The Yankees were limited in who they could even make offers to this offseason as the 2014 budget means that they can’t hand out multi-year deals this offseason. So they cast quite a wide net in their search for a replacement third baseman in the wake of Alex Rodriguez‘s hip surgery and landed Youkilis.
Youk was willing to take a one-year contract for multiple reasons. Potentially the biggest he is coming off career worsts in batting average and on base percentage and one of his worst years slugging percentage wise. Back issues were a large cause for those drop offs and also a large reason nobody was willing to invest in him on a multi-year deal.
There were supposedly up to three multi-year offers on the table for Youk, but the Yankees stepped up with a competitive $12 million offer while other teams were in the $6-$8 million range with their offers. He was said to have strongly considered the Indians’ offer since they are closer to his hometown of Cincinnati and run by his former manager Terry Francona. When the Indians locked up Mark Reynolds instead it cleared Youkilis’ path to Pinstripes.
Youkilis had a negative-4.5 UZR at third base last season and a positive-1.5 mark at the position throughout his career. He is expect to man the hot corner until July at the very least. That’s when A-Rod is expected to return from hip surgery, but Youk will likely still get the bulk of playing time there, but the Yankees could end up splitting time because he is still 34 and dealing with a back issue so it’s not like he can be expected to make even 145 starts.
My guess is that Youk plays at least 90-100 games at third base with A-Rod probably getting as many as 30 games at the position and a third player getting another player like Jason Nix or David Adams, who isn’t thought to be ready, but will get a good look during spring training and a probable midseason promotion, playing another 25-30 games.
The Yankees still have a lot of work to do this offseason. They still haven’t replaced either Nick Swisher or Russell Martin and still need a catcher as well. They are expected to re-sign Ichiro Suzuki possibly as early as this week, but with an all left handed outfield they could still pursue a right handed hitting compliment like Scott Hairston.
Youkilis has quite a bit of history with the Yankees. Notably, Joba Chamberlain seems to throw at him quite often and has even been beaned a few times by him. However, he joins a long list of Beantown defectors such as Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Johnny Damon. Clemens and Derek Jeter had frequent run ins before he was a Yankee and the Yankee Captain even greeted Clemens at the clubhouse door wearing full catcher’s gear as a joke before the two eventually became close friends.
It should be noted that all the other Red Sox I listed eventually won World Series with the Yankees. That’s what this is about. No Yankees fans are going to be happy about this move, but he’s the best of what’s left in a thin third base market and they needed to go after him in order to field a strong lineup next season. Youk hit just .235/.336/.409 last season, but if healthy he is capable of much more so the Yankees rolled the dice on an unpopular player.