CHICAGO, IL: Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox connects on a grand slam scoring teammates David Ortiz #34, Adrian Gonzalez #28 and Ryan Sweeney #12 during the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has spoken to a couple of general managers about Boston's Kevin Youkilis, and their thoughts on acquiring him. The views, to put it mildly, do not look good for either fans of Youkilis, or those that would lik to see him dealt.
Th two GMs agreed that Youkilis has lessening mobility, health concerns, and questions about both his glove and bat. The first wanted to see Youkilis be effective before he would decide if his team was interested, while the second claimed that if Youkilis were a free agent right now, he wouldn't pick up his contract -- the only cost there would be money, never mind a prospect or major-league player coming back.
If you've been wondering why the Red Sox would want to send Will Middlebrooks to Triple-A temporarily while Youkilis is given a shot to play, it's at least partially because of the views of other teams: if they want to actually get something back for Youkilis, and not just have him rotting on the bench as Mike Lowell did in 2010 when he was healthy, then he's going to need to have a chance to go on the field and show he's still got something left.
The defense might not be as much of an issue for other teams as it is for Boston -- not everyone has a first baseman around already, and if there were an interested AL team, the DH slot could be an option. He's been mostly solid while dealing with the back injury, as well. He did start the season out without a hit in his first 12 plate appearances as he worked to regain the swing mechanics of a few seasons ago, but since then, Youkilis is hitting .269/.350/.423. More of that -- with a bit more pop -- would serve the Red Sox well either in their own box scores or someone else's.
Rosenthal also mentions what we ourselves have, that Middlebrooks, while impressive, is not a finished product. He's hit for a lot of power early on, and it's helped keep his line above water, but things will likely worsen before they improve for a 23-year-old featuring a .259/.295/.552 line, especially given the relative lack of both Triple-A and major-league experience. A few weeks back in Pawtucket while the Red Sox figure out what's going on with Youkilis -- and whether or not someone else is going to want to take on the 33-year-old's production, contract, or both -- wouldn't be the worst thing for him.
Certain Red Sox fans who dislike the manager but love Will Middlebrooks might feel a bit torn right now, too, as, from the sound of it, Bobby Valentine would like Youkilis out of the picture -- and has wanted him out for a few months now, thinking him a liability due to his health:
According to one rival executive, Valentine wanted Youkilis out as far back as spring training, viewing him as a liability. Youkilis surely can sense that he is not wanted. And Youkilis surely wants to prove Valentine wrong, whether it's with the Red Sox or some other club.
Cherington, the first-year GM, is caught in the middle - allowing Valentine to bury Youkilis would leave the Sox with a declining asset. That possibility likely was the motivation behind Cherington's statement that Youkilis would not lose his job due to an injury. At the time, Red Sox fans were swooning over Middlebrooks. But Cherington was only being pragmatic - and fair.
Valentine might want Youkilis out, but it's not as easy as just benching him or trading him now -- it's not fair for a player who, when healthy last year, was as productive as he's ever been, and for a player who needs to show he's got something left before someone is willing to take him in a trade.
Youkilis could be back soon, even if it only ends up being temporarily. It's likely Cherington wants Middlebrooks in the majors as much as Valentine, but what both the manager and the general manager really want is for the third base production in Boston to be high-quality. Youkilis, if healthy, is capable of that, but as usual, the question is how long will he stay that way?
Expecting health for the whole season might be a bit much given the injuries of recent years, but if he can stick it out for another month, it might not be Boston's question to ask anymore.