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Responding To Rumors: Trading Kevin Youkilis For Pitching Is Probably Not Possible

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After September everyone thought the Red Sox needed pitchers. Lots and lots of pitchers. Good pitchers, bad pitchers, mediocre pitchers, or ice tea pitchers. Considering the way last season ended, any kind of pitcher the organization could get their hands on would do. But, so the story went, the Red Sox would have to give up something in order to receive one or more of these fabled pitchers. Makes sense, but what could they give up?

Well, hmmm... they can't trade any pitchers on their roster because that would defeat the whole purpose. They can't deal Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford (much as we might want them to), and they won't deal Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia. You can probably see where this is going. Or you could just read the title. Either way, the idea was that, with a year at $12 million left on his contract (plus a $13 million club option with a $1 million buy-out), the Red Sox third baseman was a marketable player, and could be dealt to fill the club's most glaring need.

There is something to it. Youkilis does have value, both because of the length of his contract and because of his production over the past five seasons. Yet, there are a few problems with the idea.

First, if you trade Youkilis for pitching, who plays third base? Maybe the idea made more sense back when Jed Lowrie was still on the team, but even if you love Lowrie like Brick Tamland loves lamp, there is a substantial difference between Youk and Lowrie. Now that Lowrie isn't on the team, the options are even less appealing. Mike Aviles, for all the love Marc Normandin showers him with (obscure DVDs, vintage pez dispensers, unlimited packets of Capri-Sun) playing him at third regularly would likely produce a worse result than would playing Lowrie. That result would be a rash of TVs with large projectiles embedded in their screens all over the NESN viewing area.

So, dealing Youk for pitching means you also have to find a third baseman. Unless the plan was to sign Aramis Ramirez and watch him decay at third ah-la Mike Lowell, this would have to be a single part of a multi-part plan. Something like this:

Step 1: Trade Youk for pitching.
Step 2:
Step 3: Pennant

Secondly and most importantly, Youkilis isn't worth what you think he's worth. This isn't to say he hasn't been a terrific player for the Red Sox. He has been. But trade value comes from something more than what the player has done over the past few seasons. It comes from past production, but only so far as it predicts future production. So, young players who play well are likely to improve and thus have lots of trade value. Older players are likely to get worse, injuries become more likely, and there is always the possibility they'll fall off the cliff entirely.

Youkilis will be 33 years old this coming season. He's due at least $13 million (twelve plus at least the buy-out) next year and he's never played 150 games in a season. He hasn't played over 140 in any of the last three, and hasn't beaten 120 in the last two. There is a not-so subtle trend here. Youk's plate appearances dropped every single year between 2006 and 2010. There was an uptick last season (435 to 517) but the danger is that Youk's body is breaking down. The term for that is 'suppressed value.'

Andrew Bailey's trade value emanates from his age and the fact that he is under team control for three more seasons in addition to his talent on the mound. Had he been a 33 year old reliever with funky home/road splits coming off two seasons of 40 innings pitched, Ben Cheringon would have hung up the phone before Billy Beane could finish saying, "Reddick."

With three All Star teams and two top six finishes in the MVP voting, Youkilis has had an incredible run in Boston and it might not be over yet. But there is a fair bit of wishcasting going on if you think he is the guy who will net you a Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza, or Mat Latos. Zack Greinke ain't happening either.

Garza of course hasn't been traded this off season, but if you look at the hauls received in the Gonzalez and Latos deals from this off season and the Greinke deal from last off season you'll quickly notice that nobody received in those deals was over the age of 25 except Edison Volquez who was 27.

That's what it will take to acquire a decent, young starter. Younger cost controlled talent, and more than you or I or apparently the Red Sox am comfortable parting with. Jeff Francis is available for nothing but money. So are Joe Saunders and Rich Harden and Paul Maholm. For the proverbial young and good starter the price is going to be younger players with cost controlled years in return. A 33 year old third baseman with a laundry list of injuries and $13 million due to him just isn't going to cut it.