy Nelson, a 2010 second round draft pick out of Alabama. He has a fastball that reaches the upper-90s and not much else, but he’s ridden that to a 2.21 ERA at high-A ball this year. If he can develop some secondary pitches as his career progresses, he could turn out to be a solid starter in the majors.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants rode their pitching the a World Series victory in 2010, and once again find themselves armed with a great pitching staff. The Giants have the third-best ERA in all of MLB at 3.24, even with two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum having a down year for the club.
Though they stand at 35-27 for the year, what’s holding the Giants back from first place in the NL West is their hitting. They’ve scored only 245 runs on the year, which places them in the bottom half of the NL, and their .121 ISO, a measure of slugging percentage minus batting average, is last in MLB.
A big part of that has been their production at first base. Brandon Belt, Aubrey Huff and Brett Pill have combined to hit .207/.312/.336, all of which rank among the worst in baseball.
Belt has been heralded as the future first basemen for quite some time now, but has not shown the ability to sustain success at the major league level; he’s hit .225/.322/.389 for his career. The Giants would be wise to acquire Youkilis as they look to make another championship run this year, and decide on whether Belt can live up to his hype at a later time, when it’s not as detrimental to the team.
After the trade of high-level prospect Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran last year, the Giants may not be willing to part with a similarly highly ranked player. Instead, they may to look to trade a couple of prospects to the Red Sox.
Josh Osich is their highest rated pitcher, but comes in at seventh in FanGraphs rating of the team’s minor league players. A left handed pitcher drafted in the sixth round from Oregon State University in 2011, he has a 2.53 in 10.2 innings of relief work in high-A ball this year.
FanGraphs writes, “He has the ceiling to be a high-leverage reliever at the MLB level,” but being so many years away, trading him is a risk the team should be willing to make.
Another pitcher the Sox could look to acquire is righty Heath Hembree, the 10th-ranked prospect and 23-year-old fifth rounder from the College of Charleston. After posting a blistering 16 K/9 and minuscule 0.73 ERA in 24.2 innings in high-A ball to start off 2011, he was advanced to Double-A where his K/9 decreased to 11, and ERA rose to 2.83.
This year he’s continued that trend at AAA, where his K/9 is only 6.9, and he has an ERA of 4.84. While he may be close to the majors, he hasn’t shown the success this year that’s needed to promote him.
Taking a chance on him, considering his past success, should be something the Red Sox look to do.
In case you missed the first five teams discussed in my previous work, you can access it here. And as always, I appreciate reader feedback and comments, so let me know what you think of these potential deals: should the Sox ask for more, less, or is there a possibility that one of these trades will in fact happen?