The Boston Red Sox have a lot of holes to fill as they rebuild the roster this offseason following the team’s worst performance in nearly half a century. Starting pitching is critical, designated hitter David Oritz remains unsigned and the outfield is thin. But the Red Sox also need a first baseman, and one available option might be a perfect fit.
Kevin Youkilis played his entire career with the Red Sox until conflict with manager Bobby Valentine and the emergence of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks squeezed him out. The Red Sox traded him for almost nothing in return in June, much to the disappointment of Red Sox fans like me.
Now, however, the Red Sox need a first baseman. They traded Adrian Gonzalez as the centerpiece of a massive deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. Youkilis, meantime, did not have his contract option exercised by the Chicago White Sox.
There are plenty of reasons for Boston to look at Youkilis as their answer at first base.
On base percentage
One of the reasons the Red Sox have fallen to the bottom of the American League East standings is their lack of plate discipline. The team has gotten away from the success they had in grinding out at bats, forcing opposing starting pitchers into high pitch counts, and feasting on mediocre middle relief. While Youkilis’s batting average isn’t what it used to be, he still takes a lot of walks and sees a lot of pitches. He is an example of the offensive approach the team needs to recapture.
Youkilis won a Gold Glove at first base for Boston in 2007, en route to setting a major league record for errorless games at first. The acquisition of Gonzalez moved him back to third base, where he also played for the White Sox, and took a toll on him physically. Moving permanently back to first would give the Red Sox excellent infield defense and help reduce the wear and tear on Youkilis that has diminished his offensive skills.
No, Youkilis is not the hitter he was in his prime. But his swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park, and the Red Sox could be sorely lacking in right-handed power, especially if outfielder Cody Ross leaves through free agency. The lineup needs some balance, and Youkilis fits the bill.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington will not rule out the possibility of adding Youkilis to the roster, and is certain that the circumstances surrounding his departure are just water under the bridge at this point.
“We’re not shutting the door on talent of any kind,” Cherington insists. “He’s a guy who has done well here in the past. He was good player for a long time and always played hard,” Cherington said. “We respect Kevin and the way he plays. On a personal level, certainly nothing happened that would — there was no break in the relationship — but he’ll have choices and we’ll have choices and we’ll see where the offseason takes us.”
For Kevin Youkilis, in a weird twist of fate, the offseason could – and should – take him right back to Boston.
Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, is a lifelong Red Sox fan. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.