There is an old saying in the baseball world that the best trade one could make is no trade at all.
During June of 2012, the Chicago White Sox found themselves in a heated race to win the American League Central with a problem at third base. Heading into the middle of the season, the Sox had the second-worst production from the third base position and needed an upgrade over the meager options they were throwing out there.
The two largest, most appealing pieces on the market that fit the Sox’ need were Chase Headley and Kevin Youkilis. While Headley was in the midst of a career year which ended with him smashing 31 home runs and 115 RBIs while finishing fifth in the MVP voting, the Sox went with the much older option who was on the back end of his career.
On June 24 general manager at the time Kenny Williams pulled the trigger on a deal that would send utility man Brent Lillibridge and reliever/ batting practice pitcher Zach Stewart to the Boston Red Sox for Youkilis.
For an incredibly small package, the White Sox upgraded immensely at third. While injuries and the emergence of Will Middlebrooks made Youkilis rather expendable, the White Sox believed they found a diamond in the rough.
What made Williams make the deal for a .233 hitting Youkilis instead of a red hot Headley can be pinpointed to the package that the San Diego Padres wanted for the youngster who was manning the hot corner. Reports had the Padres wanting two to three high level prospects for a man who was finally showing promise after five years of inconsistencies.
The White Sox did not feel secure in pulling off the deal because trading away two or three of their top prospects would deplete an already dismal farm system. While Headley continued on his mammoth season, Youkilis transformed into the clutch performer Red Sox nation fell in love with. Totally 15 homers, 46 RBIs and an OBP of .346 while delivering countless times in the latter innings of games, Youkilis provided the offensive production the Sox were desperately needing.
Fast forward to this weekend’s series. The Padres head into Chicago for a three-game stretch with Headley still as their third baseman and the Sox now running out Conor Gillaspie to the hot corner.
After a 2013 that saw Headley come back down to earth (.250 average, 13 homers, 50 RBIs in 141 games), the now 30-year-old is struggling early on in 2014. He finds himself hitting .203 with four homers and 18 RBIs while looking like a shell of himself at the plate. The hitter who in 2012 could mash the ball to all fields has struggled to hit the ball to any part of the ballpark consistently. Pitchers who proceeded with caution when he was at the plate in 2012 are now baffling him with off speed pitches in the dirt.
Meanwhile, the Sox have found their steady presence at third with Gillaspie. So far this year the 26-year-old is hitting .352 with an OBP of .394 while cementing himself as a steady force at the top of the lineup. Making over $10 million less than Headley this season, Gillaspie is providing the Sox with more bang for their buck.
Williams’ legacy as White Sox general manager will include the 2005 World Series championship he won but also all the countless deals he pulled off where the team traded away budding prospects for rental players. What has to be included is his ability to not jump the gun and trade away pieces for Headley, who was in the midst of a one and done year. Like they say, some of the best moves you make are the ones you never make at all.