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A little less than a month ago, the eight year tenure of Kevin Youkilis in Boston came to an end. He was shipped to the Chicago White Sox for Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge. The Red Sox absorbed all but two million dollars on the $7.5 he was owed for the rest of the season. More importantly, the trade gave emerging Sox rookie Will Middlebrooks the chance to be the everyday third baseman. If you can remember back to my article “Kevin Youkilis: To Trade or Not To Trade?” I didn’t think it would be a smart move to rush the Youkilis trade. Judging from how things played out, I may have been right.
Will Middlebrooks’ bat cooled off as Youkilis has started to find his stroke. Since Youkilis joined the White Sox, they have a record of 11-5. Youkilis so far in July is batting .333, has an on-base percentage of .460, has hit three homeruns, walked 10 times, and has 12 RBI’s in just 10 games. Youkilis also hasn’t missed a game since joining Chicago. Middlebrooks has battled a hamstring injury that forced him to miss a few games leading into the All-Star break. Middlebrooks is 9-38, which translates to .237 batting average since Youkilis was traded. He has two homeruns and only five RBI’s in that same span of time.
In my original article I mentioned that the Sox recent history of injuries was a reason not to rush a trade of Youkilis. In that time frame Middlebrooks and Adrian Gonzalez have battled injuries. While it is impossible to plan for injuries, it easy to manage the risk. Keeping Youkilis at least until the deadline could have served as a valuable insurance policy to the Red Sox. Naturally, you go with the hot bat, and Middlebrooks was on a tear to start his career. Like I said originally, I have no doubts Middlebrooks will be and already is a terrific player. However, there was no rush to put the added pressure of being an everyday starter when the Sox could have eased the load on his shoulders by splitting time with Youkilis.
I do not think making the trade that early in the season was wise. I do believe the Youkilis trade needed to happen this season as the relationship with manager Bobby Valentine was never going to resolve itself. As soon as Bobby Valentine called out Youkilis for lack of intensity, everyone in Boston knew Youkilis wouldn’t last the entire season on the team. Looking back at what we received in return, I don’t see any reason why this move couldn’t have waited until the deadline. With another month Youkilis could have easily raised his own value. If you want evidence just look what he’s doing in Chicago. Sure the average isn’t fantastic, but he is increasing it with a solid offensive month in July. The Sox are already paying most of his contract, which is another reason why making the trade so early doesn’t make sense.
If the Red Sox waited another month this same trade with the White Sox could have happened, or they could have received the same type of deal from another team in contention. I can see the argument that if they waited other teams could have used the idea that the Sox are desperate to unload Youkilis, and they would be able to force the hand of Red Sox management. My rebuttal to that argument is: that is exactly what Chicago did. I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox would not have been able to receive similar, if not better, compensation for Youkilis had they waited. The rushed trade happened exactly the way Boston fans of old expected it to happen. Youkilis started playing well, the Red Sox struggled to play .500 baseball, and Will Middlebrooks battled an injury. It’s just the nature of being a fan of the Red Sox.