What Went Wrong: Kevin Youkilis

Cashman says Yankees "can't replace" A-Rod
Monday Night Open Thread

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with an injury replacement who missed more days than the guy he replaced.

Quite possible the most useful thing Youkilis did in 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Quite possibly the most useful thing Youkilis did in 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Even though it happened five months before Opening Day, Alex Rodriguez‘s left hip injury and eventual surgery left the Yankees scrambling. They had just lost their starting third baseman and a middle of the order bat, two things that are tough to replace even in the dead of winter through free agency. With no obvious internal replacement, the team was left … well, scrambling.

The best available option was a familiar face and former bitter enemy. The Yankees wound up signing former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis to a one-year contract worth $12M, and in the process he reportedly declined a two-year, $18M offer from the Indians to reunite with manager Terry Francona. It was a risky move given Youkilis’ history of back problems and declining production (103 wRC+ in 2012).

A monster Spring Training (.280/.339/.800 in 56 plate appearances) and stories of a revamped swing courtesy of hitting coach Kevin Long had pretty much everyone thinking Youkilis was primed to be a big contributor for New York. He was further away from his injuries and the Yankees had success with reclamation project hitters like Eric Chavez in recent years, so it wasn’t all blind faith. Just mostly blind faith.

When the season started, it looked very much like Youkilis had found the fountain of youth. Or at least a way to stave off age-related decline for the time being. He doubled on Opening day, had two hits the next game, doubled again in the third game, then homered in the fourth game. In his first nine games with New York, Youkilis went 14-for-33 (.424) with four doubles, two homers, (.727 SLG), three walks, and two hit-by-pitches (.500 OBP).

Obviously that’s not something you’d expect any player to sustain over a full season, but any fear Youkilis was just a washed up ex-Red Sox crony brought in for name value had started to be assuaged. Then, just a week later, Youkilis was sidelined with back stiffness. He missed a week before returning to the lineup at first base, and in his first game back, he slide into the bag on a defensive play and re-injured himself. The official diagnosis was a lumbar strain and it was much more severe this time around.

The play that re-injured Youkilis' back. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
The play that re-injured Youkilis’ back. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Youkilis needed an epidural even though his MRI came back clean. He spent a month on the DL before returning in late-May, the same time as Mark Teixeira. Youkilis went a weak 6-for-41 (.146) with 13 strikeouts (28.3%) in eleven games after coming back before, yet again, his back started barking. Another lumbar strain landed him on the DL on June 14th, but just four days later the Yankees announced he needed season-ending surgery to correct whatever needed to be corrected. There was always a small chance Youkilis would get healthy in time to rejoin the team in late September and the postseason, but that never happened. Both the getting healthy part and the postseason part.

All told, Youkilis played in only 28 games and received 118 plate appearances this past season. A-Rod, the man he replaced, batted 181 times in 44 games after returning from hip surgery in August. David Adams even managed more games (43) and plate appearances (153) thank Youkilis after coming up from the minors in mid-May to serve as what amounted to the replacement for the replacement. For their $12 investment, the Yankees got a .219/.305/.343 (78 wRC+) batting line and an awful lot of medical bills out of Youkilis.

As I wrote in What Went Wrong: Injuries, it would have been surprising if Youkilis didn’t land on the DL at some point this season. Backs very rarely get better — ask David Wells or Randy Johnson, for example — at best they get more manageable. Youkilis had two back-related DL stints as well as several day-to-day type problems from 2010-2013, so the surgery was a long time coming. It seemed inevitable and the Yankees were left holding the cards when the time came. The team was in desperation mode after A-Rod’s injury and they wound up wasting a huge chunk of change for very, very little return.

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Cashman says Yankees "can't replace" A-Rod
Monday Night Open Thread
  • NYPLATOONS

    Age & The Yankees something the NY Yankees can’t get away from. Old Aging Players.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Easier said than done. Don’t want to get younger just for the sake of getting younger.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I haven’t been able to get away from age and/or the Yankees either.

      • WhittakerWalt

        Yeah, seriously. Eduardo Nunez is young.

        • RetroRob

          And Mariano and Andy were old (athlete wise, not human wise) and were excellent contributors. I’d take those two old guys back next year, but they have fishing plans.

    • OldYanksFan

      Really…. and with so many good, young, cheap players easy to find.

