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Monday, December 4

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White Sox Mon Jun 25 2012

Youkilis Trade Could Be Big For White Sox

Immediately after news broke Sunday that the White Sox had traded pitcher Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge to Boston for third baseman Kevin Youkilis, two things confirmed that the move was a good one:

1) Moments after Twitter lit up with reports of the completed deal, Orlando Hudson stepped to the plate in that afternoon's game against Milwaukee. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, no score, and the bases were loaded with two outs. Chicago had all the momentum, and looked ready to take the game. Hudson has been holding it down at third base for the White Sox over the last month, though he is only hitting .167 since joining the club.

Not surprisingly, the nine-hitter weakly popped out to short on the third pitch to end the inning.

2) A little after that, but still before the trade was 100% official, ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney tweeted, "White Sox 3bmen came into today with a .466 ops...worst in the majors, by 102 points."

My expert opinion says that Chicago upgraded its offense by bringing Youkilis to the South Side.

The move is a minor surprise, because just a few months ago the Sox got rid of some core players in Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Mark Buehrle. Yet they were able to take advantage of Youkilis' deteriorating situation with the Red Sox. The White Sox beat out several other teams to get the corner infielder, including the Dodgers, Braves and upstart Pirates.

This has not been Youk's finest season. He is batting .233 with a .315 OBP, which are the lowest marks by far in his nine-year career. Youkilis has spent some time this year on the DL due to a lower back injury.

Youkilis, though, definitely needed a change of scenery this year. Boston is stacked in the positions that Youk played (David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and the red-hot Will Middlebrooks), but now he will own the hot corner in Chicago. He also escapes all the turmoil surrounding the 2012 Red Sox.

Youkilis can relax a little and play his game, knowing he can help this 38-34 White Sox team improve and increase its lead in the AL Central. The Sox don't need him to play at an all-star level; they just need him to play his traditionally scrappy brand of baseball and to hit better than Orlando Hudson.

The trade is especially sweeter considering two more things: One, the Sox only had to give up Stewart and Lillibridge without touching their farm system. Two, the Sox will only have to pay Youkilis $2 million over the rest of the season, with Boston being on the hook for $5.6 million.

Stewart is only 25, but has been particularly dreadful for Chicago this year. From the bullpen, he had a 5.18 ERA and a 1.479 WHIP. For every relief outing where he didn't allow a run (nine times), he had one where he did (eight times). He was Captain Shaky. In his lone start, Stewart allowed six runs and four homers to the Cubs.

As for Lillibridge, he would get a spot start every so often, but he hardly played and didn't have that big of an impact on the games. He's versatile out in the field, and he's a good baserunner, but that was about it for the 28-year-old. Expect Jordan Danks to take Lillibridge's role as the top pinch-runner, and Eduardo Escobar to become more of a utilty man.

Then there's the O-Dog. I thought he has been very good defensively for Chicago - especially considering that he never played third base before - but his bat wasn't cutting it. Moving to the bench and becoming a late-game defensive replacement at third (or second) should be the perfect fit for Hudson.

Kudos to the White Sox for becoming a "buyer" when they needed to, and pursuing a low-risk, high reward situation. Pretty good for a first-place team that was supposedly rebuilding.

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