Sox Shopping Youk, Desperately Seeking Pitching


It is now a widely held assumption that, with the arrival of 3b Will Middlebrooks, the Sox are eager to trade Kevin Youkilis ASAP.  Whither wanders the “Walking Greek”?

Currently the rumors include a 1-for-1 deal with the Phillies for veteran starter Joe Blanton [] and a multi-player swap with the Rockies: Youkilis and 1b prospect Lars Anderson for three LHPS: Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and prospect turned suspect Tyler Matzek.

Today ESPN’s Buster Olney suggested that the Dodgers, White Sox, or Reds might be interested in Youk, but he believes that the Sox should tamp down their expectations of the other side of the deal:

“They’re not going to get a Grade A prospect, they’re probably not even going to get a Grade A-minus prospect because of the amount of money owed to him.”


So, let’s join in the speculation about the Boston Youk Movement and let’s assume that he would be much more attractive to an AL team, since he could DH, as well as back up at 3rd and 1st. Playing 3b on the Reds or the Dodgers on a daily basis might send him right to the trainer’s room and then the DL.

Let’s also assume that the Red Sox have not entered a “bridge” year, where a team admits they are not able to compete for a playoff slot and will take a year to fill in the holes via trades, minor league call-ups and free agents with the intention of returning to the race the following year. This “bridge” notion sounds much better than “re-building,” which implies a plan like China’s Great Leap Forward, which took 30 years to fail.

We assume then that the Sox are looking for either a “plug-and-play” rotation starter [probably a veteran for the #4 slot], or a veteran closer [say Heath Bell, who has bombed in Miami].

Turning to the AL, we would further assume that the Sox would prefer to send The Youk to the Central or Western division; they don’t want him coming back to bite them in the ass in the AL East.

Olney names the White Sox, who fit our assumptions, so let’s see what Kenny Williams, listed near the top in the GMs Most Likely To Be Fired storyline, has tossed on the lawn in his “Moving Soon Garage Sale.”

As we posted earlier: “White Sox GM Kenny Williams is dangling lefty John Danks and righty Gavin Floyd, but says it would take “at least two A-level prospects and a third that’s a notch below.”

Williams won’t admit it, but his minor league prospect cupboard is bare; in the latest organizational review coming from Baseball Prospectus, the White Sox were placed 30th out of a possible 30. And the comment from Kevin Goldstein to go with the placement — “It really is that bad.”

With his GM job in a tenuous status, Williams will be willing to wheel and deal to try to improve his sorry Sox. While it is not a “blockbuster” type of trade, the Red Sox could target Gavin Floyd and LHP Matt Thornton [think bullpen] and offer Youkilis and Lars Anderson.

With Morel, Lillibridge and Escobar on their hot corner depth chart, Youkilis would be an offensive upgrade for Chicago and he could also move into the DH, where K-Kings Dunn and Viciedo fill that hole.

With aging Konerko, Dunn “Struck Out”, UT Lillibridge and “Iron Glove” Viciedo at 1b, adding Lars Anderson a solid, mobile defender and lefty hitter to the mix, as a replacement for Konerko could be attractive to Chicago.

In sum, the White Sox get a veteran hitter at DH with Youkilis, who could also spot start at 3b and 1b and a next generation lefty First baseman in Anderson and the Red Sox get a rotation starter and another solid LHP for the pen.

If needed, Boston could add young [20] catching prospect Blake Swihart [Sox #12 prospect MLB] to the deal, as Williams has two aging catchers and no prospects in sight.”

A few days ago Jon Heyman of CBS Sports suggested that Kelly Shoppach is likely popular in trade talks right now and the Angels and Nationals are among the clubs with possible interest in catching depth.

With three UT players at 3rd base, M. Izturis, A. Callaspo, M. Trumbo, the Angels could see Youk as an improvement, but which pitcher would they give up in trade? Their #5 guy is 31 year-old Jerome Williams with a career ERA of 4.17 and a terrible 3/2 K-W ratio; although he is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA so far this season.

The best the Sox could expect in return for Youk might be a AAA, maybe MLB-ready, starter:
Garrett Richards, RHP, Rank: 2 [Angels organization], Salt Lake Bees (AAA), ETA: 2012
Age: 23, 6′ 3″, Weight: 215, Drafted: 2009, 1st (42)

“Richards throws hard and down in the zone, showing he’s a true ground-ball machine since joining the Angels’ organization. His curveball is also an excellent pitch, and although his changeup is a bit behind his first two offerings, it showed improvement in the Texas League in 2011, leading to his big league callup. He doesn’t hurt himself with walks and his ability to keep the ball down has limited his home run totals. His Major League debut’s ups and downs notwithstanding, he should be a durable middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.”

