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response-to-evan-brunell-trade-tex-for-youkilis-absolutely | June | 2008 Articles

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Response to Evan Brunell: Trade Tex for Youkilis? Absolutely.

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Evan Brunell of Fire Brand of the American League (and CEO of MVN) just posted a crazy idea: trading Mark Teixeira to the Red Sox for Kevin Youkilis (and a prospect like Michael Bowden). I've been pretty constant in my belief that Tex will not bring back much of anything worthwhile in a trade, and Evan acknowledges that it's unlikely: "I'm not naive enough to think that this trade actually has a chance in hell of it happening." We probably have different reasons for thinking that: I would doubt the Sox would be willing to give up as much as Youkilis and a prospect, and he seems to doubt the Braves would trade Teixeira. It's very possible we're both right. But that doesn't mean I don't think it's a great idea. If it were ever possible, I'd be all for it. Here's why. As Evan says, "The Braves get a cost-controlled player for the next two years to replace Teixeira at first and a stud pitching prospect to work into the team." Between Tim Hudson, Charlie Morton, Jo-Jo Reyes, Jair Jurrjens, and Jorge Campillo, we have a pretty good starting rotation that we can control for a few more years, but the Sox have quite a few terrific prospects, and Bowden would be one worth having. He's 21 in AA with terrific strikeout and strikeout to walk ratios. Youkilis, of course, isn't quite the offensive force that Teixeira is, but he's not too far off and he's a great deal cheaper (and the Braves would control him for two more years). Youkilis's career line is .285/.383/.453, while Tex is at .285/.371/.534. Yook is actually having a much better year than Tex this year, lapping Tex by 72 points of OPS. Tex's defensive reputation is better than Youkilis's, but a) that's probably overblown, and by RZR and fielding percentage the difference between them is probably slight at best, and b) first base defense almost doesn't matter, as long as they can catch the ball. If the Braves let Tex walk, they get two draft picks. Draft picks are wonderful, but even first-rounders often don't make the majors. Youkilis is an extremely productive major league hitter who's only slightly worse than Teixeira. (Teixeira's much more of a star, of course, but on-base percentage is far more important than slugging, so Tex's large edge in slugging -- which has disappeared this year -- is partially mitigated by Youkilis's smaller edge in OBP.) He's cheaper, and the Braves would have him for several years after the deal, which is important because at the moment the Braves have no first baseman for 2009. Michael Bowden is the cherry on top, and he's a prospect most organizations would kill for, well on his way to Major League stardom. The Braves are somewhat in contention for the playoffs this year, and so would be understandably reluctant to look like sellers. Dealing a star for prospects or other pieces usually sends a message to your fans that you're giving up on this year in order to have a better shot next year. However, again, the offensive hit the Braves would sustain by switching from Teixeira to Youkilis would be minimal at worst. Notwithstanding that Youkilis is hitting better this year, Teixeira's simply not as good of a hitter as Scott Boras would lead you to believe. He's very good, but he's not elite. He's solidly in the second tier of major league hitters, which Youkilis also occupies. Because the offensive hit would be minimal, exchanging Tex for Youkilis would not affect the Braves' ability to contend for their division this year, and it would better position the Braves to contend for the next two years we'd have him manning first base. The knocks on Yook that Evan mentions are that he had a rough second-half slide last year (.238/.356/.391) and that he seems to be the sort of player who would have a short peak and a relatively young decline (probably because he has old player skills). I didn't love the way the Red Sox handled Youkilis, rebuffing other teams who asked after him while burying him in the minor leagues until he was 25, so that his first full year in the majors didn't come until he was 27. Apparently, they knew he was a valuable hitter, but neither had space for him on the major league roster nor wanted to trade him, so they simply held on to him without letting him start. He's actually a year older than Teixeira. The first concern is much more worrisome than the second. As we've seen with Teixeira this year and with LaRoche in previous years, it's very hard to weather a middle-of-the-order first baseman deciding to disappear for an entire half-season. However, assuming that he didn't completely disappear, it seems likely that he will stay a very good hitter for at least the next two years. Hitters with his skills -- high walks, high strikeouts, fairly good power, slow baserunning -- do tend to drop off quicker than most, but they're usually able to survive at least into their early 30's, which is as long as we'd have him. If he fell off after that, it wouldn't be our problem. Again, this has no chance of happening. Evan seems to think it would be a great idea for the Sox. As far as I'm concerned, we'd be robbing them blind. I'd be all in favor of this happening. Here's hoping Frank Wren and Theo Epstein get creative.
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