There are only a few players in Major League Baseball that I couldn’t stand watching. No one, for me, drew more ire than Kevin Youkilis. By all accounts he has been a good player throughout his short MLB career (didn’t play regularly until his mid-to-late twenties), but there’s just something about the constant whining at the plate when a strike is called or the unorthodox “look at me” batting stance that really rubbed me the wrong way. I think the most egregious offense of all was playing for the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees have had many players come through the Red Sox organization and later helped them, Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs most notably. So, is Kevin Youkilis the next former Red Sox to help the Yankees?
It’s not difficult to understand why the Yankees are looking at Youkilis and eventually offered him a one-year deal worth $12 million. With Alex Rodriguez (poorly timed injury reveal, no? I guess karma came back and haunted the Yankees) on the shelf until mid-season, the Yanks are desperate to fill in his production. Meanwhile, Youkilis is still plodding along putting up decent numbers at the dish and in the field. Without the name Youkilis, I would be all for this potential signing (I still am). Here’s why.
Firstly, the Yankees and its fans are for the first time in a long time having to deal with a budget. It’s a mind numbingly awful thing fans have to go through, I feel sorry for other franchises and I can see why the Yanks are termed the “Evil Empire.” However, I think the Texas Rangers can now take claim to that title, please? I digress, but the Yankees are in a position that they need some average to above average players to sign short-term deals with the club, but those players are instead flipping them the bird and going elsewhere. I can’t say I blame them, players like Nate Schierholtz and Jeff Keppinger signed multiyear deals with other teams for a chance to start, not just platoon or backup.
While personally I’m not a fan of Youkilis, he’s still an admirable one-year stopgap for the Yankees. He’s hit .283/.384/.482 over his career, but as expected, it’s trending downward as he’s aged. Last year with both the Red Sox and White Sox he hit .235/.336/.409. If it weren’t for his propensity to take the free pass, his wOBA (.328) would be awful. Meanwhile, he was just about an average hitter last season according to his 102 wRC+ rating. If there’s one similarity he has with A-Rod, it’s the struggles he has with right-handed pitching. Last year he batted .220/.316/.377 and struck out 60 more times (in 200 more ABs) and held an 89 wRC+ rating against pitchers of the same handedness.
Comparably, he did very well against lefty pitching, recording a .275/.386/.492 slash line and a big bump in wRC+ (135). His power numbers also improve against lefties (an ISO of .157 against righties and .217 versus lefties) and his wOBA jumps almost 70 points (.309 versus .376). As I said before, he still knows how to take a walk. Last year, in 10 percent of his plate appearances, he coaxed a free pass, but that number is down from his usual range (12-13 percent).
Youkilis offers decent defense at both corner infield positions, but he’s not the Gold Glover he used to be. In 2012, he spent 894 innings at third base and amassed a -6.2 UZR/150 rating, which isn’t good. However, considering that A-Rod provided a -8.8 UZR/150 rating in 709 innings last year, Youkilis might be a defensive upgrade. Youkilis only cost his team one defensive run last season (-1 DRS) compared to A-Rod costing the Yankees two defensive runs. As always, you should take defensive metrics with a grain of salt, as they are hardly conclusive but they can provide a quick snapshot of how a defender plays at his position.
So, with all that in mind could Kevin Youkilis be a savior for the Yankees? Not really at this point in career, but he does provide solid (and proven) production at a position of need. The Yankees aren’t the only team pursuing him though, as the Cleveland Indians have offered him a two-year, $18 million contract reuniting him with manager Terry Francona. It’s also a familiar place for Youkilis as he originally hails from Ohio, so again the Yankees are behind the 8-ball here and it’s of their own doing. More years, less money and playing every day back near your hometown playing for a manager you love? That’s a deal that’s hard to pass up if he chose the Indians. Youkilis wouldn’t be a savior in New York, but he’d surely lessen the blow of a terribly frustrating offseason thus far.