The Pittsburgh Pirates Missed out on Kevin Youkilis

Tom AuSenior Analyst IIJune 28, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 25: Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Chicago White Sox puts on his Chicago White Sox batting helmet for the first time during batting practice before the game against the Minnesota Twins on June 25, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates were in the running for Kevin Youkilis. But they let the Chicago White Sox have him without topping a low-ball bid. Almost any random reliever or legitimate pitching prospect (NOT Taillon, Cole, or Heredia) would have been better than the pitcher Chicago offered. And Brent Lillibridge is a replacement caliber utilityman that even the Pirates didn't want to keep, years ago, meaning that the Bucs could have easily spared someone better.

Youkilis would have brought something the Bucs sorely needed. That's because he is the "Greek God of Walks," something the Pirates don't do much of.

Amazingly, the Pirates manage a winning record with a batting average .012 points lower than their opponents'. But the gap between them and their opponents in on base percentage (which counts walks), is .023 or nearly double the difference in batting averages.

Youkilis was described in Moneyball by Oakland's Billy Beane as a "fat slow third baseman." Although, he wouldn't fit into the Pittsburgh's "athletic" strategy of trying to steal bases, Youkilis was drafted on to the Red Sox by a John Henry-led staff that was beginning to adopt the "Moneyball" theories of Oakland, and tried to hire Billy Beane in 2002.

Even in a slump, Youkilis' batting average of .247 (counting a recent surge), is .014 above the Bucs' average. But because Youkilis gets walks at a high rate, his on base percentage is .322 or nearly .040 higher than the Pirate's overall figure.That's if he doesn't rebound to past levels.

In an average year, he might bat .260 or so, with an OBP of .360-.370. Except for the fact that he  would hit "only" 15-20 home runs, those would be the kind of numbers put up by a former Pirate named Jose Bautista in 2010. In a good year, Youkilis might hit over .300, with an on base percentage of over .400, and maybe 25 home runs. Those would be similar to Bautista's 2011 figures, not counting home runs.

Youkilis would have cost $2 million for half of 2012 and come with a $1 million buyout option, meaning that Pittsburgh could release him if they felt, based on this year's results, that he would not do well next year.That's a total of $3 million, or $6 million annualized, the salary of an arbitration year player, not a veteran.

He'd cost $13 million if the Pirates chose to retain him. But that's only if he showed promise of returning to his former form. That $13 million compares to $14 million for Bautista, who is better than the "best case" Youkilis. And the Pirates wouldn't have needed to trade for him if they still had Bautista. Either one of them would have represented an upgrade over Pittsburgh's corner players.

I believe that the White Sox will make it the the playoffs this year. The Pirates won't (although they will come close). In either case, the difference maker might be (or might have been) Kevin Youkilis.