As many expected, the Chicago White Sox declined the $13 million option on Youkilis, thus making the third/first baseman a free agent. Jon Heyman wrote a few weeks ago that new manager Terry Francona could help lure Youkilis because of their relationship in Boston.
There were rumors the Tribe would try and move for Youkilis at the trade deadline last year, but that never seemed very realistic. The Indians didn't have the desire to part with the kind of players that Boston wanted in return.
Now, however, Cleveland's chances are exponentially better to land him as he's a free agent coming off the worst statistical season of his career. While he may be at 33 years old, Youkilis' best days are behind him.
He could still be a productive option for Cleveland.The Greek God of Walks would almost immediately solve two of the Indians' problems in the short term: a corner infielder and a right-handed bat.
Players like Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan are serviceable in terms of defense, but they provide next to nothing at the plate. Kotchman hit .229 with 12 homers and 55 RBI. Hannahan had a slightly higher average (.244), but added only a paltry four home runs and 29 RBI.
Third base isn't exactly the highest of concerns with Lonnie Chisenhall back to full health, but it's good that Youkilis could offer the versatility of playing either corner infield position.
As much as Chris Perez wants to talk about how Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch spent so much money, it's both unrealistic and irresponsible for Indians ownership to throw a bunch of money at a player like Prince Fielder. Still, though, the owners would be very wise to spend some money this offseason.
Youkilis could come relatively cheap, considering the year he had in 2012. Also, he would be a massive bargain considering how much the team has been paying Travis Hafner over the last couple of years.
Making a signing like this would send the message to fans that while the Tribe may be far from the finished product, the team and organization as a whole is still committing to winning now. Rebuilding for the future while still maintaining a solid team can be done, especially in the American League Central.
If Cleveland goes through another year like 2012, they'll lose even more fans, which cripples a small market team like the Tribe. Fans are getting serious when they say they won't renew their season tickets and aren't coming back until things change.
Hiring Francona was a move in the positive direction for the Indians. Signing Youkilis would continue that forward momentum.
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