Youkilis to White Sox: Trade Reaction & Analysis

The Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox made a trade yesterday that sent former All-Star third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the AL Central race. In return, the Boston Red Sox receive a couple of wet napkins in Zach Stewart and utilityman Brent Lillibridge. For Red Sox fans, this solution was a bit less painful with the emergence of Will Middlebrooks. For White Sox fans, they have a gamble that any GM would have taken.

English: Kevin Youkilis in the field.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

For the sake of saving my readers some valuable time for which they can never get back, I’ll skip over the Brent Lillibridge analysis and attempt to talk about something relevant. Really, in the eyes of Red Sox fans, Zach Steward is the only real “commodity” here, and I put that lightly. In reality, Stewart will likely never see time on the big league club, barring any injuries, despite the optimistic quote from Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington:  “We believe he can develop into a good major league starter,” Cherington said. “We want to get him back in that role. He’s a big, physical, strong kid with three solid pitches. Throws strikes, has had a good minor league track record. He’s a guy that looks like a major league starter but just needs a little more time at Triple A to fine-tune things. We’re excited and he’ll be a big part of our pitching depth going forward.” The real scouting report on Stewart is that his stuff is more of a 4-A starter, and possibly a fringe reliever if his stuff plays up at all. He doesn’t have the ability to miss bats, and when he gets hit, he gets hit hard. Although a small sample size, through 18 games Stewart is relinquishing a 26.3% HR/FB rate, which won’t be improved on by pitching in Fenway as opposed to homer friendly U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox get a major upgrade  at third base which tells you how terrible their production at the position has been, rather than how good Youkilis is. The amazing part about Youkilis is how completely brainwashed everyone is that Youkilis is in decline and that his production is over. Folks, Bobby Abreu has been in decline for what seems like an entire century, but still has some value from his ability to get on base. Kevin Youkilis is not dead, and he is not Brent Lillibridge. Last year over 120 games (most of those injured) he posted an .833 OPS, a 1.07 WPA. Take a moment to consider that and also realize the fundamental rule that once a player displays a skill, he owns it. Folks, Youkilis is losing his physical ability to hit for power and to stay healthy but he’s not going blind (at least I think) so he’s likely to see an increase in his ability to get on base. Given the White Sox offensive woes and the pile of garbage they gave in exchange, this is a win-win for Chicago and Kenny Williams must be thrilled.

Ben Cherrington committed the cardinal sin for a GM. He sent out a player that has value because he had a replacement waiting. That’s not to take away from Will Middlebrooks, but it’s hard for me to believe that Youkilis wasn’t worth more than what the Red Sox got in return. Not to mention the Red Sox are paying all but $2MM of Youkilis’ salary. Was he that much of a clubhouse distraction that you had to get rid of him? My feelings on this are that it’s unlikely a single player can do that much damage. Even if he were the satan of baseball clubhouses, you must do whatever you can to get max value even if you have a highly talented replacement like the Red Sox have.

This year Zach Stewart is going to make $481,500 and Brent Lillibridge is set to make $500k. Knowing Boston and their fans, it’s going to be hard to explain why the team gave away a player of Youkilis’ quality for a meager $1,018,500. The move had to be done, I’m not denying that. All I can do is tell White Sox fans to sit back and enjoy their increased chances of making a playoff run in 2012.


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