MLB Free Agency: 10 Reasons the White Sox Shouldn't Re-Sign Kevin Youkilis
When the Chicago White Sox acquired Kevin Youkilis on June 24, they filled a very real need at third base. Now, as the MLB free-agency period begins, the White Sox must decide whether Youkilis fits into their plans for 2013.
The impact Youkilis provided to the White Sox was tangible. It seemed as though every hit over the first month he was in Chicago won a game. It was a marvelous time to be a White Sox fan.
Unfortunately, the season ended without a trip to the postseason and general manager Rick Hahn must now choose whether he wants to keep Youkilis in a White Sox uniform.
To be fair, Hahn stated during a radio interview Thursday on ESPN 1000’s “The Waddle and Silvy Show” that he would like to re-sign the third baseman, but only at a reduced price.
With teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers bandied about on MLBTradeRumors.com as possible landing spots for the free agent, the likelihood Hahn gets his wish seems slim.
That is a good thing, because the White Sox are best served if Youkilis is not with the team in 2013 for 10 reasons.
In order to show that Youkilis should not be re-signed, the list took two areas into consideration.
First, the real and potential economic ramifications of Youkilis re-signing were analyzed. This includes how his contract could influence current ones as well as how it would impact potential free-agent targets and current players eligible for arbitration.
Second, Youkilis’s performance on the field and his injury history was examined. Not just 2012 necessarily, but where he has been trending over the past few seasons.
The performance evaluation took into consideration Youkilis’s spot in the batting order and the position he plays in the field.
Each factor was considered under the assumption that the White Sox will open the season with a total payroll close to last year's, as Hahn alluded to during his introductory press conference.
10. Even a Modest Contract Is Too Expensive
The financial ramifications of re-signing Youkilis are too great.
Jon Heyman from CBSSports.com suggested at the beginning of October that a “two-year contract, perhaps in the $15M range” would be enough for Youkilis to return. While that may sound reasonable, it does not fit into Hahn’s 2013 payroll projection.
The White Sox finished the 2012 season with just under $98 million in total salaries and are coming close to that number already. According to Baseball Prospectus, the White Sox have nearly $90 million already committed in salaries for eight players.
Investing in Youkilis would bring the Sox perilously close to last year’s payroll number and impacts two key areas.
9. Issues with Arbitration
The White Sox have not had a player go to arbitration since 2001 and a commitment to Youkilis would change that. In fact, a new contract for Youkilis may alter the dynamic of the 25-man roster in 2013.
As it stands, the White Sox have four players eligible for arbitration: Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham, Dan Johnson and Philip Humber.
Three of them, De Aza, Beckham and Johnson (if he is tendered a contract), should be brought back. All told, MLBTradeRumors.com is projecting a total of $6 million in arbitration awards for the three players.
If Youkilis is re-signed, locking up De Aza into a long-term deal may have to wait. That puts the White Sox at a financial disadvantage in 2014 and beyond.
8. It Would Negatively Impact Free Agency
MLB.com White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin made it very clear the White Sox are already limited when it comes to the free-agent market.
He reported on October 29 that “Hahn was not ‘overly optimistic’ that the White Sox would become major players in the free-agent market.
“That sentiment won't stop the White Sox from adding on needed pieces,” Merkin continued, but that they “might fall in the category of a notch below front-line free agents.”
A financial obligation to Youkilis would make it difficult for Hahn to fit free agents into the 2013 payroll. It is also likely that a contract for Youkilis means the end of A.J. Pierzynski's time on the South Side.
7. Youkilis Is Not the Answer Batting Second
The White Sox need more from their No. 2 hitter.
Batting second for the White Sox, Youkilis hit just .231. While he did hit 14 home runs, with 43 RBI and had 36 walks in 75 games, the Sox need more from that spot in the order.
Speaking of sacrifices, a solid No. 2 hitter should have the ability to go to the opposite field in order to move the leadoff man over. To that effect, Youkilis went to the opposite field just 40 times in 344 plate appearances.
One of manager Robin Ventura’s biggest concerns during 2012 was the inability of the White Sox to manufacture runs. Part of that has to be attributed to Youkilis's ineffectiveness moving runners over.
