Chicago White Sox's general manager Kenny Williams pulled off the type of move that just might win his club a division title in a few months. Picking up Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox is a fantastic move even if the long-time Boston slugger isn't the player he was a few years ago.
The White Sox send right-hand pitcher Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge east in the trade. Williams has upgraded the hot corner with a veteran bat who can hopefully improve the production Chicago has gotten out of Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson.
This move is not without risk, but I like the way this sets the White Sox up as they try to stay on top of the AL Central as we hit July.
Here are five reasons why:
Youkilis has struggled at the plate this season to the tune of a .233 average. To a team starving for offense at third base, that's a banquet.
After Brent Morel struggled with his back as well as his bat to open the season, the bar wasn't set very high when Orlando Hudson was plugged into the lineup. After all, Morel was hitting .177 when he went on the disabled list back in May.
Hudson has hit .167 in 27 games as the everyday third baseman.
As much as I'd like to see the Youkilis of, heck, even last season, his current average is still 60 points better than what the Sox have been getting from the position.
Defensively, Youkilis is no Gold Glove at the hot corner. However, Hudson's .938 fielding percentage at third doesn't create those kind of expectations.
Williams gave up a Triple-A pitcher in Stewart and a utility man in Lillibridge. I think Lillibridge was a valuable reserve and I also thought he handled the media with class immediately following the trade in the Chicago locker room.
That said, I think that this move makes Chicago's bench better.
With Lillibridge hopefully finding more at-bats with his new club, the White Sox suddenly have more of a workload for Jordan Danks and Eduardo Escobar, who have been the team's best producers off the bench.
Danks more than replaces Lillibridge in the outfield in the late innings, while Hudson and Escobar will get the job done in the infield when a starter needs a day off.
Escobar raised his average to .203 with the game-winning hit in Sunday's 10-inning 1-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. With Lillibridge, who was hitting .175 at the time of the trade, off the bench, Danks and Escobar should benefit.
I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Youkilis will find Robin Ventura easier to get along with than his previous manager.
Bobby Valentine has ruffled a lot of feathers in the Red Sox clubhouse this season. Youkilis and Valentine have had trouble getting on the same page.
Working with Ventura should be a different experience. Don't forget trainer Herm Schneider, one of the best in the business. That's good news for Youkilis, who has had his share of back problems this season.
Youkilis seems like he will get along with his new teammates, who seem to be happy to get a three-time All-Star at this stage of the season.
Here's what Paul Konerko had to say, from Tony Lee's article in ESPNBoston.com:
There is no way we are not a better team with Kevin Youkilis. He is just too good of a player and has been through all the wars and is still relatively a young guy. We just have to keep him on the field. If that is the case, it could be one of the bigger steals of the season.
Sounds like a seal of approval from the captain.
"Every report you ever hear, he's a good teammate," Ventura told Scott Merkin of MLB.com. "He plays hard. He's a pro. We have a room full of guys like that, so I think he'll fit in just fine."
Youkilis is making $12 million for the 2012 season, which could have been a stumbling block for a team that cut payroll over the winter. It won't be, though.
That's because Boston is picking up the check.
Youkilis is still owed $7.8 million of his salary this season. The Red Sox are paying for all but $2 million of that price tag.
Again, even if Youkilis stiffs in Chicago, Williams picked him up at a bargain-basement price and has just a $1 million buyout after the season if this move doesn't work out.
The Youkilis era should get underway Monday night in Minnesota. Right now, this is a great move by Williams. He brought in help when his team was contending and didn't give up a lot to do so.
Youkilis could be a huge boost to the White Sox if he produces. If not, it comes with minimal damage.