By Sweeny Murti
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“I never thought I’d be on the other side of the rivalry…I just felt that the New York Yankees were the best fit going forward to try to win another World Series.”
You weren’t the only one a little shocked that the marriage between the former Red Sox 3rd baseman and the Yankees was going to happen. After spending all but a few months of his 9-year major league career in Boston, he is now a member of the Yankees. And Youkilis admitted to an initial weird feeling about putting on that other uniform.
But Youkilis got a lot of positive vibes from fans at a recent charity even in Boston, both Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. And with his mind a little more at ease, and with a good offer on the table, the decision was a little easier.
Yankees fans should soon embrace Youkilis without much worry. After all, the Yankees open the 2013 season at home against…the Red Sox! Could you think of anything better than Youkilis hammering out a game-winning hit to give the Yanks the early edge in the best rivalry in baseball?
One worry fans might have is how Youk and Joba will get along. If anyone had a sense of humor they would let Joba pitch to Youkilis during the first day of live batting practice in February. But in all likelihood they will bury the hatchet long before they walk into the clubhouse in Spring Training. Joba has reached out to Youk already, and Youk began downplaying the history between the two right away when asked about it on Friday.
“All that stuff that goes on on the baseball field is just things that happen,” Youkilis said. “Its not a big deal to me. If that was that big of a deal I wouldn’t be signing with the Yankees. I think a lot of its made out a lot bigger with the media and the fans.
“If you look at my stats I’ve been hit 99 times. There’s been multiple people that have hit me with pitches, I think Joba’s only hit me once and it was this year. It’s not a big deal, we’re teammates now, and we have the same goals of going to spring training and trying to win.”
While there have been several uncomfortable moments between the two, it’s not quite the same as if Jason Varitek was a Yankee and would have to share space with A-Rod, a guy he once punched in the face. Rest assured, the only way this becomes an issue again is if Joba hits Youkilis with a pitch this year, something that just got a lot harder to do.
As for on the field, the Yankees need to replace A-Rod’s production. If you look at Youkilis once he was traded to Chicago (.771 OPS in 80 games with the White Sox), he was only slightly behind A-Rod (.783 OPS in 122 games for the season). The Yankees would probably sign up for that as a base level from Youkilis, and obviously hope for more.
They will still need a compliment to him, preferably one who bats left-handed, but that’s not easy to find. Eric Chavez is with Arizona now, and the lesser-hitting but good-fielding Jack Hannahan was snagged by Cincinnati. Even with Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez coming to camp, the Yankees will look to add some veteran backup assistance for the left side of the infield, likely in the form of minor league contracts with spring training invites.
It is interesting to note that once word leaked out early this month about A-Rod’s status, the Yankees received plenty of inquiries from players and agents who felt they could help fill the hole.
One was from Cody Ransom, the man who started the 2009 season as the Opening Day 3rd baseman when A-Rod has his first hip surgery.
Another, a bit more intriguing inquiry, came from Troy Glaus. Retired after the 2010 season, Glaus is actually still younger than A-Rod by one year. Glaus, who hit 320 home runs in his 13-year career (and 7 more in the 2002 postseason, named World Series MVP for the Angels), reached out to the Yankees and expressed an interest in coming back if the team was interested.
The downside was that he hadn’t played in two years, but the upside was his banged up body felt much better after not playing in two years. If the Yankees did have interest in Glaus, it likely would not have led to anything more than a spring training invite, but the Youkilis move made it a moot point. The Yankees need now is for a more complimentary bench piece, as I mentioned above.
So are the Yankees done making big moves? Don’t fall asleep on Brian Cashman. In recent years he made trades for Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Pineda without a hint in the rumor mill beforehand. Deals will be harder to come by with all of the Yankees best prospects still in the lower minors, but don’t count out The Cashman. I will actually be disappointed if he doesn’t make a move before camp opens February 12th.
How shocked were you to find out that the Yankees signed Kevin Youkilis? Share you thoughts below.