I have chosen June 15th for this article on a possible landing place for the oft-rumored trade candidate, Kevin Youkilis. From 1923 ( okay I looked it up) until 1984, the major league trade deadline was June 15, before moving to July 31 in 1985. This is also prompted by Youk's current 0 for 18 skid. I believe the Sox might get a little more for Kevin by waiting until near the deadline, but I am afraid they need to make a move, shake things up sooner than that to save the season.
There are 29 other big league teams as theoretical landing spots. I eliminated ten right off the bat, for three different reasons. The first two are the Yankees and the Rays. There is no chance the Sox trade Youk to the divisional rivals. If the nation is frustrated with Youkilis now, imagine if he joined either of these teams and caught fire!!
I then eliminated seven more teams that are all ready too far out of the 2012 races to have interest in Youkilis (many also do not have the payroll to take his contract.....assuming the Sox do not have to eat a majority of the money to move him). These teams are the Royals, Twins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs, Padres, and Rockies. The only possible semi-exception may be the Cubs, who would not want to end up with Youk. But Theo loves his three ways, so the Cubs could be involved as the middleman in a trade.
The last of the ten teams taken off the list is the Detroit Tigers. They have Prince Fielder at 1B and Miguel Cabrera at 3B. Enough said. ( They do not really need a DH, either).
That leaves nineteen teams on the list, so I have pared four teams off as " not impossible but extremely unlikely". They are the Orioles, Blue Jays, Angels, and A's. The Orioles if they were in any other division, or in the NL, may be the leading candidate. The could use the veteran presence as they try to contend, and their corner infielders are dreck like Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds, or worse. The Sox could be competing with O's for a Wild Card, all but eliminating Baltimore. Toronto with their recent rash of rotation injures are nearly in the previous category of out of the race/do not need him. I read today the Jays may deal Edwin Encarnarcion at the deadline they will not be adding Youk.
The Angels all ready have own 1B/3B/OF/DH rectangle like Boston's, and Pujols and his megadeal hold down first base. No trade partner in Anaheim. The A's are not in the cheap payroll, out of race list above, because of Billy Beane's long fascination with the "Greek God of Walks" and secondly, who the hell knows what the A's do. Last winter with their entire OF on the free agent list, Beane began trading all of his good young pitching. But then he re-signed Coco Crisp and scooped up an aging Manny. Then he shocked the baseball world by grabbing Yoenis Cespedes, who was expected to go to a bigger market team. So mark the A's down as unlikely, but ???
That leaves fifteen teams. Here are those teams and their starting 1B/3B:
White Sox Paul Konerko Orlando Hudson/Brent Morel
Indians Casey Kotchman Lonnie Chisenhall
Rangers Napoli/Moreland Adrian Beltre
Nationals Adam LaRoche Ryan Zimmerman
NY Mets Ike Davis David Wright
Braves Freddie Freeman Chipper Jones
Marlins Gaby Sanchez Hanley Ramirez
Phillies Wigginton( Howard) Placido Polanco
Reds Joey Votto Todd Frazier (Scott Rolen)
Pirates Matt Hague/C. McGehee Pedro Alvarez
Cardinals Allen Craig(Berkman) David Freese
Brewers Corey Hart ( Mat Gamel) Aramis Ramirez
Dodgers James Loney Juan Uribe/Elian Herrera
Giants Brandon Belt/ A. Huff Pablo Sandoval
D'backs Paul Goldschmitt Ryan Roberts
I have divided these 15 teams into four groupings: no/little need, 1B need only, 3B need only, need both 1B/3B.
The first of group of "no/little need" consists of four teams Rangers, Nationals, Braves, and Cardinals. The team with no need is Washington. Their anchor player, Ryan Zimmerman, who is the player Will Middlebrooks is most often compared to ( and isn't Middlebrooks the real reason this article is being written) is at third and veteran Adam LaRoche is having a 11-42-.261 year, and the Nats also have Michael Morse to play first if needed. During the Rangers back to back AL pennant run, first base has been considered the closest thing Texas has to hole in the field. But slugger Mike Napoli gets ABs there along with Mitch Moreland, not to mention Michael Young's presence. And old friend Adrian ( Don't touch my head) Beltre is a lock a third, unless he gets one of his many injuries. The Braves have no need at first with young star, Freeman, there. The Braves would never bring in anyone to push Chipper Jones aside mid-season unless Jones finally breaks down for good physically. The Cards have lost their star 1B/Pujols replacement in Lance Berkman to injury, perhaps for the year. But they have extra OFers and currently OF Allen Craig is manning first , and hitting .354 with 7 home runs. With World Series MVP David Freese at third, St. Louis will not be in the Youk market.
The three teams I categorized as needing 1B help only are the Giants, Marlins, and the Mets. All three teams have star to superstar third sackers in Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and David Wright. The other similarity all three share is they only would need a first basemen if all three wish to push side their young 1B. Brandon Belt ( Aubrey Huff is also around but hitting .155, he's done), Gaby Sanchez, and Ike Davis are all highly regarded by their teams, but all three are struggling currently with BA's of ..238 (Belt), .190 ( Sanchez) .188 ( Davis). If these three teams stay committed to their own young guys, no team is in the need 1B only group. And at this point, Youk might be usable at first.
