With Will Middlebrooks having established himself as the third baseman not just of the future but of the present in Boston, the Sunday papers were full of the news that the Red Sox were suddenly shopping Kevin Youkilis. Trader Kenny almost as suddenly did the unimaginable, getting the Red Sox to part with "the Greek god of walks" for pitcher Zach Stewart and utility man Brent Lillibridge in a deal announced immediately after their ten-inning, 1-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at White Sox Park on Sunday.
OK, right away, trim the expectations a little, even as the Sox moved back into first with their win over the Brewers. Youkilis is a household name even among non-baseball fans, having been prominently featured not just in Michael Lewis's Moneyball, but in the Brad Pitt movie as well (at least by name). He had key roles in Boston's two recent championships, in 2004 and 2007, when he also won a Gold Glove at first base. He was third in American League Most Valuable Player voting the following year, and sixth the year after that. He has an idiosyncratic batting stance. Yet he's 33 and on the decline, and he's been injured—a lot. He was hitting just .233 with four homers and 14 runs batted in for the Bosox this season, when his injuries opened the door for Middlebrooks. Baseball Prospectus registered 30 separate entries for Youkilis in its injury reports over the last three years going into this season, with 13 just in the last 365 days.
Yet as R.J. Anderson pointed out on the BP website, the White Sox don't need Youkilis to be his old self; they need him to be better than Orlando Hudson, at least until Brent Morel returns from back woes later this summer.
Although Anderson's "Transaction Analysis" is for BP subscribers only, I'll include a link to it here for those who are: the rest can see what BP allows them.
In BP's 2012 season guide, Youkilis was projected to hit 17 homers, drive in 65 runs, bat .291, and get on base 39 percent of the time. That would create four wins above the "Greek god of the replacement player" manifested in Hudson. The two-plus wins he could still deliver for the White Sox might still make the difference in a playoff berth.
And what did the Sox give up? Stewart, who stank it up in his spot start against the Cubs last week; and Lillibridge, who endeared himself to Sox fans a year ago with his scrappy play and unsuspected power, but who remains in essence a utility man.
And according to Anderson, Boston is throwing in the lion's share of the approximately $6 million Youkilis is owed for the rest of the season, before likely free agency. What's not to like? The only thing Trader Kenny has to fear is that Youkilis will play at the near-useless level Manny Ramirez did at the end of 2010. But it says here Youkilis still has something to offer the Sox. I still have my late-season September 26 Dog Day tickets pegged for the division clincher.