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Scarcity at third base raises stock of free agent Kevin Youkilis

Sox batter KevYoukilis follows through with first inning single Chicago White Sox 18-9 loss MinnesotTwins Tuesday September 4 2012 U.S.

Sox batter Kevin Youkilis follows through with a first inning single in the Chicago White Sox 18-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins Tuesday September 4, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 5, 2013 6:26AM



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kevin Youkilis’ agent heard the news about Alex Rodriguez while driving to the winter meetings.

While he and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn downplayed how the Yankees third baseman’s bad hip affects the market for hot-corner free agents, the buzz around the spacious Gaylord Opryland
Hotel is that there’s no getting around the ripple: Youkilis’ position just got thinner, making him a slightly hotter commodity than he was a few days ago.

Speculation cranked up Monday that Youkilis now will be a Yankees target.

“They’re going to be like the Red Sox with [Mike] Napoli — they’re going to overpay because they have to,’’ said one front-office executive, adding the market for third basemen — which the Sox and Cubs are both in — will be affected all the way down to the bargain hunters.

Every year there’s a position of scarcity on the market.

“This year it’s third base,’’ Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “It’s a good year to be Mike Schmidt right now.’’

Or even Youkilis.

Should the Sox not re-sign Youkilis, they will hope that Brent Morel is healthy and get protection for at least a platoon situation, perhaps looking at free agents Eric Chavez, Jeff Keppinger or Jack Hannahan, or non-tendered Cub Ian Stewart (whom the Cubs still would sign at their price).

Asked Monday, the first day of the meetings that run for two more days, Hahn wouldn’t assess the odds of bringing Youkilis and catcher A.J. Pierzynski back. He and Pierzynski certainly noticed Napoli signing with Boston for three years and $39 million.

“It’s a no-win situation when you put odds on a guy returning or not returning,’’ Hahn said. “The dialogue remains open and candid and, in my opinion, direct and honest on [Youkilis and Pierzynski]. We’ll have to see where the market takes them and us with the alternatives we have.

“[Youkilis] knows us. He liked his time in Chicago … and that’s one factor. Economics is obviously a big factor, as are family considerations and everything ranging from where spring training is to his wife’s preferences. It’s all part of the equation, but his time here, I think, helps us.’’

Time will tell. Said Youkilis agent Joe Bick: “No. 1, you look for every opportunity. No. 2, you don’t close any doors. So if additional opportunities [because of A-Rod’s hip] become available, you always do your due diligence and see where it leads.’’

When he heard of A-Rod’s plight, Bick said: “What went through our mind is that we have a free-agent third baseman, which we knew before we heard that news. But whether or not the team views it as an opportunity or an option, who knows? I don’t know that yet. All options are open.’’

Hahn downplayed the Rodriguez injury as far as how it would affect negotiations with Youkilis.

“Whenever there’s more than one team, there’s competition,’’ he said. “Whatever any other club might be up to probably hasn’t changed too much. I’m sure individual clubs are aware of their own players’ health statuses at this time of year, even before it gets out to the public. I doubt any extra clubs are in there today, but they might have been in there all along as well.’’

The buzz

Hahn gave another endorsement for Tyler Flowers, who will be the every-day catcher should Pierzyn-
ski sign elsewhere. He cited Flowers’ ability to handle pitchers and call a game and said the Sox would “not lose anything defensively” while having a “good, young hitter capable of hitting for power and getting on base fairly regularly, at a fairly healthy clip.” He said the Sox are prepared to go with switch hitter Hector Gimenez as the No. 2.

◆ Look for Pierzynski activity to heat up now that Napoli and Russell Martin (Pirates) have signed.

◆ Brett Myers, who wants to start, is no longer in the Sox’ plans.

◆ John Danks is on track to be ready by Opening Day, Hahn said.

◆ As expected, other GMs are asking Hahn about his pitchers in trade talks. He doesn’t want to part with any, but “in order to address other needs, we may well have to dip into some of that depth.’’

Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer



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