While a “middle-of-the-rotation starter” would mean the #3 or #4 slot, many pitching prospects have become suspects, unable to make the leap from AAA to The Show; many become career Minor leaguers, who are referred to a AAAA talent.

If the Nats are interested in Shoppach, would they take Youk too? Earlier in the season the Sox had mulled obtaining John Lannan from Washington. His value is low at the moment and the Nats might deal him for Shoppach, straight up.

“The Nationals are still looking for a taker for left-hander John Lannan, but it is nearly impossible to trade him, according to a baseball source. It hasn’t helped that Lannan is off to a slow start with Triple-A Syracuse.
Entering Wednesday’s action, Lannan has allowed nine earned runs in six innings. Another factor in Lannan’s low trade appeal is that opposing teams don’t want to take on the left-hander’s $5 million salary, especially since a lot of teams consider Lannan no more than a fifth starter.

As one opposing executive put it,

"“teams would rather use a low-paid Minor Leaguer for the fifth spot before dealing with Lannan’s money.”"


Suppose, in return for Shoppach and Youk, the Nats were willing to send Lannan and a 27 year-old RHP with a MLB ERA of 3.00, a 1.15 WHIP, a 23-14 W-L record, and a nearly 3/1 K-W ratio? Wait for it…Ty Clippard.

Consider Cleveland with Hannahan and J. Lopez on 3b and C. Kotchman, C. Santana, S. Duncan, J. Lopez at 1b; they should be interested in Youk and with Lou Marson as the back-up C, they might want Shoppach too.
But with Zach McAllister in the 5 hole in the rotation and with the next best option AAA lefty Scott Barnes in Columbus, the Indians do not have the pitching to make a deal with the Sox.

What about Detroit? With UT guy Don Kelly backing up “Past A Diving” Cabrera at 3b and The Prince of Wides at 1b and Delmon Young at DH, the Tigers could see Youk as an asset in all three slots. But does Detroit have a pitcher to offer? Would the Sox consider a 30 year-old former Yankee prospect; a LHP with a career ERA of 4.12 and 1.31 WHIP? And .256 BA against and a 2/1 K-W ration? Wait for it…Phil Coke.

Forget the Royals, who are in a Youth Movement with Moustakas at 3b and Hosmer at 1b and Billy Butler at DH.

With this trio at 3b, T. Plouffe, J. Carroll, A. Casilla, and the DL Danger Duo of Mauer and Morneau at 1b and Ryan Doumit at DH, the Twins, if they still consider themselves to be contenders, might well consider Youk. This inevitably brings us to 31 year-old veteran lefty Francisco Liriano, but his 8.59 ERA and 0-5 record scream “stick a fork in him!” Never mind.

The Mariners think they are building a young team that will contend “soon,” but not this year, so they have no interest in a fragile 3b as the “final piece” for their pennant run.

Texas? Beltre, Young, Napoli; next team please.

The Oakland Dazed? By the time they move to San Jose, Youk will be retired.

OK, we are running out of options here, so let’s break our AL East “Come Back to Bite You in The Ass” rule and consider the Rays, who have lost Longoria and are perpetually in need of more offense. They give Youk the occasional start at 3b [S. Rodriguez, E. Johnson, W. Rhyme] and let him DH [L. Scott, B. Upton]. Wade Davis at 27 is ready to break out as a starter: 2012 ERA 2.04 , WHIP 1.19, and .221 BA against. Career 4.12 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, .258 BA against; 270 Ks/144 Ws. Davis has logged nearly 200 starts [138 Minors, 64 MLB], but, due to the logjam in the Rays’ rotation, he has been asked to go to the pen.

He has been considered a front of the rotation starter since he was drafted in 2004 and currently ranks #31 in the MLB top 50:

“Statistically speaking: Davis is nothing if not durable. In 2009, he threw a total of 195 innings between Triple-A and the big leagues. He’s made at least 27 starts in each of his four full Minor League seasons, averaging 165 IP per season. And they’ve been quality ones, as proven by his career 3.28 ERA, 8.7 K/9 ratio and 1.255 WHIP.

Scouting report: Davis is a power pitcher with a heavy fastball he can get up into the mid-90s that he keeps down in the zone. He’s also got a plus curve he can throw for strikes at any time. He’s worked on a changeup and a slider, as well. He’s a good athlete and a tremendous competitor. His walk rate hasn’t been terrible, but he could stand to cut down a little on the free passes.

Upside potential: He showed he’s ready for the bigs late last year. He may start the season at the back end of the rotation, but in the future, he’s got the stuff to be at or near the front of it.

To get Davis, the Sox might be willing to include Lars Anderson or Shoppach and it would be still be a good deal for the Sox. Wade Davis is ready to step into a #4 slot in the Red Sox rotation and has the potential to become a #3 or better.

All that said, Ben Cherington may trade Youk to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano.


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