According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, the Red Sox are telling teams they definitely intend to trade Kevin Youkilis, despite a comment from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington saying that the team had no interest in dealing their star. This comes as no shock to much of the "Hot Stove" world as rumors about Youkilis have been swirling virtually all season long. After Youk went on the DL due to a back strain, the Red Sox called up the hot-hitting Will Middlebrooks from AAA. Middlebrooks was an instant success and now as expected, the Youkilis trade market just jumped into high gear. But which teams should be in the hunt for the patient hitting 3B/1B is still very much in the initial stages. Sure, a lot of times could use a proven slugger at the hot corner (.289 21 HR 92 RBI in last 147 games), but can many teams meet the Red Sox expected asking price in terms of prospects and could they afford to pay the 12 million Youk is owed this year or the 13 million he's expected to make (one-million dollar buyout) in 2013? Here's a brief look at which teams appear most likely to pursue Kevin Youkilis.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers – The new ownership isn't messing around. They want to win and want to do it immediately. So the hot-start the Dodgers are off to sort of puts their team building plans into high gear. The same Danny Knobler also recently reported that the Dodgers intend to add both pitching and hitting at the trade deadline. Adam Kennedy is currently listed as the Dodgers starting third baseman, so obviously Youk would be quite an upgrade. The Red Sox, who are in desperate need of pitching depth should be able to land a combination of higher end pitching prospects from the Dodgers like Zach Lee, Nate Eovaldi, Allen Webster or Garret Gould.
2. Chicago White Sox – The White Sox are off to an unexpectedly hot start, and given the Indians injury struggles and the fact that the Tigers are still well below .500 without any indication of getting their act together, it may be time for Chicago to make a move and run away with this thing. Brent Morel isn't cutting it at third base and the White Sox could use another middle of the order bat. Surely RHP Nestor Molina or SS Tyler Saladino would be enticing to the Red Sox.
3. Los Angeles Angels – The Angels are a team that is currently on the rise and looking for that last piece to put them over the top and in the same competitive league as the consensus World Series favorite Texas Rangers. Current third basemen Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis hardly strike fear into the hearts of pitchers, and though Mark Trumbo is putting up all-star numbers, his defense at third base leaves a lot to be desired. Given their recent extensions to Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, SS prospect Jean Segura appears expendable and would certainly figure prominently into Red Sox future plans.
4. Atlanta Braves – The Braves have recently fallen on hard times and being in the difficult division that they are in, falling out of contention happens quicker than most would expect. They are in depserate need of offense and have a ridiculous surplus of pitching talent. This seems like a genuinely good match as the Red Sox would love to bring in a RHP like Randall Delgado or LHP like Sean Gilmartin and the Braves could afford to part ways with both. With Chipper Jones's impending retirement, the Braves could use a big-time slugger to replace him, while leaving Martin Prado in left field where his stellar defense makes him a more attractive option over other internal solutions.
5. Philadephia Phillies – Placido Polanco isn't the biggest problem for the Phils right now, but he also isn't a solution to any of their problems. Aging, weak hitting third baseman just aren't in high demand as it seems there are too many of those out there already. The Phillies minor league system is already a desolate place to begin with, and losing prospects could really hurt this team in the long run. But being only three games out of first place, the Phillies may look to infuse more offense immediately (Utely and Howard should help that cause as well). The most promising prospects here are RHP Trevor May and LHP Jesse Biddle, both which project into the middle or a rotation. One or both could be enough to land the Phillies a better starting third baseman.
6. Cincinnati Reds – Youkilis is a Cincy native and the Reds are without Scott Rolen for the remainder of the year and possibly forever. So this seems like a match made in heaven. The Reds are going all in this year and I do expect them to make a strong push for Youk's services. The Red Sox wouldn't be able to land their true prize of SS Billy Hamilton (56 SB already), but I expect they could land RHP's Robert Stephenson or Dan Corcino in a trade.
7. San Francisco Giants – Another pitching heavy team (like the Angels, Braves and Phils) that could use some offensive support. Brett Pill, Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt aren't hitting enough to man first base for a contender right now, but Belt is likely the long-term solution for the Giants. With Pablo Sandoval on the mend, the Giants could allow Sandoval to go back to 1B, keep Buster Posey at C and slot Youkilis in at 3B easily and perhaps solve many of their offensive issues. The Red Sox will ask for OF Gary Brown, but I doubt San Francisco bites on that one. But any combination of LHP Josh Osich, RHP Kyle Crick and RHP Heath Hembree could possibly work.