By Chuck Garfein
If someone would have told you on Opening Day that on June 24 the White Sox would acquire Kevin Youkilis from the Red Sox for Brent Lillibridge, Zach Stewart and a big wad of cash, you would have probably questioned that persons mental health.
No offense to Lillibridge, Stewart and the 5.6 million the White Sox will receive to pay the rest of Youks salary in 2012, but on paper this is a steal, a heist, a downright burglary at Fenway Park.
If MLB isnt investigating this, somebody might want to contact the FBI.
The White Sox traded a utility man batting .175 and a pitcher just recently sent to the minors with a 6.00 ERA in return for a truck load of money plus a guy who is a Boston legend, a clubhouse leader and an actual, major-league third baseman, which until 4 p.m. Sunday the White Sox did not even possess.
The critics out there (I believe there are four of them -- not including the Tigers, Indians and Royals who I understand are calling a private investigator at this very moment), will point to Youkilis declining numbers the last three seasons and say that he doesnt have much left in the tank.
That might be correct, but have you seen the production the White Sox have been getting at third base? Collectively theyve batted .167, the worst offensive position in the majors. There are currently 19 National League pitchers with at least 20 at-bats who are hitting for a higher average. Just the mere presence of a living, breathing Kevin Youkilis in the lineup is a vast improvement.
Worst-case scenerio? The trade is a wash.
Best-case scenerio? He helps lead the White Sox to a division title, maybe more.
Youkilis, an All-Star as recently as last season, is having the worst year of his career. He missed 22 games with a lower-back strain. His average has dropped from .253 to .233 in June. He clashed with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine before rookie Will Middlebrooks stole his job at third base.
His stock could not have been any lower. So the White Sox pounced.
Hes an on-base percentage guy, another guy that is not afraid to get a big hit, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. We just thought at this time it was necessary to make the trade and necessary to do it sooner rather than later.
Youkilis will take over third base from Orlando Hudson who has batted just .170 since signing with the White Sox last month. What does Hudson think about the deal? Just a hunch, but I believe hes fine with it.
If I was a GM, Id make the same trade, Hudson said. Im not the best third baseman over there, plus Im not swinging the bat well, so definitely Id make the same trade.
So would Paul Konerko.
There is no way we are not a better team with Kevin Youkilis, Konerko told reporters. He is just too good of a player and has been through all the wars and is still relatively a young guy (hes 33). We just have to keep him on the field. If that is the case, it could be one of the bigger steals of the season.
In past years, Williams traded for big-name stars like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Manny Ramirez while both were coasting towards the end of their careers. They didnt have any fire left, mainly fumes.
But judging by what Williams heard when he spoke to his new third baseman on the phone Sunday, Youkilis is apparently a man on a mission.
He has a little edge to him, which I like, Williams said.
Asked to elaborate, Williams answered, I cant tell you exactly what he said, but he wants to come in and he wants to prove some people wrong.
The White Sox are in Boston for a four-game series July 16-19. Youkilis will be there.
The playoffs begin the first weekend in October. Well see if the White Sox are there, too.