Ever since the moderate emergence of alleged third base super-prospect Will Middlebrooks in early May, Boston Red Sox incumbent third-bagger Kevin Youkilis has had a swirling vortex of trade rumours hurled his way.

Since Youkilis returned from his month-long DL stint in late May, he’s been an unmitigated disaster offensively, compiling a dismal .225/.311/.359 slash line with just four home runs in 161 plate appearances. His trademark patience is seemingly disappearing before our eyes along with his penchant for hitting for power and his ability to make consistent contact.

Middlebrooks meanwhile has been, as the kids say, dy-no-mite. His 144 wRC+ trails only Mike Trout among AL rookies and is tied with Jose Bautista for ninth in the AL overall. Although he rarely walks and has some significant swing-and-miss in his game, he shown some ability (at least in an extremely small sample size) to make consistently excellent contact which has led to a very high batted-ball average.

As a result, the Red Sox have seemingly made it very clear that Youkilis will be traded sooner than later to make consistent room on the roster for the young Middlebrooks. Youkilis has been losing playing time in the meantime and so it would seem that with each passing day his trade value decreases. If the Red Sox intend on trading their long-time corner infielder, it would seem in their best interest to do it as soon as possible.

For teams that would be interested in acquiring Youkilis, it’s the perfect buy-low situation. Given how badly he has performed this season and his increasingly inconsistent track record of health, it may not take a rich bounty to reel in the three-time All-Star. Coming in to this year, the Greek God of Walks had posted five consecutive seasons with at least 3.7 fWAR and he posted a .366 wOBA last season in 517 plate appearances. It’s difficult to imagine that all of Youkilis’ struggles so far in 2012 are related to a declining skill set. It’s more likely a combination of injury and bad luck and if he’s healthy now, there’s no real reason why he can’t be productive going forward.

Which begs the question: Why are the Red Sox so intent on trading the 33-year-old? Yes Middlebrooks seems to have the pedigree of an above-average starting third baseman in the big leagues, but he has been the beneficiary of some fortunate circumstances so far this year. His .383 BABIP and 22.9% HR/FB ratio would suggest that he won’t continue to hit the way he has so far and he doesn’t have the approach necessary to put up respectable numbers when the hits stop falling in.

Pundits and fans alike like to talk about how this is a lost season for Boston, but since their terrible 4-10 start, they’ve gone 32-24 despite the continued rash of injuries they’ve been facing. When pitchers start to get a book on Middlebrooks, it might be nice to have a player like Youkilis around who can still put up solid numbers. Unless the Red Sox are able to attain an impact Major League player in return, it seems reactionary and rather foolish to consider trading him.

Still, ESPN’s Buster Olney says that a trade could happen at some point today and Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald says the Red Sox will trade Youkilis ‘sooner rather than later.’  Which makes sense if the Red Sox are really keen on trading him, I just don’t quite understand why they are.

Scott Miller of CBS Sports says that the Red Sox will pay a significant portion of the $7.5-million still owed to Youkilis for the balance of the year, which could help Boston net more of a return.

In terms of where Youkilis might end up, Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times says the Dodgers are on the “fringe” of trade talks, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan says the Rangers checked in on him as well. The Pirates, White Sox and Braves also appear to be involved.

And the Rest:

Roy Oswalt made his Texas Rangers debut last night and was very solid in shutting down the hapless Rockies [AP Sports]. Oswalt tossed six-and-two-thirds innings, allowing only a single run on nine hits while walking one and striking out six. According to Brooks Baseball, Oswalt hit 93.1 MPH with his fastball, averaging 91.51 MPH overall, while mixing in an effective changeup as well as a curve, sinker and occasional slider.

The Brewers defeated the White Sox 1-0 in ten innings yesterday as the pitching matchup between Zack Greinke and Chris Sale lived up to its billing [FanGraphs].

Yankees prospect Angelo Gumbs has some for serious bat-speed, you guys [Mike Newman, FanGraphs].

Our own Drew Fairservice took a quick look at swinging at the first pitch [Getting Blanked].

Should pitchers ditch the slide step? [Doug Thorburn, Baseball Prospectus].

Jair Jurrjens dominated the Red Sox last night. Say it with me: You can’t predict ball [Ben Buchanan, Over the Monster].

Billy Hamilton, pretty much the same as Thor [Productive Oots].

What Jeffrey Loria said to his players during a clubhouse meeting…probably [The Common Man, The Platoon Advantage].

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