6. Youkilis Is Not the Answer at Third Base
Make no mistake about it, Youkilis has lost a step in the field.
Ken Rosenthal, from FoxSports.com, asked two general managers what their thoughts were on Youkilis at the beginning of the 2012 season. Each had negative things to say about Youk’s defensive abilities.
Rosenthal paraphrased one GM saying that he would not assume Youkilis’ contract because he is “33 and losing mobility.”
His 2012 fielding percentage (.964) was not horrible, but it is more about the balls he can’t get to than the ones he can.
His range is down and the ability to come in hard on bunts and softly his ground balls is, at best, compromised. If the White Sox are going to dole out a multi-year contract to a third baseman, defense must be taken into consideration.
At this stage in his career, Youkilis is probably best served playing first and the White Sox have that position covered.
5. Youkilis Is Injury Prone
Youkilis came to the White Sox with injury concerns.
His right knee is particularly troublesome.
It prevents him from moving laterally in the field and impacts his ability to run the bases. In fact, the knee caused him to miss three games in August when the White Sox were trying to build a lead on the Detroit Tigers.
Youkilis also underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia at the end of the 2011 season. Considering the way he plays the game (aggressively), there is nothing to suggest that the injury issues that have plagued him in recent years are going to go away.
He is simply too great a health risk to warrant a multi-year contract.
4. Youkilis Is Far Too Slow
The White Sox lack team speed and Youkilis only makes them slower.
The No. 2 hitter in any lineup does not necessarily have to run like the leadoff man, but a little mobility is preferred.
Ventura had to shuffle the lineup on more that one occasion in an attempt to spark a sometimes stagnant offense. When he did, Youkilis was dropped to the fifth spot in the order to make room for a guy with more speed, like Dewayne Wise.
This is not to say that the other in-house options the White Sox have are a lot faster, but they are faster nonetheless.
The Sox need to be faster on the base paths, especially at the top of the order, and Youkilis cannot provide that.
3. Youkilis' Offensive Numbers Are Going the Wrong Way
Statistically, Youkilis has been trending the wrong way.
For example, his batting average has gone from .307 to .235 over the last three seasons.
In addition to the dip in batting average, Youkilis has seen his OPS plummet in the last few seasons. From a career high of .985 in 2010, it dipped to .745 last year. A drop that steep is alarming.
Also troubling is that in 509 plate appearances last year, Youkilis only had 15 doubles. That is 17 fewer than he had in 2011 in only eight fewer trips to the plate.
Further, his total bases have gone down every year since 2008 and he is striking out more frequently than he has in the past.
He did provide an immediate spark after coming to the White Sox, but hit a meager .220 in September.
It is safe to assume that Youkilis has passed his peak as a hitter and that he will continue to produce along the lines he did in 2012.
2. The White Sox Have Other Options
The White Sox have six starters on the roster and a wealth of minor-league ptiching talent which they can use to fortify third base without committing to an aging player like Youkilis.
MLB.com’s White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin believes that this may be the best way to address the need at third base.
Merkin wrote on Wednesday that “having this abundance of quality starters affords Hahn the opportunity to potentially deal from strength and fill a void at third base.”
Virtually every team needs pitching help and the White Sox would be wise to explore potential trades in advance of re-signing Youkilis.
While Hahn is new to the GM role, the White Sox have not been afraid to trade talent for players they deem capable of providing an immediate impact.
1. The Sum Is Not Greater Than the Whole of Its Parts
When every factor is taken into consideration, Youkilis is not the answer. The negatives simply outweigh the positives.
He will be too expensive. He is on the decline offensively and defensively. He is getting older and slower. His contract may prevent the White Sox from locking up younger talent like De Aza, or being able to bring players in via free agency.
Matt Spiegel, from WSCR’s “The McNeil and Spiegel Show” summed up the arguments against Youkilis re-signing in a column he wrote on Wednesday.
“After seeing a larger body of work,” Spiegel surmised, “a man his age, health and production is not worth investing a couple years in.”
Well put, sir. There are too many factors that indicate Hahn would be making a bad move if he re-signed Youkilis to a contract.