Alex Speier of WEEI reports that Kevin Youkilis has reached an agreement to play for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan in 2014.
Youkilis’ 2013 season was a lost one. He signed a $12 million deal with the Yankees, but he was racked with injuries, playing in only 28 games and hitting a meager .219/.305/.343 with two homers. Youkilis hasn’t played more than 120 games since 2009, though he was a superior hitter as recently as 2011. Just a case of the guy’s body not holding up at all.
Best case: Youkilis kills the ball for Rakuten for a season and rebuilds some value for a late-career return to MLB. Worst case: Golden Eagles fans get to see a funky batting stance for a while.
You’re never too old to start learning how to play first base. Delmon Young, shockingly only 28 years old, has never played a single inning at first base in his entire professional baseball career, but he has been working out at the position lately in order to make himself more attractive as a free agent, tweets Ken Rosenthal. At his current positions, corner outfielder and designated hitter, he is a remarkably poor defender or doesn’t hit enough to justify the position, respectively, so a move to first base somewhat mitigates each of the two downsides.
Young started the 2013 season with the Phillies when they signed him to an incentive-laden one-year contract. Aside from the performance incentives, the Phillies also paid him $100,000 every time he passed one of six weigh-ins, a method the team used to inspire him to cut his weight. As Rosenthal mentioned in his tweet, Young is down to 219 pounds. He was listed at 240 pounds. He posted a .699 OPS with the Phillies before they released him in mid-August. The Rays, the team which originally drafted him, picked him up for the stretch run. Young posted a .780 OPS in 70 trips to the plate for them.
It is a bit unfortunate for Young that he is choosing to move to first base now because the market has plenty of first base options available, both via free agency and via trade. James Loney, Corey Hart, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, and Kevin Youkilis are free agents. Meanwhile, Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, and Justin Smoak are reportedly available via trade at the right price.
First baseman James Loney had a career rebirth of sorts in 2013 with the Rays and the team would like to bring him back, but not at his current asking price, reports Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Loney is currently seeking a three-year, $27 million deal.
If the Rays have to search for a first baseman elsewhere, the free agent market is rather barren at the position. Corey Hart, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, and Kevin Youkilis are at the top of the list. Topkin suggests the Rays might be more motivated to make a trade, particularly because they would like a left-handed hitting first baseman. Among the lefty first basemen that could be acquired in a trade: Logan Morrison, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, and Justin Smoak.
As for Loney, he finished 2013 with a .778 OPS, his highest mark since 2007. He also finished with 2.7 WAR (per Baseball Reference), matching a career-best. Loney had joined the Rays on a one-year, $2 million deal but now that he has boosted his value, the 29-year-old is seeking both a significant raise and a multi-year contract.