Red Sox GM, Ben Cherington could have one of the biggest decisions of his career ahead of..."/> Red Sox GM, Ben Cherington could have one of the biggest decisions of his career ahead of..."/>

Youkilis vs. Middlebrooks & the Red Sox Options

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Red Sox GM, Ben Cherington could have one of the biggest decisions of his career ahead of him in the coming months.  With Will Middlebrooks proving he’s major league ready, the debate has already begun as to what to do with Kevin Youkilis; a decision that will fall upon Cherington and will need to be addressed before the July trading deadline.

While the sample size on Middlebrooks is still small, it’s hard to fathom that he will not be able to produce at a respectable rate going forward given what he’s shown us in the first handful of games.  He has better plate discipline, something that he needed to work on, power to both sides of the field, decent speed on the base paths and is fielding well despite an error on Monday night.  Let’s be honest, Youkilis doesn’t exactly have a gold glove range at third either so having Middlebrooks at the hot corner may not be a step down defensively.

With a team option for $13.5M on the table for Youkilis next season, it’s hard to imagine we’ll see the emotional infielder back in Boston.  It’ll only cost the club $1M to buy him out essentially making him a free-agent.  As I’ve previously written, Cherington would be a fool to let Youk walk into free-agency and not receive anything for him, making a trade the most logical scenario but not necessarily the most likely.

Talk over how to utilize the bat of Youkilis is being dissected on sports talk radio and other Red Sox sites.  The thought of a DH is a possibility as is some playing time at first and third base on a split level.  But with David Ortiz hitting so well when can Valentine possibly sub in Youkilis?  As one reader pointed out last week, given Big Papi’s strong track record in recent years against left-handed pitching, throwing Youk in as the DH just got a lot more difficult.

Adrian Gonzalez will continue to bring his average up and in all accounts it will be well over .300 when September rolls around.  He’s not the type of player who misses much playing time in need of rest (usually around 3-4 games per year) so to take him out of the lineup for Youkilis at first doesn’t benefit the club.

Should the club continue to struggle to stay in the AL East race come July a deal for Youkilis is almost mandatory isn’t it?  We’ll know if the Sox have a legitimate shot at October baseball by the trading deadline and if the answer is no, does it not make sense to deal Youk and have a changing of the guard at third with Middlebrooks?  I certainly think so.

My colleague, Earl Nash, has said all along that there will be multiple teams in search of a Youkilis type bat with the hopes he can bring some offensive production to their lineups for a push to the postseason.  He may be limited to a DH role with some first base thrown in, but if he can get his offensive numbers up in the next two months, his trade value will warrant a decent return for the Red Sox.  The problem lies in getting Youkilis the required playing time to do just that.

Of course a club like the Oakland A’s have always been impressed with Youkilis and are always a legitimate trade possibility when you look at the pitching help that the Sox need.  They may be willing to deal with limited offensive output and bank on what he’s done in the past.

Either way you look at it, Middlebrooks does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, meaning Youkilis could be the odd man out.  Sending Middlebrooks to AAA when Youkilis returns is an asinine thought; not even an option in my mind.  Ben Cherington will earn his paycheck from this situation alone.

This is just my opinion on the matter and I am sure we’ll hear a lot more of this situation in the weeks to come.  So let the debate begin; Youkilis vs. Middlebrooks and what do the Red Sox do?

I welcome your comments and let’s discuss.

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