Will Middlebrooks had an impressive debut for the Red Sox, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base. He is the future third baseman for the Sox but for the time being the job still belongs to Kevin Youkilis; at least for now. The sample pool on Middlebrooks at the major league level is extremely small, almost obsolete, but he is worth keeping an eye on over the next week to see if he can continue to produce at the plate. If he can then the question on everyone’s mind will be whether it’s time the Red Sox start to listen to trade offers for Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis is on the DL after suffering from back stiffness. He hasn’t been able to do any baseball activities in the past four days and will need at least three more days before resuming any type of light workouts. This paved the way for Middlebrooks to join the big club and make quite an impression on the rest of the organization. Barring an 0-for-50 slump in the next while Middlebrooks could put pressure on his manager to play him on a regular basis, resulting in less time for Youkilis.
If that happens, now is not the time to deal Youkilis. At least not during the month of May. It was just a matter of time this season before Youkilis was placed on the DL and every other club in the majors knows his body is breaking down. To many he will be viewed as damaged goods who can serve a useful purpose of getting on base, but only when he’s healthy. The Red Sox need Youk to mend his ailing back, get his offensive numbers back to a respectable level and then look at dealing him. The time frame is likely well into July so a deadline deal makes the most sense when teams on the postseason bubble will be looking to bolster their offensive lineup.
Currently Youk is batting a mere .219 with the rest of his line at .292/.344/.635. He has 2 home runs and 9 RBI in 72 plate appearances, has struck out 20 times and only taken a walk 5 times. All these numbers are well below what Kevin Youkilis can do when healthy and because of these numbers his trade value is likely at an all-time low.
Reports have surfaced that there are many clubs interested in Youkilis simply based on what he’s done in the past; get on base. Multiple clubs feel he can still add great value at the plate and with plenty of pop left in his bat, he would make a nice acquisition for a number of potential postseason teams in search of offense.
If Middlebrooks can continue to prove he belongs at the elite level the problem will be how to incorporate both Youk and the phenom into the lineup. One possibility is to have Youk DH against left handed pitchers and use David Ortiz against right-handed pitchers in an attempt to get Youk’s numbers up. This is not an ideal situation by any means but an option none the less.
A platoon at third base could also work providing Youkilis doesn’t get his nose out of joint over not getting enough playing time in. If Adrian Gonzalez continues to struggle, some rest could be a solution to the slugging first baseman with Youkilis available to fill in every now and then.
The writing appears to be on the wall for Youkilis and his playing time in Boston. If Middlebrooks struggles during the next week or so then Youk could buy himself some time at third base and likely the rest of the year. Regardless of what the youngster does, it doesn’t look promising for Youkilis to be back in Boston next season, meaning a trade for the ‘Greek God of Walks’ is the best scenario to ensure the club gets something in return and doesn’t lose him for nothing. The time to trade the firey third baseman is not right away but a deal is imminent and July is the time frame that could yield the best return.