There are only nine spots in a baseball lineup. And when a player who feels that he should be starting can't get into that lineup, it usually results in a trade, as it did in the case of the Red Sox and Kevin Youkilis.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said that dealing Youkilis was in the best interest of all parties involved, in an interview with WEEI's Dennis and Callahan Show on Monday morning.
"We got to a point several days ago where we decided this might be the best thing, if there is a trade we could find, it would be the best thing for everyone," Cherington said. "We have so much respect for Kevin, he has played his heart out every game he has been in a Red Sox uniform. So we wanted to see him find an opportunity and just the reality was that Will Middlebrooks deserves to play and Bobby's got to put Will in the lineup.
"It made for a tough situation and we tried to make the best of it for some time, moving Adrian [Gonzalez] to right field and trying to mix and match but it wasn't ideal," he added. "So we decided that if there was a trade we could find that made sense that we would pursue it. We had been working on it for several days and it just so happened that the White Sox one was the one we liked the best."
Youkilis wanted more playing time, something he will get in Chicago, while the Red Sox are now free to move ahead with Middlebrooks as their everyday third baseman, a spot the rookie has earned after batting .326 with nine home runs and a .949 on-base plus slugging in 41 games this season. The deal also provides a change of scenery for Youkilis and the man he was traded for, Brent Lillibridge, as both had struggled this season with their old clubs.
Cherington added that the haul the Red Sox received for Youkilis — pitcher Zach Stewart will head to the organization along with Lillibridge — is not as much as they could have gotten if Boston had elected to trade him following the 2009 season, when he finished in the top six in MVP voting for the second consecutive year. Injuries (Youkilis played an average of 111 games the past two seasons) and ineffectiveness meant that Youkilis was not as attractive to potential trade partners as he once was.
"Any time you are trying to trade a player who is not quite performing the way he has in the past and not playing a lot, you're not dealing from a strong position," Cherington said.