On Sunday afternoon, the White Sox traded for a 33 year-old 3rd basemen hitting .233/.315/.377 on the season, who's been frequently of injured of recent. And yet, the trade for this Kevin Youkilis character is being hailed as a great win for the Sox, and one of Kenny Williams' best moves in recent memory.
For such a thing to be true, the Sox would need to be offering almost nothing of value in return, and be getting almost nothing from the 3rd base position that Youkilis is about to fill.
Well, as it so happens...
The White Sox traded RHP Zach Stewart and UTIL Brent Lillibridge. Neither are full-time starters, obviously, but aren't even a real loss for the bench, either.
- Zach Stewart had proven ill-suited for the rotation, or the longman spot, or the major league roster. He one-upped his homer problems from last season by allowing 10 long ones in 30 innings prior to getting demoted to AAA. His turning 26 at the end of the season does not portend of much more development, though, if an injury is behind his velocity dip this season, maybe there's a brighter future for him down the road. Not now, though. Not now.
- Brent Lillibridge was super-sub last season, which may be responsible for the last vestiges of his trade value. Last year's all-or-nothing power hitter has faded to just nothing. His strikeout rate has spiked to 37.1%, and he's slugging .190, which would make Juan Pierre blush. He hasn't hit a home run in the calendar year of 2012, not even Spring Training. The Littlest Bridge is still a splendid athlete; capable of pitching in defensively all over the field and running like the wind. But with Jordan Danks and Eduardo Escobar on the bench, those skills aren't in demand.
Meanwhile, the 3rd base position for the Chicago White Sox has been a wasteland, with Morel, Hudson, Lillibridge and Escobar managing a combined .167/.243/.224 batting line. Hudson has also had his share of trouble adjusting to the position while Morel is on the DL.
Therefore, Youkilis can continue to hit worse than he ever has during the 9 seasons he's been in the majors, defend at roughly average efficiency, and still be a big improvement. Or he could return to something around his .288/.388/.487 career average, and start knocking other guys out of the middle of the order. That could take place even he just hits closer to his "disappointing" .258/.373/.459 line from last year.
Even in the comfy hitting environment of U.S. Cellular Field, and in the hands of Herm Schneider, the lower projections for the aging and banged-up Youkilis are more likely, which is part of why the price is so cheap for a player with All-Star potential. But this price is very cheap. The Red Sox are sending $5.6 million over with Youkilis, making him just a $2.5 million burden for the rest of the season.
Williams spoke about feeling an obligation to put the best product on the field, but he didn't have to justify or qualify the move. Unlike previous outings, there was no mortgaging the future taking place. KW took advantage of a Boston team without leverage to make a short-term improvement, and purged no real assets in the process.
All concerns about the team's approach, and larger direction can--and likely will--be aired another day, when there isn't such a clear win for the front office.