Many an MLB analyst, ‘insider’ and blogger have touched upon the subject of Kevin Youkilis and the possibility of his being traded during the 2012 calendar year.
It’s not that Youk has outlived his welcome, been branded a loss or some clubhouse miscreant. It’s because he’s a valuable commodity. That and both Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias could be making regular appearances on the big-club by September, should their minor league seasoning go as planned.
Youk is only going to be traded to a team that needs him. The Sox aren’t waving the flag for a 33-year-old 3B who finished the last two seasons with injuries around the league. The interested team will have a specific need for an established veteran 1B/DH platoon (not necessarily a 3B) who gobbles up at at-bats like Skittles… a need so great that they’ll part with a young MLB ready starter. Period.
There are clubs out there… they’re all the one’s whose faces are turning blue waiting for Prince Fielder to make a decision. Think of Youk bitch-slapping Bryce Harper in Washington as a calming influence on a young team. Picture Youk in Texas filling the 1B/DH spot behind Hamilton, Beltre or Napoli in the line-up. Ooh, maybe he’ll give Ryan Braun the fish eye, you know.. after the 50 game suspension is over, for the Brew Crew. Or maybe even a package deal to Seattle for King Felix. And then there are teams who just need to bolster their line-up in front of or behind a veteran bomber. Think of him (gasp!) setting the table for King Albert in LA as a 3B/1B/DH platoon.
I don’t want to see him go, but the business side of the game beckons and the truth may be obvious… Youkillis won’t be as productive a 3B for the long haul as he would a 1B or DH. He plays too hard, too heartily and too old-fashioned, the way he should, to not breakdown over the span of the season. I love Youk. He reminds me of Bill Mueller, Mike Stanley or Dwight Evans… guys who go between the foul lines, play their heart out and don’t ask for or expect the attention for their fairly quiet, continuous production. Dustin Pedroia is made in the same mold. The other ‘one-five’ echoed this style as well, but Millar’s personality and media savvy attitude served as a shield for his teammates and allowed them to just be themselves on the grandest stages. Youk can easily pick up the 1B/DH platoon with Adrain Gonzalez… once Big Papi has retired.
Obviously, this war or worried words will be continuing well into the season. A tell-tale sign will come as soon as the ink dries on Prince Fielder’s contract. The vultures will then turn eyes to guys like Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena while the serious contender watches Youk’s spring training sessions and Grapefruit League games. I’d expect the beginning of March and then the beginning of July to be a real scale of the honest interest in his services. Youkilis’ return from injury combined with Lars Anderson returning to form could obviously dicate how the Sox approach their future trades.