To say that the Rays have had problems on offense would be to put it mildly. Despite sitting in the middle of the pack in runs scored and on base percentage, they only rank 12th in batting average and 11th in slugging. Among the problem spots have been first base and DH. While Luke Scott is leading the team in RBI with 35 and is second in home runs with 9, he is only hitting .220. Carlos Pena has been even worse this year, hitting at a .195 clip, with 8 home runs and 26 RBI.
The Rays could use an upgrade offensively at both positions. And there is a first baseman/designated hitter available for trade, who happens to have the added bonus of playing third as well. At this point, the Boston Red Sox appear to be willing to make Kevin Youkilis available for not a lot. But would he make sense for the Rays?
At first glance, he would. Youkilis has been a Gold Glove caliber defender and has the position flexibility that the Rays like. He can draw a walk and has solid power, fitting into their offensive philosophy. Plus, he could hold down third base until Evan Longoria‘s expected return sometime by the end of the month, at which point he could take over for either Pena or Scott.
However, there are problems. First is his salary – $12Million this season, with a $13Million team option with a $1Million buyout. Given the budget that the Rays operate under, the Red Sox would either need to cover a large portion of the salary, or take on a player making a decent amount, such as Pena, who wouldn’t fit on that team. Second, Youkilis has been very injury prone over the past four seasons, spending time each year on the disabled list. Third, while he would seemingly be an upgrade offensively on reputation, the reality is that his production this year is not much better than either Pena or Scott. Youkilis is hitting only .231/.303/.352 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI.
Further complicating any trade possibilities is the rather acrimonious history between the two franchises. Would the Red Sox really want to trade Youkilis to a rival in the same division, especially given the number of incidents the two have had over the years? Most likely not, unless the Rays pay a premium. In fact, there has been exactly one trade between these clubs since the Rays entered the league: the legendary Julio Santana for Will Silverthorn swap of 1999.
Even though the cost for Youkilis is likely a mid-level prospect, a trade would not make any sense. The Red Sox would be loath to trade him within the AL East, and the cost would not justify the production Youkilis has had thus far in 2012. While the Rays may look to upgrade either position by the trade deadline, Kevin Youkilis is highly unlikely to come through the door.