MLB Rumors: Should the White Sox Pick Up Kevin Youkilis' Option?

The Chicago White Sox weren’t expected to be in the race this late in the season, but hey, here ...

The Chicago White Sox weren’t expected to be in the race this late in the season, but hey, here they are: 2.5 games ahead of the favorite Detroit Tigers in the American League east division.

A big piece to their success has been Kevin Youkilis, who came over from the Boston Red Sox in a trade during the final week of June. Red Sox fans refer to him to leaving as a curse, while White Sox fans refer to him as a spark.

Sure, his overall numbers aren’t anything to write home about (.254/.380/.469), but third baseman are hard to come by these days, especially experienced ones. And Youk is as steady as they come, health permitting.

Youkilis, who has a $13 million option that comes into play once the season concludes, will likely gain a fair amount of interest should Chicago let him test open waters. However, Chicago shouldn’t give him the opportunity to test the market.

OK, so he might not be worth $13 million. But who will skipper Robin Ventura pencil in at third base of Youkilis leaves the windy city? They might as well forget about finding someone in free agency as the pickings are slim.

David Wright could headline the group. Unless the New York Mets pick up his option (which they will), in which case he will only come through trade or in free agency in another year. Also, GM Kenny Williams would have to enter a bidding war with the Mets and several other clubs who have a hole at the hot corner to obtain Wright.

Then, the rest of the crop boils down the likes of Placido Polanco, Mark Reynolds and Brandon Inge. Any intriguing options in that group? I don’t think so.

Youkilis’ best days are unfortunately behind him. At 33 years-old, he’s no longer the intimidating force that he once was. The struggles ultimately stem back to 2011 when he hit for a triple slash of just .258/.373/.459.

At first, the slippage was deemed a fluke and few Red Sox fans wanted to face the truth that his talents were actually starting to slip. Seeing that he had a batting average over .300 from 2007-2010, it’s easy to see why Boston fans deemed his abysmal campaign a one-off. However, 2012 has proven that 2011 is the beginning of the downturn for Youkilis.

After having his tenure in Boston come to an emotional end as he was treated to a standing ovation after being notified that he had been traded, it looked as if Chicago revived him. Not only from a statistical standpoint (.347/.418/.571 in his first 13 games with Chicago), but he appeared to have a little more bounce to his step.

Often, that’s what a slight change of scenery will do to a player. Whether it lasts is the important tidbit. Youkilis has followed the latter script. He’s hit just .219/.366/.430 since the All-Star break and the bounce has vanished. However, he still remains the team’s best option at the hot corner.

The White Sox have two choices to juggle around. One, let Youkilis walk and try to re-sign him to a more reasonable contract. And yes, $13 million is overpaying for a veteran that is leaving his prime. Two, pick up his option. Obviously, the first alternative is risky.

Not only are they letting him filter offers from other teams, but they’re ultimately letting him test a sparse third base free agent market. And you would have to assume that some team will overpay for his services just because there’s a lack of third baseman. And he is still Kevin Youkilis.

Fangraphs has Youkilis’s 2012 season worth nearly $6 million. That number still has time to decrease or increase, but it’s most likely not going to eclipse $10 million. For comparison, he was worth about $17 million last year.

So in all reality, the question is whether or not Chicago wants to overpay for Youk. Chicago has limited alternatives in the minors to make the situation even stickier. Why did Chicago acquire Youkilis in the first place, though? Because they needed a third baseman.

If the White Sox option to let Youkilis go, that will become a need. Frankly, it’s a need they can’t fill very easily.

This article was originally written at MLB Reports.

Photo Credit: Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

MLB Reports is a partner of FootBasket. You can see more about them at their website. Follow them on Twitter @MLBReports

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