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Directionless Red Sox hope for addition by subtraction

Jun 24, 2012, 7:13 PM EDT

Kevin Youkilis Getty Images

Make no mistake about it: this is a pretty nasty storm the Red Sox have had to weather.

The team has already had to use 41 players. The left fielder and the closer have missed the entire season so far. The All-Star center fielder has missed most of it. At one point, the team’s top five outfielders were all on the disabled list. Two members of the rotation are currently on the DL. The No. 4 starter and the expected eighth-inning guy both blew up. The All-Star second baseman was dealt a nasty thumb injury that limited his production. The All-Star first baseman has failed to produce.

That the Red Sox are 38-34 anyway is actually quite impressive and a testament to all of the talent on hand.

Still, if any word sums up the Boston franchise these last two years, it’s directionless. It’s constantly running through new plans, often abandoning old ones at the drop of a hat.

That’s how a team ends up paying someone to take its former All-Star third baseman and getting only a couple of question marks in return.

The Red Sox probably had no choice. Will Middlebrooks obviously needs to play regularly, which left Kevin Youkilis without a role. The offers weren’t exactly poring in, that’s for sure. Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge probably was the best they could do.

Still, the point is that the Red Sox left themselves with no choice yet again. It’s a recurring theme. They let the luxury tax rule their offseason, and in their attempts to save money, gave away Marco Scutaro and parted with Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie in order to rebuild their pen.

When they let Theo Epstein go to Chicago, they did so without working out compensation beforehand. In the end, all they ended up with was a soon-to-be injured reliever in Chris Carpenter.

The Red Sox probably aren’t through backing themselves into corners. They’ll have to figure out an outfield once Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury return. The pitching staff, too, could get overcrowded in a hurry if Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz return in early July and Daniel Bard gets things turned around in Triple-A. If they fail to reach the postseason, they’ll face questions about whether they should blow up the whole team this winter or carry on with the talented but overly expensive group of stars around now.

In the meantime, they’ll just have to hope Middlebrooks keeps producing despite his troubling strikeout-to-walk ratio. They won’t get any immediate help from Stewart, who will be a part of the rotation at Triple-A Pawtucket. Lillibridge, who was hitting just .175 this season, will serve as a fifth outfielder and occasional backup for Middlebrooks.

And they’ll carry on without Youkilis. He surely wasn’t going to be happy in a backup role, and given his history, he shouldn’t have been. Youkilis is definitely past his peak, but from 2008-10, he had a three-year run as one of the AL’s top three hitters. Even last year, he was still well above average at .258/.373/.459. Odds are that he’ll be a quality regular for the White Sox, and my guess is that he’ll outhit Middlebrooks over the rest of the year, though he’ll probably be good for at least one significant injury along the way. Even so, the Red Sox will end up missing him when all is said and done.

  1. Jack Marshall - Jun 24, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    Lillibridge is a 5th outfielder? How do you figure, unless there are more injuries? I see him behind Ellsbury, Crawford, Nava, Ross, Sweeney, McDonald, Podsednik and probably Kalish. I’d say he maybe moves ahead of Lin on the depth chart.

    • drewsylvania - Jun 24, 2012 at 7:47 PM

      McDonald is a returning outfielder away from being DFA’ed. His skill set is duplicated by Cody Ross’, and Ross does most of it much better.

    • Ari Collins - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM

      He’s reportedly a better defender than many of those guys, and he has more upside than some others. There’s a rationale, though I certainly don’t know the player well enough to know if it’s a good one.

      Currently, with the injuries, he’s probably 4th or 5th, don’t you think? At least until Sweeney comes back.

    • bigleagues - Jun 25, 2012 at 8:09 AM

      Lillibridge will be the 6th Infielder. He’s low cost depth. A luxury for the Sox. Stewart hasn’t been good with his first few cups – but his upside is good.

      Despite wiping Youk off the checklist . . . the Red Sox remain in a rare position where they may be buying and selling leading up to the deadline with Nava, Ross leading the way and quite possibly – I believe – one of their SP like Beckett or Buchholz.

      Two years in a row Buchholz has missed Starts due to intestinal distress. That’s diet and there really is no excuse for it.

      • sabatimus - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM

        This current diet could include an unhealthy dose of Bobby V…

      • bigleagues - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        LOL. It already did. Valentine kind of hung Buchholz out to dry for making his Start.

      • bigleagues - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:03 PM

        And for all those who love to excuse their own poor nutrition byway of pointing to pro athletes who also have poor nutrition . . . Buchholz has admitted that his diet consists of fast food and junk food.

