With the ink barely dry on the completed box score for today’s Red Sox-Braves game, Boston has traded third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. The deal is being reported by both Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and ESPN’s Jim Bowden.
David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com is reporting that the Red Sox will receive righthander Zach Stewart and a utility player—which Heyman says is Brent Lillibridge—from the White Sox. Heyman is also reporting that Boston will send a bit over $5.5-million to the White Sox to complete the deal. Youkilis is owed roughly $8-million for the remainder of the year.
Rumours involving Youkilis started near the end of May when he returned from the disabled list after a month on the shelf. Rookie sensation Will Middlebrooks had played very well in his absence and has not slowed down since, forcing the Red Sox to make a decision.
Youkilis has not performed well coming into today’s game against the Braves with a dismal .225/.311/.359 slash line and four home runs while Middlebrooks has posted a 156 wRC+ in his first 40 big league games.
As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t really understand why the Red Sox were so eager to deal Youkilis considering how unproven Middlebrooks is. Middlebrooks has put up terrific numbers so far but has also posted a batted ball average near .400 and a HR/FB ratio more than double the league average. When opposing pitchers have more of a book on him, regression will follow—it’s something that happens all the time with 23-year-old rookies.
It should also be noted that with their win over the Braves today, the Red Sox are now four games above .500 and are 34-24 since starting the year 4-10. They came into today just five-and-a-half games back of the Yankees in the AL East and only a game-and-a-half behind the Rays for the second wild card. With Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury among others on the mend, Boston is far from out of contention.
Youkilis meanwhile, has struggled to stay healthy, but despite his troubles this year, he is coming off of a 3.7-win season and has posted at least that value every year since 2007. The return of Stewart and Lillibridge is surprisingly small especially considering the Red Sox will pay most of Youkilis’ salary for this season.
The 25-year-old Stewart will join his fourth organization after being drafted by the Reds in the third round of the 2008 draft. The once highly-touted prospect was traded to the Blue Jays along with Edwin Encarnacion and reliever Josh Roenicke for third baseman Scott Rolen at the trade deadline in 2009. Alex Anthopoulos then dealt him to the White Sox in a deal that eventually netted the Jays Colby Rasmus from St. Louis last July. So far in 2012, Stewart has pitched largely out of the bullpen where he has posted a 6.00 ERA in 30 innings of work.
Lillibridge, meanwhile, was a fourth round pick in the 2005 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Red Sox will also be his fourth organization. He has a career .215/.283/.358 slash line, but is a decent defender almost anywhere on the diamond.
From the White Sox perspective, the deal makes a ton of sense. Youkilis should regress back to something of value for them and is a huge upgrade over the trio of Brent Morel, Orlando Hudson and Eduardo Escobar that had been manning the hot corner so far in 2012. Those three combined for a miserable .224 wOBA—the worst in the Majors. Youkilis also has a $13-million option for next season so if he can find some semblance of his former self, the White Sox can re-up him for another year.
A middling reliever and a utility player is an incredibly small price to pay for a player with Youkilis’ talent level. Even if he can’t come close to his former production, the deal looks like a great one for Chicago.
In what would turn out to be his last at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, Youkilis drilled a triple to right-centerfield that was lost in the sun by Braves centerfielder Michael Bourn. He was then lifted for a pinch-runner and proceeded to embrace his teammates on the way off the field. Play continued, but the fans and his teammates gave him a standing ovation until he obliged them with a curtain call. It’s entirely speculation, but it certainly looked like the Red Sox knew he had been traded.
Youkilis’ new team will play at Fenway Park from July 16th-19th.