Well, it was bound to happen at some point. After the emergence of Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox – and most importantly, Kevin Youkilis – was caught in a numbers game, three players – Youkilis, Middlebrooks, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz– for four positions. And let’s be honest, Gonzalez should have never been in right field in the first place, the position he occupied for 18 games because of said numbers crunch.
Also, I wrote about the White Sox as a potential landing spot for Youkilis on June 14.
With the being said, I’m surprised – shocked, actually – that Boston settled on career utility infielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, a decent pitcher who might develop into a league average starter if everything breaks just right. Plus, Boston is sending $5.5 million to cover all but $2 million of Youkilis’ contract.
Maybe I – and consequently the Red Sox – am reading the market incorrectly, which is a very distinct possibility, but that’s it? A career .215/.283/.358 backup infielder and reliever-turned-starter with average-ish peripherals, really? Plus, all that money too?
So, how, exactly, do the White Sox lose in this deal? Sure, maybe Youkilis has dealt with some injury issues this season, and the past few as well, but this basically amounts to a $2 million gamble for Chicago ($3M if you include his buyout after the season), who, by the way, happen to be battling for first place. And let’s not forget that they’ve run out Brent Morel the past season-plus and witnessed him hit .230/.274/.329. Youkilis, healthy or not, is a tremendous upgrade.
Back to Boston’s haul: Lillibridge and Stewart.
Lillibridge is a fringe major leaguer at best and his best asset is, well, positional flexibility. He’s appeared in at least ten games at every position in his career other than catcher and pitcher. And his defense is average, maybe a touch better depending on the position.
Stewart throws a three-pitch mix – fastball, slider and curve – and won’t miss a lot of bats (5.6 K/9 in 97.1 big league innings). He does, however, limit walks (2.0 BB/9) but he’s been a bit homer-prone too (1.9 HR/9). His Skill-Interactive ERA, or SIERA, 3.86, is significantly lower than his actual ERA, 5.92, which means he’s been a bit unlucky and should improve simply from regression. But he’s still a low-strikeout rate pitcher with decent groundball rates and solid command. At the end of the day, he’s still a fifth starter, maybe fourth, or a solid middle reliever.
This deal could – and probably will – become a major win for Chicago, both in the short- and long-terms.
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