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The Kevin Youkilis-Will Middlebrooks Dilemma

Youkilis in action, but how much longer as a Red Sox? (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)

When Terry Francona was manager, he usually pointed out that worrying about the bench and pinch hitters wasn’t a big concern for the Red Sox because the front office had built an everyday lineup. Players were responsible for one position, with a little background in another for the occasional “banged up” guy who avoided the disabled list by sitting out for six or seven days.

He never imagined the type of injuries that would follow the Red Sox from Spring Training forward in 2012. Now that Alfredo Aceves has locked down the closer job, at least until Andrew Bailey returns, the two players who are still, possibly, in flux as to their position going forward are Daniel Bard and Kevin Youkilis. Today, we take a look at Youk.

Stuck in the Middlebrooks with Youk

Will Middlebrooks has played well enough to warrant a starting job on a Major League team. A .289/.328/.484 line with 7 home runs and a quality glove at third base is nothing to sneeze at. Despite being the youngest, least experienced player of the bunch, Middlebrooks has stayed at third base while Adrian Gonzalez has played right field, allowing Kevin Youkilis to man first. It’s not ideal, but everyone is getting at bats.

The problem is that Youkilis is mired in a slump: .215/.301/.314 on the season and .211/.309/.338 since returning from the disabled list. It doesn’t matter how many teams Ben Charrington talks to about the veteran third baseman, a slumping player coming off tough injuries is not an easy sell.

However, Ken Rosenthal, the expert on knowing where players are going, hears that the end is in fact near for Youkilis. An official with a National League team told Rosenthal that the Greek God of Walks is “being shopped everywhere.” Among the leaders are the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Pirates in the National League and the White Sox and Indians in the American League. The demand is there, the price is probably low, although that doesn’t mean the Red Sox won’t get a decent player of some type in return if they pick up some salary, and the replacement is in-house. This is a combination of factors not often present when a trade is rumored or, in fact, imminent.

So, where do the Sox go from here?

Fourth place. At least. The Toronto Blue Jays have lost three starters in the past week – one has already undergone Tommy John surgery, ending his season. If Ellsbury, Crawford, and Bailey can contribute at anything close to their ability, Clay Buchholz avoids Logan Morrison, and Ryan Kalish is healthy, the Red Sox have the ability to field a dramatically better team in the second half. And that doesn’t include Adrian Gonzalez breaking out of his season-long slump. The bottom has likely already passed, even if it hasn’t been reflected in the win column.

About Mike Carlucci

Mike Carlucci writes about the Red Sox for Sports of Boston and can be found blogging about baseball and technology. He has a J.D and enjoys palindromes and espresso. You can follow him on Twitter @mikecarlucci or on Google+.

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8 comments for “The Kevin Youkilis-Will Middlebrooks Dilemma”

  1. Youk deserves a pass for services rendered. The BoSox pretty much smell up any stadium they play in so why dump Youk. Is he the fall guy? The greatist have had slumps and injuries. C’mom man!!! The guy could have an unbelieveable second half. We lost Veritek and now, Youk! Where’s the loyalty.

    Posted by Ron | June 20, 2012, 6:50 pm
  2. Unfortunately, it sounds like Valentine wanted Youk gone before the season even started. If they can trade him to improve the team, it’s the end of an era for sure.

    When Youkilis came up in 2004, while Bill Mueller was on the DL, he was even more impressive than Middlebrooks during his first 35 or so games.

    I’m with you – I hope he has a big second half but, from the sounds of it, the front office is selling that second half to trade partners.

    Posted by Mike Carlucci | June 20, 2012, 8:56 pm
  3. It is nuts to continue this lineup logjam in order to wedge a guy into it with the Mendoza Line neighborhood batting average of .215. Youk is no longer starter worthy at the plate or in the field, and his durability is very tentative. He’s been a Sox stalwart, but it is time for him to go.

    Posted by EdSox | June 22, 2012, 1:33 pm
  4. Youth must be served, always! Especially in play-for-pay sports.

    As for Youkilis, if he were an amateur “loyalty” to his team, and visa versa, would be an important factor but he is a professional, paid $12,500,000 in 2012, to play 3rd base/1st base in a fashion that belies his hefty salary. If he will return half of his salary for his half hearted performance to date, I say, “He stays”. If not, “I say, “He goes!”

    Posted by Hawkny | June 22, 2012, 1:38 pm
  5. A change of scenery will do him wonders. There’s a lot of bad blood in the air, and it just needs to get cleared out before he starts to contribute.

    I hate when it happens, especially when it’s a home-grown player, but it does and you have you move on.

    Posted by Keith | June 22, 2012, 2:16 pm
  6. You’re a real optimistic guy to definitively believe that the Red Sox are at least a 4th place team.

    It’s also noteworthy that the Red Sox have not fared well against their division rivals; even the Blue Jays they have a 3-3 tie. Also, the starter that the Blue Jays lost was Drabek, who carried a 4.67 ERA; it really can’t hurt the team to lose that guy.

    I’m not saying they can’t finish 4th or better, but it’s far too early to be certain of anything.

    Unless you mean 4th place by default if they tie the Blue Jays for the basement of the AL East…

    Posted by Just_my_opinion | June 23, 2012, 12:15 am
  7. Just_my_opinion –

    As the Red Sox found out last year, just having a guy who can take the mound every fifth day and put up some good starts (and some bad ones) is valuable. Drabek is out for the season, but Morrow, who may be their best starter, is out for a few weeks with an injury known for lingering. That’s a big blow.

    The 4th place comment was half equal opportunity losing with Toronto and half thinking maybe there are enough positives for the Red Sox to stay afloat regardless, not just look to 2013.

    Posted by Mike Carlucci | June 23, 2012, 8:20 am
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