Learning to Love Kevin Youkilis Won't Be Easy - NBC New York

Learning to Love Kevin Youkilis Won't Be Easy

Yankees sign a veteran with problems staying in the lineup to fill in for same



    Learning to Love Kevin Youkilis Won't Be Easy
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    Who will Joba Chamberlain throw at now?

    Kevin Youkilis wearing pinstripes. 

    There's something about that image that doesn't quite look right. There's no reason to be surprised by a player making the jump from Boston to New York -- not after Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon -- but it does take a little more sheen off a rivalry that's been losing its luster at a rapid rate in recent years.

    A clean-shaven Youkilis hearing "Youk" chants at Yankee Stadium will definitely take some getting used to, although it might be easier than figuring out exactly what the Yankees will gain from going this route. Youkilis is better than what they had on hand to play third with Alex Rodriguez out for an indefinite chunk of the season so the Yankees are a better team today, but this might not have been the best use of their resources. 

    Youkilis hasn't played more than 122 games in any of the last three years, his offensive production has dropped off dramatically in each of the last two years and he's not a good defensive player at third base. He still hits lefties very well, but he barely made an impression against righties last year which still leaves the Yankees in need of help on that front offensively. 

    We do look forward to seeing Youkilis work counts, a skill that's been in decline with the Yankees in recent years, and some rebound from last year is likely now that he'll be in a more pleasant situation than the dumpster fire he left behind in Boston. He hit better once he was traded to Chicago and Joe Girardi can use some names for the lineup card, but the overall picture remains the same. 

    It's another older player showing signs of wear and decline for a team that already has plenty in that department. Brian Cashman obviously feels that using such players on one-year deals to augment the ones already there on long-term deals is the way to do it in New York.  And the Yankees do keep making the playoffs. 

    It doesn't do much for the identity of the team, though. A bunch of aging mercenaries flowing through the clubhouse every year, renewing the idea that you're just rooting for the uniform just as much as seeing all those Red Sox defectors in pinstripes. 

    That's distancing, especially when the mortality of the team's core players becomes more and more clear with every passing injury. The Yankees could have 12-15 roster spots to fill for 2014 and it takes a good bit of wishing to see them filled by the kind of promising young players who can create a new core for the team. 

    It's not building so much as maintaining. And there comes a point where you can only slap so much more duct tape on before the whole thing falls apart. The Yankees are banking that this isn't the year that happens. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.