By Steve Silverman
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If the Yankees wanted to get under the skin of the Red Sox by agreeing with Kevin Youkilis to a one-year, $12 million contract, they have succeeded.
However, if they believe they have solved their third base needs, they are most likely quite mistaken.
Youkilis was once a solid and powerful offensive player who had the ability to launch extra-base hits in clutch situations. He had plenty of the nastiness and grit that both the Red Sox and Yankees look for to fuel this ancient rivalry.
But Youkilis is really nothing more than just another old baseball player at this point in his career. Can he stay in the lineup for a full season, since there’s no guarantee that Alex Rodriguez will be able to return to top form once he recovers and rehabs from the hip surgery he is scheduled to have in January?
(By the way, what is top form for A-Rod at this point in his career?)
Youkilis will be 34 by the time the 2013 season starts and he has not been a championship-caliber player since the 2009 season. He has had a slew of injuries and he has not played more than 122 games in a season since ’09.
Youkilis was sent packing by his beloved Red Sox in the middle of last season. It didn’t go well for any of the Red Sox with Bobby Valentine as manager, but it went worse for Youkilis than most of his teammates.
Valentine questioned Youkilis’s commitment early on in the season and that started an unrelenting Red Sox schism.
Teammates like Dustin Pedroia stood up for Youkilis and against Valentine. Youkilis was traded to the White Sox in June and he got off to a good start on Chicago’s South Side, appearing to have much of the old Youk magic while playing at half-empty U.S. Cellular Field.
But it didn’t last. He had a slew of clutch hits and garnered a series of game-winning knocks that allowed the White Sox to sit in first place in the AL Central throughout the majority of the season.
But the White Sox blew their first place standing in the final month of the season. Youkilis was among the most culpable players in the lineup during the collapse. In the final 18 games, Youkilis hit one home run and drove in four runs.
As a fielder, Youkilis is ordinary at this point in his career. He is almost certainly a better defensive first baseman than he is at third base, but he’s not going to need his first baseman’s glove with Mark Teixeira on the other side of the infield.
The idea of Youkilis and Derek Jeter manning the left side of the infield is troubling. No matter how great Jeter has been, he has not been a good defensive player for a long time. Coupled with Youkilis’s ordinary range, a lot of ground balls are going to get through the hole.
That’s bad news for Andy Pettitte.
Youkilis appears to be just another aging ball player at this point. He’s capable of getting hot for a couple of weeks and pounding line drives into the gaps, but that’s about it.
Consistency is not a strong point at this point in his career and nagging injuries will almost certainly follow.
Adding Youkilis does not do much to help the big picture. The Yankees are still an aging team that may give up its first-place status in the AL East this year to the Baltimore Orioles.
The glory days appear to be long over.
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