For lack of a better word, the Boston Red Sox's offseason has been quiet. Scratch that, it has been dead silent. For a team that was so aggressive in 2011, yet so disappointing in September, Red Sox Nation has been waiting for something big.
The Mark Melancon trade was nice, and the Nick Punto signing adds depth, but those moves are tiny chisels in the rock. It is time Ben Cherington pulled out the jackhammer and went to town.
The Boston Red Sox have been inquiring on starting pitchers, specifically Goo Gonzalez. They also looked into Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey but balked at the asking price of top prospect Will Middlebrooks. As they should have.
I do not think it is a secret that Kevin Youkilis is not the long-term solution at third base. Youkilis, or "Youk" as dubbed by fans, made the move to the hot corner in 2011 after Boston acquired Adrian Gonzalez. The 32-year-old has been a visage of consistency for Boston, posting nearly identical slash lines from 2008-2010 (all equating to an OPS above .955). He is also known for his black-hole glove.
But 2011 was not kind to Kevin Youkilis. Injuries have always been a problem, and moving to a more active position like third seemed to be too much. In 2011, Youk hit .258/.373/.459, hitting a mere 17 home runs (two less than 2010 despite playing in 18 more games). His defense also seemed to hit a wall.
The failed transition was an eye-opener for Boston fans. Will Middlebrooks is now looked at in a new light. The 23-year-old prospect combined for a .285/.328/.506 line between AA and AAA last season, slugging 23 home runs. All things considered, he currently stands as the Boston Red Sox's next third baseman, making Youkilis expendable.
Middlebrooks' breakout campaign has not gone unnoticed, and teams are interested. But it would be a big gamble for the Boston Red Sox to relinquish a top prospect that can fill a huge void.
Enter Chase Headley.
Chase Headley is currently the third baseman of the San Diego Padres. Drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft, Headley was in the minors for only three years before he received his first cup of coffee with the Padres in 2007 as a 23-year-old.
Headley, now 27, has shown a great propensity for hitting. His baseball acumen has transformed into stellar patience at the plate. Despite a poor showing with the glove in 2011, Headley has good instincts on defense and posted a stellar 16.5 UZR in 2010 (the best by any third baseman that year). The switch-hitter finally came into his own last season, putting together a career best .289/.374/.399 line in an injury-shortened 113 games.
However, like all San Diego Padres hitters, we need to read between the lines.
It is well known that Petco Park is the best pitchers park in baseball—just talk to Adrian Gonzalez. Its effects have certainly been felt on Chase Headley. In his career, he is hitting .229/.319/.336 at Petco, versus .303/.364/.441 away. In 2011, Headley posted an .864 OPS away, .190 points higher than his .674 OPS at home.
If traded to Boston, I do not think Headley would have as successful a move as A-Goon. Their power is not on the same level, and Gonzalez is a more complete player. However, there is no reason to think Headley could not hit .300, get on base at a .400 clip and hit 15-20 home runs. Sounds a lot like Kevin Youkilis numbers, huh?
This biggest thing standing in the way is the asking price. Word on the street is that the Padres are asking for a lot, but as things stand, the biggest suitor so far has been the Detroit Tigers. Boston's farm runs much deeper, and that gives them a leg up.
San Diego could use help in the corner outfield spots, which makes Josh Reddick the centerpiece of any deal. Boston could also add one of Anthony Ranaudo or Matt Barnes. It seems like Boston is giving up a lot, but this deal adds a lot of flexibility to the team.
With Chase Headley in position to take over third, suddenly both Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks become expendable. Youk has long been an OBP holy grail to Billy Beane. Boston could easily package a deal around Youkilis and Middlebrooks (and some fringe prospects) for Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey. Or, they could get a third team involved for Youk and forward the prospects of that deal to Oakland.
In just two easy steps, the Boston Red Sox gain a 27-year-old switch-hitting third baseman of the future, a 25-year-old workhorse with ace potential and a solid 27-year-old closer. Suddenly, the team is reinvigorated with youth and one of the best cores in baseball. Even better is that it is all incredibly plausible.
Someone get Ben Cherington on the phone.
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