The group of need 3B only also consists of three teams: White Sox, Reds, and Diamondbacks. The 1B for these teams are Paul Konerko, currently hitting .364 with 12 HRs ( not to mention DH/1B Adam Dunn who has 22 HRs), Joey Votto, in the discussion for best hitter in baseball, and young star Paul Goldschmidt. No 1B need certainly. Arizona has another younger player at third in Ryan Roberts. He is only hitting a line of 4-25-.246, but I suspect the D'backs would just as soon have Roberts at third as they would Youk. Arizona is very close to the no/little need group of teams. The Reds are very interesting possibility for a third baseman. Their aging star 3B, Scott Rolen has been injured a good part of the year, and is near the end if not there now. Unheralded Todd Frazier has been getting the most PT at third for Cincy, and has done quite well: 7-22-.326. There is no doubt this is where Youkilis would choose to go if he could. Cincinnati is Kevin's hometown. And if the Reds are looking for some veteran 3B help IF Rolen stays out, this could happen. The White Sox are as bad at third as they are great at 1B. Orlando Hudson, a veteran 2B was picked up to replace god awful Brent Morel. If the White Sox stay in the race, they could most definitely use Youk. But we are back to the " does Boston trade with a possible wild card competitor?" question.
The last ranking of teams that need help at both corner infield spots was surprisingly the largest with five teams. Although the need is in different degrees for each team. Beginning with team that least fits this category to the most fitting, the teams are: Brewers, Indians, Phillies, Dodgers, and Pirates.
The Brewers currently are playing to fairly good, veterans players at 1B/3B in Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez. At this stage of their careers ARam and Youk are about the same player, and ARam is all ready signed to decent money. Corey Hart is really Milwaukee's RF, but due to an injury to Mat Gamel, he is at first. Hart is certainly better than Youk, but a deal could move Hart back to the outfield. Gamel's situation may decide if the Brewers have interest. Cleveland does not have an established star at either corner, in fact the have opposites: a run of the mill vet in Casey Kotchman at 1B, and one of their top prospects in Lonnie Chisenhall at third. The only reason the Tribe would put Youkilis in over Chisenhall would be to get a veteran to help the Tribe continue to contend. ( But would not this be Cleveland version of Youk over Middlebrooks. why?). I personally would prefer Kevin Youkilis over Kotchman at first any day, or they could even platoon. Going on Philadelphia's current lineup of Ty Wigginton and Placido Polanco stationed at the corners, they could use Youkilis at either spot now. But somewhere on the horizon lurks Ryan Howard to return to first, which if he is healthy at all dumps Philly into the needing 3B only camp. Polanco has been a good soldier in Philly, but with their year mirroring Boston's they might also need to make a move to salvage their sinking season. Plus, Youk could help translate Paplebon for the Philly fans and teammates. The Dodgers need of a 1B is the same as the teams back in the need 1B only group. James Loney is relatively young, established first sacker, but each year his star seems to dim more and more. And third base is a black hole of Juan Uribe ( still cashing Dodger checks based on his fluky World Series MVP with the Giants) and Elian Herrera( who I freely admit I had never even heard of until researching this piece). Between the crying need at third and the ability of Youkilis to at least share first with Loney this makes LA a prime landing spot. Plus the new LA ownership could use splash to help the Dodgers complete their surprising push to the postseason. If Youk still qualifies as a splash!?
That leaves the team with the biggest need at both 1B and 3B as the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is a team that has a winning record and only 3 games behind first place Cincinnati. However here are the contestants for the Pirates corner jobs. The best hitter is sometime 1B Garrett Jones, who is really their RF. Jones is hitting 7-21-.257. The biggest name of the group is recent high draft pick Pedro Alvarez, the starting 3B who can also play first. The Buccos keep waiting for Pedro to deliver as promised, but he has not hit enough. This year is 8-25-.192 with a bucketful of K's. Casey McGehee was brought in last winter to play whichever corner Alvarez did not claim, he is hitting 2-10-.227. Recently, the Pirates have used someone named Matt Hague at first. He is off to a 0-6-.207 start. This answers the question as to why in the last week or so, the Pirates name has ben mentioned by several national baseball reports as interested in Youkilis. If they are going to contend, or at least go for the first winning season in about 18 years, they need some help at 1B/3B. The Pirates are the Orioles of the NL, they have similar needs but the Sox will deal with the NL team over the AL East team.
This article does not delve into who the Sox could hope to get in return, but as each day passes it very likely will be minor leaguers, who are prospects of some type. Based on the information above, here are teams most likely to trade for Kevin Youkilis, in order ( more or less)
7. White Sox
I do not think Kevin Youkilis will be the only current Red Sox player dealt by July 31, he may not even be first, but it will be the end of one helluva good Red Sox chapter when Yooooouk exits.