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Gary Armida's Blog
Both Sox Win in Youkilis TradePosted on June 25, 2012 at 07:45 AM.
The changeover from an old dynasty is always difficult. Players get comfortable; fans get accustomed to those players as they become the symbol of championship years. Itís natural as fans see these players perform during the best of times. These were their guys. Moving on is difficult. Boston fans have been experiencing this. The Red Sox dynasty that brought two World Series titles and a bunch of playoff appearances is in transition. Gone are Theo Epstein and Terry Francona. Jonathan Papelbon is closing for Philadelphia. But, the guts of the team are still there: Beckett, Pedroia, Ortiz, Lester.
Yesterday, the transition took another step forward as the Red Sox traded their third baseman Kevin Youkilis along with some cash to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for right handed pitcher Zach Stewart and utility man Brent Lillibridge. On the surface, Boston appears to have just given away one of the main cogs in their offense over the past five or six years, but it was a move that was necessary for all parties involved.
For the Red Sox, the decision to move their 33 year old third baseman is about fielding their best team without any discord. Manager Bobby Valentine has tried to keep rookie Will Middlebrooksí hot bat in the lineup while also keeping Youkilis happy. That involved moving All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the outfield, which had to have something to do with his poor start to the season. By jettisoning Youkilis to Chicago, Valentine now has a set infield and acquires a player in Lillibridge who is the type of player Valentine likes and is known for getting the most out of.
Zach Stewart was once a prospect, but the 25 year old is floundering at the Major League level. Perhaps, the Red Sox can unlock some of the promise he showed at the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. But, the real player they get in return is the 28 year old Lillibridge. His statistics are terrible this season--.175/.232/.190, but he is coming off of a season in which he hit .258/.340/.505 with 13 homeruns in 186 at bats. Those two slash lines likely show extremes in his career, rather than give a true indication of performance. Aside from the battery positions, Lillibridge has played every position on the diamond. Given the Red Soxís injuries and Valentineís managerial history of moving players around, Lillibridge fits well. While not spectacular at any one position, Lillibridge measures up as an average defender at most positions by most defensive metrics, especially in the outfield where the Red Sox have the greatest need at the moment.
Now, Valentine has clear cut starters and a role player that Kevin Youkilis couldnít be. Will Middlebrooks is clearly ready to start at third base. Itís his time. Valentine tried to get all of his offense in and get Youkilis going, but it was clear that the Boston veteranís time had passed. Valentine called him out early this year for a lack of passion, something that irked Dustin Pedroia and the Boston fan base. That tactic is classic Bobby V as he pokes and prods his team into performing. Youkilis has been declining for a couple of seasons and clearly didnít fit well with Valentine. With a younger, better alternative, it was time to move on. The Red Sox had to move him. That goes against the romanticism of keeping a player who was a member of two World Series teams, but that is the reality of the sport. Youkilis got a well deserved farewell ovation from the Boston fans after his final at bat--a triple--and is now ready to re-start his career in Chicago.
The White Sox have surprised Baseball this season by either holding first place or being close to the top spot all season. Few expected the White Sox to rebound after their terrible and controversial 2011 season. But, Robin Ventura has been a calming influence, Adam Dunn found his swing again, and Jake Peavy has found health. Chris Sale has become one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the sport.
But, the 38-34 White Sox have done so despite the worst production in all of Major League Baseball from their third basemen. White Sox third basemen have combined to hit .176/.250/.235 with just 1 homerun and 17 RBI. By WAR standards, White Sox third basemen have compiled a minus-1.5 WAR, worst in the sport by a wide margin. If they are to be legitimate October contenders, they had to upgrade from Brent Morel, Orlando Hudson, and Eduardo Escobar.
Youkilis is in the midst of his worst season, batting .233/.315/.377 with 7 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homeruns, 13 RBI, and one disabled list stint. Even more troublesome is that the player who has been dubbed the Greek God of Walks, is walking at a career low rate of 8.7 percent and making contact at a career low 80.7 percent. But, we can evoke the small sample size rule here as Youkilis wasnít healthy to start the season and clearly didnít have the support of his Manager as the rookie Middlebrooks had to play because of his production.
Now, Youkilis is a starter. He will play third base. There will be no moving across the diamond every other game. He is, even in his poorest season, a significant improvement from the White Soxís trio of third basemen this season. Despite that declining production, Youkilis is a career .288/.388/.487 hitter. Even last season, he managed to get on base at a .377 rate, the lowest of his career. With a change of scenery, the assurance of an everyday spot, a Manager who knows exactly what he is going through, and a competitive desire that is well known around the sport, Kevin Youkilis is in a situation that likely sparks his production closer to his career norm. He isnít that MVP candidate from 2007 through 2009 any longer, but he doesnít have to be. He merely has to give League average production to make an impact on the White Sox. In terms of on base percentage, he likely does better.
White Sox General Manager Ken Williams is known for his quick trigger and bold moves. He did pounce quickly, but this is hardly a bold move. Instead, Williams is acquiring a player who will be another patient hitter who could help improve upon their 7th best in the American League on base percentage. Manager Robin Ventura has calmed the volatile clubhouse from a year ago. He was also a third baseman who declined in his mid-30ís yet still managed to be productive enough on playoff teams. Youkilis will be getting a Manager better suited for his needs.
This was a trade both teams had to make. The Red Sox get a bench piece to help bolster their outfield depth as well as returning Adrian Gonzalez to being a full-time first baseman again. With better defined roles along with better fit for the ball club, the Red Sox do help themselves despite trading away a former All-Star. The White Sox improve a terrible position. They get a player at a significant discount who could add another significant bat to the lineup. Even if Youkilis doesnít return to form, the White Sox fill a deficiency with an adequate, patient bat. Ken Williams strikes first among the contenders by acquiring a talent at such a small risk. It is a classic trade that benefits both teams.
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BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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