Jun 7, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis (36) throws the ball to 1st base to put Seattle Mariners designated hitter Michael Morse (38) (not pictured) out at first base during the 8th inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Since Carlos Pena initially left the Rays following the 2010 season, first base has been a revolving door for the Rays. Over the past three seasons, the Rays have brought in various reclamation projects in Casey Kotchman, Pena again and James Loney this past season. Now, with Loney likely having priced himself out of the Rays budget with his play in 2013, and with prospects Cameron Seitzer and Richie Shaffer not ready to contribute yet, the Rays are likely to once again have an opening at first.
As such, it is likely that the Rays may find themselves once again looking for another reclamation project to take on at first base. Yet, is there a player out there that could fit the Rays tendency to go after players who get on base at a good rate and play solid defense at first? It turns out that such a player is actually available, and would even be a player that the Rays would be familiar with, even if it is from across the diamond.
Kevin Youkilis is not the same player he was during his time with the Red Sox, when he was an on base dynamo with Gold Glove caliber defense at either first and third base. His career has been derailed by injury, including an injury plagues 2013 season that ended with Youkilis needing back surgery. Even before he missed most of the season, Youkilis was a shell of himself for the Yankees, producing at only a .219/.305/.343 rate in 28 games.
However, Youkilis is a potential bounce back candidate. He claims to be healthy once again, and his agent stated that there should not be any issues going forward with his back. Yet, at age 35 at the start of the 2014 season, and coming off two subpar and injury plagued seasons, Youkilis may not find many suitors on the market, and may need to settle for a one year deal to prove that he is truly healthy. If he proves to be back and even remotely close to the player he was before, Youkilis could turn out to be a bargain.
The Tampa Bay Rays are likely to need a first baseman next season, and may once again find themselves scouring the free agent market for a reclamation project. Kevin Youkilis, if his injuries are truly behind him, may be a solid fit.