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.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.