On today’s market, where a similiar, but maybe slightly better player in Mark Teixeira receives $22.5 million a year for eight seasons, the Red Sox have a bargain. Teixeira may be the better player but it isn’t by much, and Youkilis will cost less than half annually of what Tex will receive, but will also not be under contract through his decline. Youkilis is one of the better players in the game of baseball, and although I could see him declining from his great 2008, while a player like Tex might stay great, Youkilis should still be good even if he isn’t AS good. One reason he is such a bargain is because if Lars Anderson comes up, Youkilis could shift over and play third, ultimately moving up the defensive spectrum. First baseman do not move up the spectrum much, few players can, and do. Tougher infield positions generally shift to first when the player no longer has the range to field whichever position they currently occupy. Youkilis is flexible, he reaches base frequently and displays a great eye, something that should age nicely. And his power should be above average throughout the contract, but I strongly suspect that his power numbers will not be as great as his .569 slugging percentage indicate. I could very well see him as a .290/.380/.490 type of player over the duration of the contract. But the slugging may be a little lower, although his OBP could actually exceed that some of the time. But I think that is a fair line over the next four seasons. Playing third will only increase his value if he continues to do it well.
In the beginning of this entry, I referred to Youkilis being a bargain on this market. That is mostly in comparison to what a player like Teixeira was going to receive, even if he had gone somewhere besides New York, he still would have earned way more than what Youkilis did. Some of the corner outfielders that are not getting big money, are atrocious defenders. There is a large difference between the lumbering, offense first outfielders that are still searching for a contract, and Youkilis. The two positions help his case, and the fact that he can play one of them very well, and the other well enough. The market itself is terrible, but the market for a similiar player seemed to be pretty good.
There has even been talk that Youkilis could play a corner outfield spot for an extended period of time. If that is not versatility then I don’t know the meaning of the word. Odds are, Youkilis will not need to move to the outfield, but it is nice as an organization, and a fan, to know that he could do so if absolutely needed.
A bargain, period.