The saga over who will patrol third base for the Boston Red Sox on a full time basis is still ongoing even though it appears inevitable that the club will eventually trade Kevin Youkilis. Until that happens the Red Sox will keep the reins pulled tight on Will Middlebrooks, penciling his name into the lineup every other night, a trend that has developed over the past couple of weeks.
Middlebrooks is now hitting an even .300 after a 1-for-4 performance on Tuesday in Miami. Over his last ten games he’s hitting a cool .258 with one home run and four RBI. But in the 31 games that Middlebrooks has started, the Red Sox are 18-13. For the record, the Sox are 18-19 with Youkilis in the lineup, many of those games simultaneous with Middlebrooks playing third. However for the month of April, a 22-game span that had Youk playing almost everyday and Middlebrooks in the minors, the Red Sox were a modest 11-11. So it’s safe to say this club wins with the youngster in the lineup.
At long last it’s time the Red Sox unleashed the 23-year old, giving him the ample playing time he needs to be an effective every day player. The only way that can happen is if the Red Sox trade Kevin Youkilis, a move that needs to happen much sooner than later.
But according to Ken Rosenthal, who was a guest on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday, he isn’t sure “when or how” a Youkilis deal will get done making the matter a bit pressing for Ben Cherington if you ask me.
“My understanding right now, the Red Sox are trying to win games and not so much worry about this while knowing that it’s going to be an issue,” Rosenthal told the WEEI morning show.
Rosenthal added that the Dodgers have interest in Youkilis but don’t have the prospects to offer in return, something Ben Cherington could be seeking if he deals Youkilis in late July. At that point it could be obvious the Red Sox need to rebuild, making prospects the only viable return.
We recently heard the Pittsburgh Pirates had called about Youkilis but that interest might be lukewarm at best given the Sox stubborn stance on not necessarily wanting to eat some of Youk’s owed salary. Add that to Pittsburgh’s tight budget and the deal loses it’s appeal.
Our own writer Earl Nash recently wrote about the hitch that could prevent the Red Sox and Diamondbacks from hooking up in a deal that would send Youkilis to Arizona for starting pitcher Joe Saunders. The deal breaker? The Sox unwillingness to absorb some salary owed to the sweaty third baseman.
To make the Youkilis trade waters even muddier is a tweet from Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com stating that a scout watched Youkilis recently and he was not impressed, citing “for what he costs, he can’t do anything.” How about hearing that from one of your scouts and then picking up a call from Ben Cherington only to hear “okay, I’ve got Youkilis available, let’s make a deal.”
Of course Youkilis isn’t doing anyone any favors by his recent performances, especially the Red Sox by hitting an abysmal .125 over his last ten games that includes 9 strikeouts in 32 at-bats. In that stretch he has no home runs and just one RBI.
Since his return from the DL, Youkilis is hitting just .229 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI. Hardly what you expect or need from your $12 million dollar third baseman who is preventing the youth movement in Boston at the hot corner.
So while a deal containing Youkilis is apparent now to allow the further emergence of Will Middlebrooks, the end may not be in sight for the three time all-star. Poor performances, a bloated salary and a body that frequently breaks down, could all inhibit a deal for Boston despite numerous teams showing interest.
Of course there is the option of packaging Youkilis with some prospects and striking a deal that way. But given the play of the Red Sox recently, a championship caliber team has yet to be used when describing this club, begging the question as to whether or not the Red Sox should consider a trade deadline in which they rebuild. Meaning sending any prospects outside the organization would be an outlandish crime.
Could such a proud franchise that has celebrated some marvelous feats over the past decade suddenly enter unbeknownst territory and become sellers in late July? If they can not move Youkilis in the near future and don’t start winning some ballgames with improved starting pitching, then suddenly the inevitable becomes reality. And it is a reality in which many Red Sox fans may not be willing to accept, making a Youkilis deal almost imperative.