New York Mets Should Trade for Kevin Youkilis and Relief Help
The Boston Red Sox are likely to move 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis at some point this season. The 33 year old Youkilis is having his worst season ever, hitting just .216/.299/.345 on the year and seeing his once elite walk rate drop to almost average. With top prospect Will Middlebrooks playing holding down third base with far better defensive abilities and hitting an excellent, if somewhat lucky .298/.336/.496 and Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz entrenched at first and DH, respectively, the Red Sox have no room for the slumping Youkilis. They are looking to move him and reportedly willing to throw some money into the mix to up the quality they receive in return. The Los Angeles Dodgers are already scouting Kevin Youkilis, but the best fit might be the New York Mets.
At 37-32, the Mets are one of the biggest surprises of the young season. With excellent starting pitching and a scrappy offense powered by David Wright and the team’s new OBP-heavy approach, the Mets are contenders for both the NL East Crown and for one of the two NL wild card slots. They have managed to stay just three games back in the NL East despite getting the worst production in baseball at first base. Everyday first baseman Ike Davis has a dreadful .193/.282/.330 batting line and he is 22% worst than the average hitter by wRC+. Kevin Youkilis would be an upgrade, even if he fails to improve.
Just replacing Davis with Kevin Youkilis might be an improvement, but it isn’t the only option the Mets would have if they acquired Youkilis. Specifically, the Mets would benefit greatly from a time share at first base. Youkilis is still hitting left-handed pitching well, with a .243/.356/.405 line against lefties and plus defense at first, Youk is a perfect platoon solution. Davis is striking out 30% of the time against lefties and walking just 4.4%, but against righties he is walking an incredible 13.5% and striking out a slightly more reasonable 25.9%. With Youk keeping Davis away from lefties and helping on defense and as a pinch hitter, the Mets can get some added value out even if the change of scenery doesn’t reignited the one time star. If he returns to anything near the .286/.387/.486, the Mets will have turned their biggest offensive weakness into a big plus.
Hooking up with the Red Sox could also address the Mets short comings in the bullpen. After a rough start, the Red Sox bullpen has come together to be one of the most effective groups in the game.Bostoncurrently has a resurrected Mark Prior and relief prospect Junichi Tazawa stuck at AAA. Clayton Mortensen was only able to crack 25 man roster because Josh Beckett was DL’d and he has a .96 ERA and a 1.88 FIP in his 9 1/3 innings of work for the Red Sox. The Mets need relievers and an upgrade at first and the Red Sox can provide both. The Red Sox could get more value from the Mets then they will from other teams by packaging Youkilis with a reliever.
With Kevin Youkilis in the final guaranteed year of his contract and Boston willing to eat some of the remaining $6M salary owed him in 2012, the Mets will not need to take on much payroll to make this happen. As bad as he is struggling, Youk isn’t going to command top prospects either. There is incentive for both teams here and I am a bit surprised that we are not hearing more about this possibility.