        And if you don’t understand why that’s a problem, you just haven’t been paying attention. Good luck to you.

  2. rcali - Jun 24, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    Padre and Royals fans are crying for you Redsox nation

    • baseballisboring - Jun 24, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      no one asked you to cry…

  3. skeleteeth - Jun 24, 2012 at 7:39 PM

    Never been a fan of Youkilis but respect what he did for the Sox. Still, find this harder than shipping Nomar out of town.

    Also, anyone notice the lack of acknowledgement of Big Papi on that top step?

    • mornelithe - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:07 AM

      I did notice that, not sure if it was mutual, from Youk or Papi, but there definitely appeared to be some animosity there. I wonder if words had been exchanged during that whole players taking responsibility meeting, that Papi organized.

      Either way, I’m just happy Youk’s going to have a place where he can be consistently active. Must’ve been tough seeing the ‘new kid’ out there in your place everyday. But, it happens. Good luck Youkilis.

    • sabatimus - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      That might be somewhat due to the near-fight in the dugout between Ramirez (Papi’s best friend) and Youk a few years back; the reports were that the players were on Ramirez’s side on that one.

      • mornelithe - Jun 25, 2012 at 3:42 PM

        If both Youk and Papi are holding onto a grudge over something that happened a few years ago, regarding a piece of trash like Ramirez, they should both probably reevaluate their priorities in life. Yes, Ramirez had some exceptional production in Boston, but his transgressions were obviously quite glaring (to the point of getting physical with a team liaison over free tickets), to say nothing of his issues w/ PED’s.

        I’d like to think (maybe naively) that both are more professional than that.

  4. drewsylvania - Jun 24, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    Basically, this team is probably not making the playoffs. And with Middlebrooks showing he’s ready and needing to play every day, there weren’t at-bats for Youk. They basically got a couple of question marks for a question mark himself. Of course, naturally Youk will prove me wrong by batting .300/.400/.500 the rest of the year.

    • Ari Collins - Jun 24, 2012 at 9:31 PM

      They’re 1.5 games out of a playoff spot and have played .590 ball for two and a half months. But you want to sell off and rebuild?

      • hockeyflow33 - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:10 AM

        They have no pitching and certainly lack a closer

      • Ari Collins - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:57 AM

        Actually, they have a pitching surplus, which is great after last year.

        Their overall ERA is ugly, but when you adjust for Fenway park, they’re more middle-of-the-pack in xFIP. Which is fine given their offense.

        And the bullpen has been one of the best in the majors. And since the disastrous first month, they were third in the majors in ERA in May and have been first so far in June.

      • mornelithe - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:01 AM

        @Hockeyflow33: They have ‘some’ pitching, definitely not what people are used to seeing, not even close…but they have some. And Aceves is currently 8th on the saves list (tied with Francisco and Broxton), with an 85.7% SV percentage. Is he elite? No…but for a guy who’s been a Starter, and long reliever for the Sox, that’s pretty good.

        And they do have a closer, Bailey’s just been out with injury.

  5. teddyballgame09 - Jun 24, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    Youk was like a used car that broke down predictably and often, and after surgery, he’s damaged goods. Lillibridge is the best defensive outfielder we have now, plus we get an arm, plus we save Youk’s 13 million next year’s salary. What Youk was…..he no longer is. Now we ditch Darnell.

  6. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jun 24, 2012 at 8:17 PM

    If guys like Ellsbury, Bailey, Crawford, and Beckett can stay healthy, and that’s probably a big ‘if,’ the Sox could be poised for a big second half. At only 5 games back despite the never-ending injuries I wouldn’t rule out a wild card playoff spot yet.

  7. randygnyc - Jun 24, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    They ran Youklis out on a rail, right out of that “shit hole”.

    • Old Gator - Jun 24, 2012 at 9:17 PM

      Face down, one would hope….

    • badintent - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:55 AM

      Here’s what to do with that toliet seat of a field. Have Donald Trump buy it , tear it down, put up a casino and condo tower with putt-putt golf and name it Trump’s Dump. And move the Sox to a little league field, it will suit them but ban beer and chicken wings. And Hazel Mae

  8. spizotfl - Jun 24, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    As a Red Sox fan, I am sad to see Youk go, though there really wasn’t an alternative. I am unhappy that the return only added to the crowded 40 man roster. Wasn’t there someone in low A with a live arm and no control they could add? Couldn’t they have found a way to include Albers and clear a second spot? Eventually Ellsbury, Crawford and Bailey will be back and all will need spots on the 40 man. This was a time to clear roster spots without DFA’ing potentially useful pieces later and they didn’t.

