Kevin Youkilis to White Sox: Struggling Star a Terrible Fit for Chicago

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2012

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24:  Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout during the fourth inning of the interleague game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park on June 24, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Kevin Youkilis' time in Boston came to an end a long time ago, it was just a matter of time because the Red Sox had to find a trade partner. The Chicago White Sox were more than happy to step up to land the struggling star, but expectations must be kept in check. 

Looking at the specifics of the deal, per the Boston Herald, the White Sox did not give up much to get Youkilis. They reportedly are only paying him $1 million, while giving up a bench bat (Brent Lillbridge) and a back-of-the-rotation starter, at best (Zach Stewart).

Fans and analysts love to latch onto a name like Youkilis around the trade deadline, because he played for one of the most popular teams in Major League Baseball, was once a great player who has fallen on hard times and is a good reclamation project for his new team. 

But anyone who thinks that Youkilis is going to flip a magic switch and become the .300/.400/.500 player he was at his peak is fooling himself. You would probably be stretching the imagination to predict the .258/.373/.459 line that he had in 2011. 

Youkilis' problems did not happen because Bobby Valentine was questioning whether he was mentally and physically in the game. They happened because he is a) an older player whose skills are declining and b) is playing a position his body can't physically handle. 

The White Sox have a huge problem at third base this season. Collectively, three players have combined for a WAR of negative-1.4, according to Fangraphs. They did need to do something. But thinking Youkilis is the right answer would be to miss what he is right now. 

Since the start of 2010, Youkilis has missed 132 games, including 30 this season. Granted, some of those games this season were because the Red Sox were playing Will Middlebrooks and keeping Youkilis on the bench. He has never been the model of health, and that is only becoming more pronounced as he approaches his mid-30s. 

This season, Youkilis is hitting .233/.315/.377 with four home runs, 39 strikeouts and 14 walks in 146 plate appearances. Based on Fangraphs' WAR, he has been a replacement level player this season. 

Youkilis is a below-average defender at third base, which would not be a huge problem if he was still hitting the ball. But he's not doing that. 

At this point in his career, Youkilis has to play first base or designated hitter. Unfortunately the White Sox are set at those two spots with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. 

Perhaps a replacement level player at third base is better for the White Sox than the proverbial black hole they have been running out there this season. But given Youkilis' injury problems and the fact he is playing a physically demanding position, it stands to reason that they will eventually have to go back to the players that forced the Youkilis trade to begin with. 

The American League Central is a wide open division. The White Sox look like the best team in it already, even without any production at third base. Youkilis might catch lightning in a bottle and be the player he was prior to this season. 

There is too much evidence out there working against Youkilis, and the White Sox will end up in the exact same position they are in right now, no better or worse than before the deal.