In what has been a very quiet offseason for the New York Yankees, Brian Cashman offered a one-year, $12 million deal to long-time Red Sox star and Yankee-killer Kevin Youkilis. In years past, this wouldn't have been much of a surprise at all (see Johnny Damon, 2005). However, things have changed drastically in New York's offseason mindset over the past five years.
The New York Yankees have claimed 27 World Series. They have won the American League pennant 40 times. They have been crowned AL East champions 18 times. This past season, the Yankees finished with the best record in the American League.
However, the time of year when the Yankees seem to be most dominant is that period from November until February, when the offseason Hot Stove gets heated up to offset the cold of winter. Year in and year out, the Steinbrenner-led Yankees outspend other teams in baseball and compile a team of all-stars from around the league.
In 2009, the Yankees stole Mark Teixeira away from the Angels, AJ Burnett from the Blue Jays and CC Sabathia from the Brewers all in the span of one month. They committed over $400 million to three players to be paid out over seven years in what was just a routine offseason in New York.
This offseason, the Yankees front office is almost unrecognizable.
The always-cunning Brian Cashman has been very quiet and the Yankees have had little activity this offseason aside from re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
Cashman finally made some noise in offering Youkilis to come play for Joe Girardi's Yankees and aside from the Yankee-Red Sox drama that would ensue following Youkilis signing that contract, it actually is a very helpful move for the not-so-financially-flexible Hal Steinbrenner Yankees.
First and foremost, the Yankees need a third-baseman to fill in for Alex Rodriguez while he recovers from hip surgery. Names that were discussed were Eric Chavez, before he signed with the Diamondbacks and Jeff Keppinger before he signed with the White Sox.
Both of these options would have given the Yankees exactly what they were looking for: a bench player who could start in A-Rod's absence and would return to the bench upon A-Rod's recovery.
Now, with those players off the market and the Yankees' options dwindling, Cashman seems inclined to make some inevitable decisions that will change the direction of the team but cannot be avoided forever.
Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old. He is signed through 2017. There probably has never been a time in his entire career when he looked as lost as he did down the stretch this past season. If the Yankees can't trade him, they certainly can't keep him as their starting third baseman.
Signing Youkilis would allow the Yankees to do just that—move A-Rod to DH full-time with some sporadic playing time at third base. They are very similar in terms of their below-average defense at the position (both had UZRs under negative three according to Fangraphs), but A-Rod's defense can expect a significant decline as he ages and recovers from yet another hip surgery.
Starting Kevin Youkilis at third base gives the Yankees a slightly younger (he is "only" 33 years old) and more durable infielder while also allowing them to rest Rodriguez who has been bitten hard by the injury bug over the past few seasons. Hopefully, a more rested and fresher A-Rod can hold up all season long and remain productive as a run producer in the middle of the order.
If not, Youkilis would give the Yankees a right-handed middle of the order bat in what looks to be a very lefty-heavy lineup (Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson led the team in RBIs last season and are both left-handed).
Another benefit of starting Youkilis at third and moving A-Rod to DH is that the Yankees would not have to continue to search for free-agent gambles that are hopeful bargains for Cashman such as Raul Ibanez. They can turn their focus in other directions, namely the outfield, where Chris Dickerson is currently slotted to start in right field.
The former Red Sox star helps the front office as well. Youkilis would fill all the needs listed above, but come only on a one-year deal that was offered to him by the Yankees. This makes his salary irrelevant as he will be off the books before the 2014 luxury tax rules kick in that have owner Hal Steinbrenner demanding that his payroll be under the $189 million tax threshold.
Many Yankee fans are hesitant to welcome Youkilis because of his glorious Red Sox days and his role on the 2007 Red Sox World Series team, but looking beyond the rivalry, he could arrive and help New York capture a championship just like Johnny Damon did in 2009. Youkilis would surely be a wonderful addition to the 2013 New York Yankees.