  9. Ari Collins - Jun 24, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    I’m not sure where “directionless” comes from, Matt. They made some questionable decisions in the offseason, but that’s mostly in retrospect, as they traded two young but chronically unhealthy players for bullpen help, which seems a pretty clear direction to me. (If not a particularly great one.)

    “Backed themselves into a corner” doesn’t make much sense either. They backed themselves into a corner by having an excellent 3B prospect take a huge leap forward and demand playing time? And they dealt with that “corner” by downgrading from an underperforming starter to a bench player in order to save 3MM and ($9MM for luxury tax purposes) while opening up a spot for their young player? (And gaining a young reclamation project they can stash in AAA until they most likely decide he is, in fact, unreclaimable?)

    They’ll back themselves into a corner when their best OFs and pitchers come off the DL? Because… they picked up some spare guys to fill in for them? Guys who overachieved but don’t in any way block a better guy going forward from taking their place?

    What you call “a corner,” I call, “an abundance of decent-to-good talent at a particular position.” Sure, that’s kind of awkward, but it’s a First Division Problem.

    What should they have done differently? What direction should they have taken instead? What plan should they have adhered to?

    • mornelithe - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:11 AM

      Well said Ari.

      • wendell7 - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:42 PM

        The headline should have read: “Matthew Pouliot’s Directionless Attempt at a Red Sox Article”

    • riverace19 - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:02 PM

      Well Ari, since you asked what the Red Sox should have done differently, I will put in my $0.02:
      First move was letting Papelbon go. The majority perceived that Papel had to go, so fine, he had to go. They had Daniel Bard groomed to be his replacement and he had problems towards the end of 2011, but he should have inherited the closer job. INSTEAD, they made him a starter which never made any sense to me and now he’s in AAA. THEN, they traded a starting RF (Reddick) for always injured Bailey, and a starting SS (Lowrie) for another reliever in AAA (Melancon). Right field has been a black hole all season and while Aviles does a good job at SS, I’d rather have Lowrie in there for better or worse.
      Aceves has ‘saved’ their bullpen but these 2 trades killed their starting lineup.
      I thought picking up Shoppach was good, and Ross has the perfect upper cut swing for the Monster.
      When Middlebrooks started ripping the ball it was obvious he had to play. I thought Adrian Gonzalez did a good job in RF, which seemed to solve the problem. Then they trade Youk for essentially nothing and all they saved was $2 million. Right field will return to being a problem.
      I feel like their awesome 10-year run as being an elite contender is OVER.

    • sabatimus - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      One thing they should have done differently was not have Lucchino as the GM. Yes, Lucchino, because Cherington is just his lapdog.

  10. orelmiraculous - Jun 24, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    “They’ll have to figure out an outfield once Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury return”

    Umm, what’s to figure out? All-Stars Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford will play, along with Cody Ross. What’s the concern here? That Podsednik and Nava will have hurt feelings?

    “The pitching staff, too, could get overcrowded in a hurry if Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz return in early July and Daniel Bard gets things turned around in Triple-A.”

    Bard isn’t going back to the rotation, he’s said so himself, that’s old news. Considering that two spots are currently taken up by a career reliever (Morales) and a rookie on an innings limit (Doubront), I don’t think a healthy Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are going to be a problem

    Do some research before you grind your axe with inflammatory headlines.

    • Ari Collins - Jun 24, 2012 at 10:01 PM

      To be fair, Morales might deserve a chance to start. Even if it’s a small sample size, he should probably get to prove whether it’s a fluke or not. But it’s a good problem to have.

      And yeah, Matthew appears to be trolling here, even if I’m going to assume he believes what he’s saying.

    • sabatimus - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      I think Crawford should be traded and the Sox should eat his contract. He’s a bust. Nava on the other hand is playing fabulously and improved a LOT since he first came up.

  11. steelerfan55 - Jun 24, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    disgrace the way they took youk out of the game like that will miss youk

    • marshmallowsnake - Jun 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM

      But they had to. He was traded and both teams cannot risk injury.

    • Ari Collins - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:21 AM

      How was it a disgrace? He and the Fenway crowd got to say good-bye to each other. I can’t think of a better way to have handled that.

    • psousa1 - Jun 25, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      A disgrace? Do you follow sports?

  12. sandpiperair - Jun 24, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. Even if he hadn’t just been traded (which he had), “they” (Bobby Valentine) were able to take him out of the game in a way that allowed the Fenway fans to say goodbye. It was a great moment.

