The Red Sox have a young third baseman who's been hot since the day he came up to the Majors. So why do they need to hold on to Kevin Youkilis.
Not so fast says Dan Shaughnessy.
It's likely the Red Sox could get some decent pitching prospects for an established, versatile player like Youkilis. Some of those prospects could eventually pay big dividends for the Red Sox, making a trade an appealing option. But what does it say about the 2012 Red Sox if they choose to go that route? If the Sox trade Youkilis, it would appear to send the message that they're "sellers" and are giving up on this season.
At only 3 games back, that's a difficult message to send to a fan base that saw its team collapse last season amid clubhouse turmoil, and then clean house, kicking out a beloved manager and allowing the general manager who ended "The Curse" to leave for the Cubs.
"It has a look of giving up on this year," says Shaughnessy. "I don't think they're prepared to do that and it's hard to sell it as anything but that."
It's important to keep in mind that Middlebrooks is still a rookie and most rookies hit a wall at some point. If he hits that wall in September, with the Red Sox in a tight race for a playoff spot, the loss of Youkilis' bat would loom large and look like a terrible decision. Ditto for a tight playoff race in which every run is tough to come by. An established veteran like Youkilis not only makes the lineup more imposing, but he adds invaluable experience.
So do the Sox look long term and trade Youkilis, hoping that Middlebrooks can play at a level beyond his "rookie" label, and in the process secure a valuable prospect or two? Or do they hold tight to Youk with an eye on the playoffs? We'll find out sooner rather than later.