The rumor mill is abuzz today with news of a contract offer made to former Boston Red Sox nemesis Kevin Youkilis by New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman (confirmed by YES Network).
The Yankees' offer to Kevin Youkilis is one year at $12M, according to source.
Gasp! How could they?! Youk's a jerk! He used to get in fights with Joba Chamberlain! He's not the player he once was!
Big deal. The Yankees are desperate for third basemen and potential impact bats with Alex Rodriguez out of their lineup until around June, Derek Jeter uncertain for Opening Day, and Curtis Granderson perhaps on his way out the door. For a one-year deal, I don't see the problem with giving Youk a try, especially with no clear alternatives from within at the moment.
Is Youkilis a defensive whiz at the hot corner? No, not really, but slick-fielding, good-hitting third basemen are a hot commodity. Not everyone can be a Mike Schmidt or Adrian Beltre. It would not be that different for the Yanks anyway. Some people cite A-Rod's solid '11 in the field as a reason why he's a good defensive third baseman, but that was an anomaly in a little more than half a season. UZR takes about three years to give more accurate results, and since 2009 when injuries started to limit his action, A-Rod's UZR/150 is -0.2. It's mediocre, and if they have to take a hit in defense until A-Rod returns, that's fine. The fact that he adds the Nick Swisher -esque versatility of the ability to play first base to give Mark Teixeira a rest is just a bonus. There, he legitimately is a good fielder.
It is a legitimate concern to point to Youk's declining offense as reason for some trepidation. Since his .307/.411/.564, 159 wRC+ season in 2010, he has declined to a .258/.373/.459, 126 wRC+ in 2011, and a .235/.336/.409, 102 wRC+ in 2012. He will be 34 in Spring Training, and like A-Rod, he has suffered from the injury bug over the previous three seasons. Again, though, the alternatives are not great. Those numbers are still probably going to be better than anyone else on the free agent and trade market unless Cashman has a sly deal up his sleeve. $12 million might seem like an overpay for those 2012 numbers, but his 126 wRC+ in '11 would have been $16.7 million according to FanGraphs. If he can rebound to numbers slightly worse than that, he will easily be worth the $12 million. There was a reason he was an annual MVP candidate in his Boston prime--he is a good baseball player. Good baseball players can find a second wind.
The contract might be an offer lower than what he expected, but GMs have clearly noticed his decline. This offer's a classic "make-good" Yankee deal to a former star. If he comes to New York on that and puts up a great season, he can get a much better one next offseason. Daniel Barbarisi reports that the offer is in Youk's price range (as does Jack Curry), so if it's real, he may very well accept it.
As far as the stigma of a former Red Sox player coming to New York goes, I seem to recall a guy regarded as a bit of an ass coming to New York in 1920 and then becoming the greatest player who ever lived. No, Youk is not Babe, but the point is still there. Sparky Lyle, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Johnny Damon all also moved from Boston to New York and endeared themselves to the fans. Clemens was even more despised and he wound up popular. If he performs, no one will be thinking about his former Boston days. Even if he wasn't a Boston star, fans would be booing him if he struggled anyway.
The bottom line is that one-year deals rarely hurt. Yes, the Yankees are aiming for a budget in 2014, but they're fine for whatever payroll they want in 2013. If Youk doesn't work out, then they can easily ditch the problem next offseason if not sooner. Give him a chance, fans. You might be surprised by the results.