It has been no secret this season that 3rd base has been a big problem for the Orioles even amidst one of their best seasons in years. Whether it is Mark Reynolds who is batting .191 and has 7 errors or Wilson Betemit who is hitting .233 with 6 errors, it is pretty obvious to me that neither player is a good hiiter or fielder so really what are they good for. Mark Reynolds is the starter and will be as soon as he returns from the DL but even with him out, Betemit is not any better.
That brings us to current Red Sox 3rd basemen Kevin Youkilis. Apparently there is a possibility that the Sox will trade Youkilis due to the fact that he has been injured all year and his replacement Will Middlebrooks has looked very promising in his time at 3rd and at the age of 23 has plenty of years to grow in the Red Sox organization. Basically it seems like they think he could be their long-term 3rd basemen and could be ready to deal Youkilis in an out with the old, in with the new situation. So lets just say that for the sake of this post that the rumors are true and the Sox are interested in dealing Youkilis.
The first question is should the Orioles do it? As a fan of course I say yes because we would probably only have to give up a mid level prospect and maybe some sort of bullpen arm for him and other than Bundy and Machado, I am not real high on any of them anyways. Obviously as an owner the decision is more difficult because you are already paying your current 3rd basemen Mark Reynold 7.5 million a season and Youk will cost you 12.5 mill for the year. You could move Reynolds over to DH but then your paying a guy a lot of money to only hit especially when he is batting .191. Of course as of right now he is hurting the team in the field so it is really addition by subtraction.
My thought on the trade is that obviously Youk is a big upgrade over Reynolds or Betemit. He is a very good contact hitter, has decent power, and is a solid fielder at 3rd as well. While he may not be the player that he used to be necessarily, he did make the All-Star team last year so it’s not like he is a scrub or anything. I still think he is an above average 3rd basemen. Personally he has been one of my favorite players over the years because I love contact hitters and that is exactly what he is. It would be nice to see somebody come up in the 6th spot that you can count on to get a hit and would be just as nice to not have to cringe on every ball hit to 3rd. If I were the Orioles I would try to wait a few weeks to see a couple of things. First off how Youk performs when he comes off of the DL. He is completely healthy and have the injuries taken a toll on him? And are we still doing well and considering ourselves contenders for this year? If we are and we are considering ourselves buyers than I think Youkilis would be a great buy.
However there certainly are some cons to this trade as well. Like I said as an owner this situation is much different from a fan. From a pure baseball perspective it seems pretty easy: a healthy Youk is a huge upgrade over Reynolds or Betemit. But we aren’t paying these players. Hopefully Reynolds can pick it up in these next couple of weeks once he comes off of the DL and can make himself trade bait. If we were able to dump off Reynolds and at least some if not all of his salary then it would be a lot easier for Angelos to stomach Youk’s 12.5 million. I can’t see him paying Youk 12.5 and Reynolds 7.5 million to play the same position.
Not only that but some might wonder why you would try to get this 3 month stop-gap guy and trade away future pieces. I definitely understand the concern there because for the last million years (it has felt like) we have been all about the future and trading our good players for prospects that will help us down the line. Well if the Orioles continue to play the way they have then right now is considered the “down the line” that we all have been talking about for so long. If the Orioles are in 1st or 2nd in the AL East in the middle of June/July, I think we would be cheating ourselves if we did not try to upgrade at our weakest position just because we don’t want to trade a mid level prospect away. An example of a good trade piece is a guy like Xavier Avery. A young solid prospect but nobody is expecting him to be a star someday. Obviously guys like Machado, Bundy, and Schoop won’t be touched in a deal like this. But basically my point is that if I were Dan Duquette and the Orioles were still contenders in a month and a half (around trade deadline) I would give up a mid level prospect in order to have a huge upgrade at our weakest spot in the lineup and field.
The last major question here is would the Red Sox trade Youkilis to us? Obviously the main problem here is that we are in the same division and if we are in the situation that I outlined above where we are still in contention in a month or two then we could be in a position to take a playoff spot away from the Sox. Will the Sox consider the O’s a fluke still? Possibly, after 15 losing seasons I wouldn’t really blame them. If the O’s gave the Sox good enough value would they do it even if they considered the Orioles contenders? Possibly. Might the Red Sox continue to have a bad year and begin preparing for the future by becoming sellers at the deadline? Possibly. Obviously I can’t really answer any of these questions for sure. It is hard to imagine the Sox trading one of their best hitters to a division rival if we are both vying for a playoff spot however.
In the end, I think that this trade is still about a month away from being realistic and there are a lot of factors that could happen that would sway the chances either way (How the Sox are playing, how the O’s play, Youk’s play, Reynold’s play, etc….), but in the end I think that when the time comes if the Orioles are contending and they are in the position to trade for Kevin Youkilis, they should pull the trigger.