    • MannyGeee

      A lot of young players sucked this season too, in case you’re wondering. But we all know you’re not

  • mitch

    Since his stint with the Yanks was so short, can we all just pretend it never happened? I think the actual amount of time I stopped hating Youk lasted less than 7 days.

    • Chris in Maine

      This

      Also I’m sure that Red Sox Nation will forget that Youk played for the Yankees as well. If they can do that, so can we.

      • MannyGeee

        They’ve already forgotten David Ortiz took steroids.

  • Mike HC

    What a disappointment. I actually thought he was going to be a very solid addition and boy was I wrong. Pretty sure I can’t feel worse than the Steinbrenners though, who just paid 12 million dollars to a guy who killed them for the past decade, and got absolutely no production. Embedded Red Sox?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I was all for it as well.

      I honestly think he wanted to show he could play. Doesn’t pass the embedded sniff test for me.

      • Mike HC

        Maybe … Maybe … But just to play it safe, I’m in the process of Manchurian Candidating Phil Hughes as we speak.

  • mike

    actually its what happens when you cannot develop a minor-league utility infield prospect other than Nunez and Pena in the past (almost) 10 years….never mind a potential starter, or perhaps even an impact (not star) player.

    additionally, when you have players like jeter and Cano who never miss a game, its hard to get guys off of down years on a cheap contract who want to get stuck on the bench behind them

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Wouldn’t developing two utility players in the past two years be enough? We’re supposed to have a utility infielder factory somewhere in Scranton?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        The second “two” was errant there.

      • mike

        i think it switched over to the middling middle-reliever factory

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I hope the hours are better. Also, less blisters.

      • WhittakerWalt

        Haven’t you heard? We’re supposed to develop great starting pitchers, impact hitters at every position on the diamond, and quality middle infielders. All while picking ridiculously low in the draft every year.
        If not, CASHMAN FAILED.

        • Izzie Nutz

          Great reason to suck for a couple more years. Get some better draftees by coming in last.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      Brett Gardner says hi.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        Reading comprehension also says hi. Doh. Sorry.

    • MannyGeee

      Utility infielders who are good or really good are probably the hardest players to pin down, no?

      Name 5 impact UTIL guys in the league.

      Now name 15 mediocre ones.

      Now tell me how many of those mediocre ones you would rather have than Nunez at cheap money.

      Cashman failed for not making Robinson Cano the best utility infielder in the history of baseball.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Ah, Youk….we’ll always have…..not a whole lot.

    I’d say just seeing him in pinstripes was worth it, but not at the tune of what they paid him.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      But what about the triple play?!!

      • Robinson Tilapia

        History has somehow replaced Youk in that image with Brett Lillibridge.

        • Wheels

          *Brent. Ha

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    On a per inning basis, was he the highest-paid Yankee ever?

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Pedro Feliciano.

      • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Kramerica Industries

        for him, that number has to be infinity. Which means Michael Pineda is in his company.

        • RetroRob

          …but considering he makes minimum salary for MLB and will throw pitches at some point in 2014 (fairly confident he will), he’ll drop off the infinity list quite soon. Hoping. Praying.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Well played.

  • ropeadope

    Mike, this article quotes you on Youkilis (toward bottom of column):

    http://bleacherreport.com/arti.....n-youkilis

  • Fernando

    What a waste of money. The guy could never stay healthy and I prefer to forget he even wore pinstripes. Needless to say, he isn’t getting a qualifying offer.

  • SDB

    To add to it, we even got Sterling going ‘A NUKE FROM YOUK!’, which I would have been fine never hearing.

  • RetroRob

    So, do the Yankees invite Youkilis back in 2014 on an incentive-laden contract?

    • Algernon Blackwood

      I hope not. It was so embarrassing having him on the Yankees.

  • Tommy B

    I don’t understand why everyone insists on bashing and talking down about Eduardo Nunez??? He can hit the ball great!!! So his fielding needs improvement… So what?? If the Yankees ever decide to let him play I’m sure they can develop him into a great defender!!! Before you decide to make a comment on my statements, take a moment and think about Robinson cano when he first came into the majors. Wasn’t the greatest was he?? But by playing the game he has developed into the best second baseman in the league. Why sign people like Brendan Ryan to play short stop?? If the Yankees made the playoffs he would not have even been eligible to play!! So instead, why not let nunez play? Give him some game time and let him develop.