Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Revisiting Kevin Youkilis

OK, I gotta correct myself.

Last week I said I thought it was fishy that the Sox did not extend Youkilis to a multi-year deal and that showed a decided lack of committment on their part to his long term future with the team. As it turned out, I was wrong in my analysis and that my argument with a poster in the comments section now seems a bit ill-informed but not incorrect.

You see, today reading a mailbag with Gordon Edes on boston.com I learned that the Sox have Youkilis under their control through the 2010 season per his "rookie contract" so to speak which does not grant the player free agency until after his sixth year with the team. Now this undermines my belief that the Sox will let Youk walk after this year and pursue Texiera. However, it still leaves wide-open my belief that he will be dangled in trades from now until the Sox can no longer control him. To me, the red flag is that by not signing him to a long term deal they pretty much acknowledged that after his monster postseason he would never have a better position to bargain from so they paid him for a year and are openly challenging him to prove them wrong because if he puts up a .300/.400/20/85/110 season at the top of the order, he'll certainly be in line to make more than the $3M he just signed for.

(For the record, even nimrod GMs like Omar Minaya who overbid on free agents and pay exorbitant sums of money to free agents just because they feel cool when they do so know that when you have a top-tier player on his first contract there is not a better time to lock them up long term. That is how he has secured two of the elite players in the NL in David Wright and Jose Reyes for a combined 10 years and about $80M or just $10M more than the Sox are paying for JD Drew to produce about a tenth of what those two guys will. Now clearly, Theo has a pretty good idea of what he is doing so if he is not willing to extend Youk now, then when will he be?)

Look, I know this is tough to swallow for the legions of blind Youkilis followers out there but the bottom line is that in the second half of last year he hit .238 (with a respectable .356 OBP) and slugged a pathetic .391. Or .015 less than Julio Lugo did in the second half. He did however I believe lead the league in incredulous looks at umpires who dared to call a strike on him. That's gotta count for something right? Well probably not because lord knows if I was not a Sox fan I would absolutley despise Youk who let's face it is the Red Sox version of Paul O'Neill except not nearly as good.

(That aint a slam though, Paul O'Neill despised as he may be was actually a really good player in his day and I'd argue that either him or Bernie Williams were probably the most underrated players of the mid to late 1990's because unless you actually look at their numbers you don't realize how great they truly were. Well even if you don't agree with my stance on Bernie you still at least have to respect his prowess on the jazz guitar.)

Oh, and if you are saying that Youk only slipped in the second half because he was battling injuries, well I'll buy that excpet that this is the second year in a row where this has happened and it leads me to my belief that Youk's true calling is as a 450 AB a year super-platoon player. With Sean Casey in the mix this year though, I'd expect him to get more off days so don't be surprised if his counting stats dip a touch due to a relatively smaller sample size of ABs but his overall productivity increases on account of him being fresher.

My other thought about his contract or non-extension if you will is that despite him not being locked into a contract these next two years, he actually possesses even more trade value than he did before I knew that the Sox had his rights through 2010. Now, the Sox can dangle him as a trade bait under the auspices of him being a good, established, and winning major league player signed to a cheap deal for one year and then as a guy that they can either go to arbitration with after the season or extend to a long-term and team-friendly deal. Long story short, his trade value is still incredible which I think is where he will be most valuable to the team.

I'm not trying to hate on Youkilis, I'm really not, I just do not think he is as good as fans and Kevin Youkilis think he is. If the Sox could somehow find another 30+ HR power source outside of Manny and Ortiz then I'd be all for locking up Youkilis long term but they don't have that now and unfortunately if there is one position where it is relatively easy to find a guy who can do that it is first base. If I've said it once, I've said it one thousand times; you need pop from your corner infield and outfield spots and when you only have one legitimate power threat out of those four spots well that aint going to cut it unless you can over-compensate with other positions. The Red Sox cannot do this and with third base and right field set for the next three years and possibly left too if they pick up Manny's two options then really the only place that they can upgrade offensively is first base. Sorry Youk, that means you. We'll always love you around these parts but it looks like you are the odd man out here.

Well, I promised a Youkils article a while ago. There you go.

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