By Jeff Louderback
Kevin Youkilis is changing his Sox, and Boston will be better off because of it in the clubhouse and on the field.
The veteran corner infielder was traded this afternoon from the Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox, a team in dire need of a third baseman. Media reports indicate that the Red Sox will receive 25-year-old right-hander Zach Stewart and utility infielder Brent Lillibridge.
Youkilis was in his ninth season with the Red Sox, has earned two World Series rings and posted a a career .286 average to go along with a .874 OPS. He transformed into a power hitter in 2008 (29 home runs, 115 RBI, .312 average) and 2009 (27 home runs, 94 RBI, .305 average). The last three years, though, were marked by declining numbers due to a myriad of injuries.
Youkilis was lifted for a pinch-runner in the seventh inning on Sunday after he ripped an RBI triple. He received a standing ovation from the Fenway Park crowd and was embraced by teammates in what proved to be a send off since news of the deal had just reached the dugout.
The triple, unfortunately, was a rare bright spot at the plate for Youkilis this season. He entered the game batting .225 with a woeful .670 OPS and had lost his spot to 23-year-old rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
Youkilis’ presence in the clubhouse was clearly a distraction, especially after he told the media this weekend that Bobby Valentine did not tell him that Middlebrooks would play every day. Valentine told the media a different story on Friday.
In Sunday’s game, Middlebrooks was at the DH spot as David ortiz was given a day off against a left-hander, and Youkilis started at third base and collected two hits.
Youkilis is a key reason why the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series and has served as a core player for several seasons. Yet Middlebrooks is clearly the third baseman of the present and the future, and with Gonzalez entrenched at first base and Ortiz at DH, there was no room for Youkilis on the Red Sox roster.
The 28-year-old Lillibridge will report to the Red Sox while Stewart will join Triple-A Pawtucket. Lillibridge is a versatile infielder/outfielder who has plus speed. He hit .258 with 13 home runs in 186 at-bats for the White Sox this season but so far in 2012 has a .175 average and no home runs in 63 at-bats.