Kevin Youkilis expected to be traded soon

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UPDATE, 9:35 PM ET: According to Rosenthal, the Indians are now considered a “longshot” to land Youkilis and the Dodgers have only had “minimal contact” with Boston’s front office. It sounds like it might come down to the White Sox and Pirates.

3:52 PM ET: Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reports that the Red Sox are hoping Youkilis is traded today to the White Sox, Indians or Dodgers.

3:30 PM ET: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was told by a new source that the Pirates are “likely” out on Youkilis “at this point.”

2:00 PM ET: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is now reporting that the Pirates are “very much” in the mix for Kevin Youkilis. Of course, the Pirates have already benefited by getting A.J. Burnett from the Yankees for almost nothing, so they probably are thinking, “Why the heck not?”

1:44 PM ET: Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Dodgers are on the “fringe” of talks for Kevin Youkilis. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com have been told that the Pirates remain in the mix.

11:20 AM ET: It sounds like a deal could happen at any moment.

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald was told by a major league source that Kevin Youkilis will be traded “sooner rather than later” while ESPN’s Buster Olney was told by MLB officials that a deal could happen as soon as today.

It appears that the Red Sox are already making preparations for the post-Youkilis era, as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe hears that team officials talked last night to discuss possible roster moves in the wake of a trade.

10:01 AM ET: Kevin Youkilis could be entering his final days in a Red Sox uniform.

According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, the Red Sox are currently speaking with multiple clubs and are moving closer to a possible deal. The White Sox have engaged in “heavy dialogue” for Youkilis while the Dodgers are also in the mix. For what it’s worth, one official involved in the talks told ESPN’s Buster Olney yesterday that the White Sox may be “best positioned” to make a deal.

The White Sox could certainly use the the upgrade, as they have a major league worst .165/.242/.218 batting line and a .460 OPS from the third base position this year. Orlando Hudson is currently getting the bulk of the playing time at the hot corner while Brent Morel recovers from a back injury.

Youkilis is making $12 million this season and his $13 million option for 2013 carries a $1 million buyout, so the Red Sox are willing to absorb some of his remaining salary in order to acquire a potentially useful piece in return. However, given his lack of production this year and the obvious durability concerns, it’s unlikely we’ll see them get a player of great significance. This is mostly about clearing the way for hot-hitting rookie Will Middlebrooks to officially take over as the starting third baseman while ensuring that Gold Glover Adrian Gonzalez won’t have to continue shuffling between right field and first base.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.