The offseason examination of the Red Sox continues as we explore possible options that the Red Sox could and perhaps need to make this winter. The next player to go under the microscope is the always emotionally charged, third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
You know what you’re getting when Youkilis is in the lineup; a sweaty, firey, hard swinging, leave it all on the field, take no prisoners renegade. And he’s proven to be quite a force for the Red Sox over the seasons. But lately his services have been less than consistent, marred by injury. And now we hear reports that he may not be the ideal teammate in the clubhouse, something the Red Sox are missing.
So what are the options with Youkilis? Do the Red Sox trade him or keep him and deal with his many issues?
Youk broke into the Boston lineup in back in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2006 when he was a fulltime name on the lineup card. Averaging 140 games over his first four full seasons, Youkilis showed the promise of a power hitting, gold glove infielder.
But the 2010 season saw Youkilis limited to just 102 games, a far cry for an everyday player. An uncommon thumb injury forced Youk to miss 60 games, but he still managed to hit a career high .307 at the plate. He ripped 19 long balls but only produced 62 RBI, his lowest total as a fulltime player.
The 2011 season once again saw Youkilis battle with nagging injuries and once again his playing time was reduced to less than what it should be. The three time all-star suited up in 120 games, hitting a career low .258 saddled by OBP (.391), SLG(.492) and OPS (.833) that were all well below his career averages. He started slow in April and never really recovered at the plate as his batting average was never above .300 in any month. To make matters worse, the Ohio native suffered a sports hernia, complimented by a lower back strain that forced him to miss the final two weeks of the season. A time of the year that his team could’ve used his threat at the plate, regardless if he was hitting for extra base hits or not.
His personal resume is flooded with records, accomplishments and highly regarded nominations, including the Sporting News’ list of the 50 greatest current baseball players. His highest rank on the list was 35, entering the 2011 season.
From a defensive standpoint, Youkilis was once a sure handed infielder that a set a record for most consecutive games without an error at first base with 238. But last year, Youkilis, the 2009 Red Sox MVP made a career high 9 errors at third base and at times looked like he was unsure how to play the hot corner.
What’s even more concerning is how it’s come out that Youkilis has become a bad apple in the clubhouse. It was reported a couple weeks ago that he and star Jacoby Ellsbury never got along. In fact, speculation has it that Youk was greatly responsible for alienating Ellsbury. Throw in Youkilis’s temper and ill fated blowups that have become regular throughout the year and everyone seems to be tiring of his reckless attitude.
So perhaps the Red Sox should trade Youkilis during this offseason while he still has some value. Changes need to be made in the clubhouse and starting with moving Youk is a great start. He’s made it known that he would love to play for his hometown Cincinatti Reds and considering the Reds have some great pitchers and prospects, dealing Youk to Ohio seems fitting. The Sox do need pitching and even if it’s prospects, the farm is a little thin right now.
Ellsbury is up for salary arbitration and with soon to be named GM Ben Cherington going to do everything in his power to keep Ellsbury it appears that it’s going to be one or the other. Ells or Youk? I’m taking Ellsbury for so many reasons. But this isn’t an Ellsbury tribute, it’s a look at Kevin Youkilis and whether he has a future in Boston.
If Youkilis goes, who patrols third base? Well, for starters, the Red Sox could acquire the Cubs prospect Josh Vitters, who is most likely a year or two away from being ready. For the short term, a combination of Jed Lowrie and Mike Aviles could essentially handle the hot corner duties until a Vitters like prospect is ready. Of course there wouldn’t be all this speculation had Theo Epstein held on to Adrian Beltre last season. But that was then and this is now. Beltre is basking in the glow of a World Series appearance while Red Sox Nation is wondering what might have been.
While the offseason for the Red Sox rolls on, one thing is clear at this point. Changes are necessary if this team is going to be successful next season. Drastic changes aren’t needed, but a few of the apples gone bad need to go; Kevin Youkilis being one of them.