The Philadelphia Phillies need a third baseman like a man stranded in the desert needs water.
The club turned down its contract option on Placido Polanco during the last week, allowing him to become a free agent and once again opening a void at third base that could more accurately be classified as a black hole.
To make matters worse, the market for third basemen is going to be thin this winter both in terms of free agents and potential targets in a trade. That market is even thinner when you consider the fact that the Phillies seem to want to go in one of two directions—a long-term fix or a short-term stopgap.
A long-term fix isn't going to happen this winter unless the Phils sign over the entire deed to their farm system for San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley, a foolish decision for a team who's decaying MLB roster is going to need some youth—and soon.
As far as a stopgap is concerned, one name seems to fit the Phillies' needs rather well: Kevin Youkilis. The longtime Boston Red Sox third baseman hits the free agent market this winter following a midseason trade to the Chicago White Sox, who turned down his contract option following the season.
Youkilis will be 34 years old during the 2013 season and certainly isn't going to help this aging Phillies club get any younger, but he's also not in a position to demand a long-term contract—something that the Phillies should value given their future commitments.
The "Greek God of Walks" may not be the same player that he once was, but he could still help out a heavily left-handed Phillies lineup. Youkilis hit .235 / .336 / .409, with 19 home runs.
The numbers don't leap off of the page, but when you consider the fact that the Phillies' third basemen hit .272 / .315 / .357 with five home runs as a unit last season and that Youkilis' low, .268 BABip (against a .322 career BABip), there is some obvious room for improvement.
The Phillies have a few needs this offseason that Youkilis would help address, particularly offensively, where they are in desperate need of a right-handed bat with some power. Youkilis managed left-handed pitching well last season, posting a line of .275 / .386 / .492 with eight home runs against it.
Common sense suggests that he would slot nicely into the Phillies' lineup behind Ryan Howard and in front of Domonic Brown, balancing out the left-handed hitters quite a bit.
Defensively, Youkilis leaves something to be desired. He posted a UZR/150 of -6.2 at third base last season, which is obviously bad, but not horrendous. Youkilis posted a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) mark of -1, which means that he cost his team(s) a run with his defense.
But the Phillies can sacrifice a bit of defense at third base to add a bit of right-handed pop to their lineup. With Freddy Galvis on the bench to provide a little defense in the later innings, having a guy who could throw runs on the board early in the game could be a big help.
As with any deal nowadays, all of that information is a moot point if the Phillies find that Youkilis is out of their price range. Given all of the variables, one would assume that Youkilis is in line for a deal somewhere in the two years and $16-20 million range.
But the law of supply and demand is not working with the Phillies this offseason, at least at third base. Youkilis is actually one of the better options available this winter and plenty of teams could use a third baseman.
The Phillies seem confident that Cody Asche can take over in the near future (he played at Double-A Reading in 2012) and probably don't want to pay a future 36-year-old Youkilis anything, let alone as a third baseman.
The Phillies are also still squirming under the luxury tax and probably don't have the ability to throw a ton of money at Youkilis in order to get him signed to a two-year contract.
But we'll assume for a moment that the Phillies and Youkilis can agree to financial terms. If they were to get him signed, it would be a solid deal.
As the roster currently stands, the Phillies will open the season with their third baseman as one or some combination of Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen. Those are solid players, but neither has the bat to play third base every day.
Youkilis just makes more sense. He isn't of the same caliber defensively, but could be leaps and bounds better offensively, which the Phillies will need.
If the price is right, Youkilis could be a no-brainer for the Phils.