  13. giselleisasucubus - Jun 24, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    Hmmm, sounds to me like a sound move because they have a replacement who is totally outplaying him. You want to bet on Youk having better #’s the rest of the way? Name the number and I’ll take it. FYI- Bard isn’t going back to the rotation, he is going to the bullpen. Do your homework… I have never seen a case where having a surplus of talent is made to look like a team with no plan. Are you going to ignore the injuries too? Amazing, they are 38-34 after a ridiculous amount of issues, and people just want keep slinging crap at them. BTW- Bobby Valentine is doing a hell of a job with a bullpen filled with scrubs. That area is one legit area where they Red Sox upper mgmt just f’ed it up, I’ll give you that one.

  14. thetruth1313 - Jun 24, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Jeez Gator! I have never seen another man so adamant about another mans looks! Let it go, we know how you feel about Youk.

  15. skeleteeth - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:07 AM

    I’ll take a 7/37 BB/K ratio for 33 RBI in 40 games…

  16. cmcgly - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:14 AM

    “directionless” is a little strong of a word, lets give ben a little time to clean up theo’s mess

  17. dan1111 - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:49 AM

    I completely agree. This article makes little sense. The Sox’ main problem this year is injuries, something over which they have no control. Despite this, they have been heading in a pretty good direction lately: up in the standings.

    • aceshigh11 - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:24 AM

      Well, yes, but it’s more than that.

      There’s a VERY ugly, negative, nasty vibe surrounding this team, and it’s been there since their collapse last season.

      Now, of course, some of this is overblown Boston media B.S. When a team is winning, all of that negativity goes away and everyone is smiling and playing loose, but there just feels like something is fundamentally broken about this team.

      Carl Crawford’s been a zombie since he got here. Adrian Gonzalez has completely lost his power stroke. Youkilis has been miserable and angry for some time. Ortiz is always disgruntled about something despite playing brilliantly and making shitloads of cash. Beckett is a nasty, hateful piece of work who has had a negative effect on Lester and Buchholz.

      It’s just really weird…they went from the best team in baseball last August to missing the playoffs in less than a month, becoming a national laughingstock, and whatever infected them is still there.

  18. patsfiend - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    This article is BS. “Directionless?”

    • sabatimus - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      I think the article has some salient points, but “directionless” is a very poor choice of words, and incorrect.

  19. badintent - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:01 AM

    The Miller Truck is coming to a Red Sox clubhouse near them and you.How come no one mention that the bartender is Kim K ? Stay classy Boston, maybe Brady’s wife will show up and scream at the Umpire

  20. urfinished - Jun 25, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    Not a RedSox fan by any means, but kind of cool Youk finished his Red Sox career with a triple…sliding hard into third base where he played his ass off for many years.
    Maybe I can actually root for him now that he left Boston. :)
    As for Papi and Youk…I think a few are you are looking for something that isnt there. They arent best friends, but there was no animosity in that video.

  21. mornelithe - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Any team with $75,657,000 on the DL (Including their closer, and All Star CF and LF) is going to have troubles. That they’re only 5.5 games back from 1st in the AL East is a testament to their durability. It’s been a rough road for the Sox this year, but they’re doing what they can to keep themselves in it, and definitely playing much better now than they were at the beginning of the year.

    The Pitching Staff really needs to step it up though, of any problems they have, the pitching staff is where it’s hurt them the most. Doubront (5th starter) has outperformed Boston’s 1-3 Starter’s, though Buccholz and Doubront are tied for Win lead on the team. Doubront leads the team in K’s, and is 2nd in ERA, and WHIP. I’m sure if Beckett had started every game he was scheduled to start this season, Doubront would be clearly leading all statistical categories for the Sox pitching staff.

    • mornelithe - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:58 AM

      To put that in perspective, the Red Sox have more money on the DL than the Diamondbacks, Rays, Pirates, Royals, Astros, Athletics and Padres entire 2012 payroll.

      • sabatimus - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM

        Yep, and to put THAT in perspective, they’re 4 games over .500.

      • mornelithe - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        Which is only 5.5 games back for the lead of the AL East.

  22. hammyofdoom - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    I think I’m with every Red Sox fan where I say that I will miss youk a ton and he did a lot for this team for eight years. However, he hasn’t been himself since 2009, with only 100 games played in 2010 where he played great, and 120 games played in 2011 where he sucked. I don’t quite understand the media and baseball fans who are making a big deal about this trade…he was gone after the season at least, Will Middlebrooks is obviously a great 3B and Youk has not been healthy or playing great since 2009. It was time unfortunately for him to go

  23. jimeejohnson - Jun 25, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Red Sox 8-2 in their last 10 games. I’d say they are headed in the right direction. As for the Phillies, that’s a team headed in the WRONG direction.

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