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What the Kevin Youkilis Trade Means to the White Sox
- Updated: September 5, 2012
It is hard to imagine who would be playing third base for the Chicago White Sox right now had general manager Kenny Williams not gone out and gotten proven veteran Kevin Youkilis.
Would Omar Vizquel be back in black by now?
The Sox started out the season ready to give Brent Morel time to grow into the position. However, a solid team performance in April and a surge in May quickly raised hopes on Chicago’s South Side, and raised questions about whether the team could continue succeeding without an offensive force at third base.
When back problems hampered Morel offensively and defensively, the Sox gave Brent Lillibridge and Eduardo Escobar ample opportunity to play themselves into the line-up. Neither was up to the task. Sensing a chance to compete instead of just rebuild, Williams knew he needed more help at third base. Hoping a former All-Star still had something to contribute offensively and defensively, Williams went and got Orlando Hudson when he was discarded by the San Diego Padres. What Williams got was more of the same at third base when Hudson joined the squad. His defense was sub-par, but it was better than his offense.
And yet the White Sox were still above .500 and the Detroit Tigers, although loaded with talent and thought to be the American League Central cream of the crop, continued to struggle. When Youkilis became expendable in Boston due to the emergence of third baseman Will Middlebrooks, Williams was again quick to bounce, snatching Youkilis up for Lillibridge and unproven reliever Zach Stewart, an absolutely steal for the White Sox.
While Youkilis came to the White Sox in late June with a career low .233 batting average for the season, that was still a more than a 60-point improvement over the disaster of Morel-Ecobar-Lillibridge-Hudson! That’s how bad third base had gotten for the White Sox. It didn’t take Youkilis, who left Boston with a chip on his shoulder and no tears shed for first-year Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, to make an impact. In just his third game in a White Sox uniform, Youkilis had three hits in four at-bats and drove in two runs to help his new club cruise to a 12-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Youkilis has been a stabilizing force at third base and the second spot in the batting order for the Sox. He has provided timely hitting, power and exceptional defense. But perhaps most importantly he gives a squad with a nice mix of veterans and young players an example of the how the game is supposed to be played day in and day out. His hustle on ground balls, his going from first to third on routine singles, his defensive prowess and his taking the extra base when a cutoff man is missed all put his baseball skills and smarts on display daily. His exceptional leadership is one of the reasons the White Sox continue to surprise in the AL Central.
Youkilis himself seems reborn as he takes the field daily for the White Sox. He is hitting a respectable .250 for the White Sox and his power numbers are up. He has 12 home runs in 54 games with the White Sox, eight more than he hit in his 43 games with Boston. He nearly tripled his runs batted in totals after changing Sox. The third baseman’s on-base percentage has climbed to .368 with the Pale Hose, up from .315 in Beantown.
The 33-year-old, who finished third in American League Most Valuable Player voting in 2008, undoubtedly has something to prove as he will be a free agent after this season. He can increase his value to the White Sox and other potential suitors by continuing to lead by example and get his squad into the post-season.
With no heir-apparent scenario pushing Youkilis to the side in Chicago, he would likely be welcomed back with open arms as long as the price is right. And with the anemic offensive numbers White Sox third basemen posted before Youkilis’ arrival, it is hard to imagine the Sox not wanting to try to keep the veteran right where he is this off-season.
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