Saturday, January 19, 2008


The Red Sox are trying to resolve some contractual issues with a few of their younger (read: haven't been in the majors very long yet) players. Chief among those is starting first baseman Kevin Youkilis who made the paltry sum of just over $400,000 last season. [pause to dab at tears...] Youkilis was likely one of the only players who's World Series share was greater than his salary.

Fortunately for Kevin and the next eight generations of Youkilises, this is the season to cash in. Youk is finally arbitration eligible meaning he gets a raise. The way this all works, generally speaking, is that both the player and the team exchange salary figures and if they can't agree then both figures are submitted to an arbitrator who listens to arguments from both sides and then choses one of the figures.

According to the Boston Globe, Youk submitted a figure of $3.7 Million, while the Sox offered $2.525 Million. In either case young Mr. Youkilis should be set for a while.

This whole process got me thinking that while Youkilis is the prototypical Red Sox player, I wonder how long he'll be in a Red Sox jersey. He is 29 years old this year, and by the time he is eligible for free agency, he'll be 32. That means that just as he is getting really expensive, his skills are going to start to drop away.

One thing we've all learned beginning somewhere around 2003 give or take a few years depending on your learning curve, is that the Red Sox aren't likely to settle for below average production from a position too long without making a change (whether that change will be an improvement or not is another matter entirely). This isn't to say Youkilis is below average. I don't believe he is at all, but in three years relative to his salary his production may not be equal in value to what his salary demands will be at that time.

While Youk is great at getting on base, he doesn't have the power that one normally associates with a corner infielder. The one saving grace for Youk is his defensive flexibility. Lowell is signed for three more seasons and one can safely assume that he'll play at least two and likely all three of those years in Boston. After those three years, the position of Red Sox third baseman will come open again coincidentally right as Youkilis reaches free agency.

Lots of things can happen three years down the road. There are a million variables to consider, so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for me to project that far in the future. But, it will be interesting to see as it always is, what the Sox do. For now, they are set at the infield corners with Youk and Lowell for three more years.


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