Ahead of tonight’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, the Boston Red Sox activated Kevin Youkilis from the Disabled List and put him directly into the lineup, batting fifth. That’s kind of funny because rookie Will Middlebrooks is also in the lineup, batting behind Youkilis and playing the newly healthy third baseman’s regular position.
I guess you could just play Youkilis at first base since he’s actually logged 2,000 more innings at that position than he has across the diamond at the other corner infield spot, but then what do you do with Adrian Gonzalez hitting in front of him? It’s quite simple for Bobby Valentine: you play him in right field.
The Pinata Killer logged fourteen innings there during his team’s series with the Phillies in Philadelphia this weekend. That’s one more inning than all of last year when he was previously called on to play in right as a means of getting David Ortiz’s bat into the lineup against interleague opponents. Before that, he played eight innings as a right fielder at the tail end of the 2005 season for the Texas Rangers.
Over his extensive history with that position, he’s had seven total chances, once committing a fielding error.
While it might make sense to sacrifice some defense for the sake of getting Ortiz in the lineup, the same likely doesn’t hold true for the 23 year old Middlebrooks … at least not yet. In a vacuum, the move looks either ridiculous or the type of stuff that leads to assumptions of blatant trade bait showcasing.
However, this is the Boston Red Sox we’re discussing, a team that has had such terrible luck with the health of their outfielders, they’ve resorted to promoting Scott Podsednik to the big league club – a move that is as unlikely to improve their talent level as it is to improve their injury aversion record. From this vantage point, maybe Gonzalez isn’t such a bad option to play the open corner outfield position.
Their lineup tonight not only gives the team their most potent offense, but also allows Youkilis and his rumoured to be trade block status to be seen by other clubs, all while ensuring that young Middlebrooks gets his regular at bats. Ideal? No, but not as bad as it could be.
Aside: Jack Moore, one of my favourites from the FanGraphs crew, recently wrote about Youkilis and the value that he might bring back in a trade:
Beyond the $12 million this season, the Red Sox also hold an extremely attractive $13 million club option with just a $1 million buyout. With a low-risk shot at holding Youkilis for two years, Boston could conceivably bring in pieces for both the present and future. Specifically, the Sox could use another corner outfielder or any sort of useful pitching arm.
I’m not so sure I see that option for 2013 as being as attractive as Mr. Moore does. Granted, a 126 wRC+ in 2011 would only be disappointing to an elite player, I find this trend alarming, and I suspect that front offices around baseball might feel similarly: