12:31 pm Dec. 12, 2012
The marriage between the New York Yankees and former Red Sox fan favorite Kevin Youkilis, who agreed to a one-year, $12 million contract on Tuesday, is a perfect match for both teams.
For the Yankees, the need was very specific: the best possible third baseman capable of playing most or all of the season without affecting the team's ability to cut costs in 2014.
After all, Alex Rodriguez, the incumbent third baseman, is out until at least June with a hip injury. And the Yankees desperately want their payroll below $189 million in 2014, which would allow them to avoid massive luxury tax penalties in the newest collective bargaining agreement.
Youkilis, therefore, gets $12 million from the Yankees, who paid a premium in up-front money to avoid a second year. Youkilis reportedly got offers from the Cleveland Indians, and others, at two years, $18 million.
But that's why the deal makes sense for Youkilis, too.
From 2008-2011, Youkilis was not only a strong defender at third base, he put up an O.P.S.+ of 142 over that time. For comparison, David Wright's O.P.S.+ from 2008-2011 was 130.
Then came 2012. Injuries limited Youkilis to 120 games, and his O.P.S.+ dropped precipitously, to 99.
A Youkilis season anywhere close to his 2008-2011 performance will dramatically improve his ability to cash in on next winter's free agent market, the same one the Yankees intend to bow out of for luxury tax purposes.
But many other teams will be flush in new, national television cash to spend. And third base is always a position of need.
Youkilis is a right-handed hitter, which is less ideally-suited for Yankee Stadium (Yankee right-handed batters posted a .740 O.P.S. at Yankee Stadium, while lefties had an .870 O.P.S. there in 2012). Still, the park is friendly to hitters of all stripes, and it certainly won't hurt Youkilis to succeed in such a public way for a contending team.
For the Yankees, even if Youkilis simply repeats his 2012, he still mashed lefties at an .878 O.P.S. clip. Most of his lost offensive value came from struggles against righties. In a lineup expected to include lefty bats like Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson as primary weapons, replacing Rodriguez's bat with a right-hander is useful balance.
So as unlikely as it seems that Youkilis, the longtime standout for the rival Boston Red Sox, would don Yankee pinstripes, it makes a ton of sense for everyone.