Like any baseball fan I've been spending a fair share of time on MLBTradeRumors this offseason, and I've been struck by the building interest in two former Sox: Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie.
Youk is a free agent and someone who many fans had hoped would return to Boston, although it doesn't appear likely. MLBTR lists six interested teams and Boston is not among them. One who is: Cleveland. It'd be interesting to see how a Tito/Youk reunion would go.
For what it's worth, Youk wasn't totally ineffective because of Bobby Valentine or the Boston environment -- it looks like he's just declining. His OPS in Chicago was .771 -- not as bad as the .692 he put up with the Red Sox before being dealt, but still a steep dropoff from the .833 of the prior year, and his .900+ OPSs of years prior. It's best to forget about his name and his history and remember that he's a player in relatively poor shape in his mid-30s. A .750 OPS is probably all that's reasonable to expect at this point -- and if he plays more than 120 games in a year I'd be surprised. I have trouble believing he will earn whatever contract he gets.
It's a little heartbreaking to read about Jed Lowrie. I never liked Lowrie as a player -- he just seemed like empty numbers and I thought he was an overrated defender -- but it's clear that Ben Cherington sold low on him. The shortstop market is notoriously weak, so much so that Houston would have to be "overwhelmed" by an offer to move Jed.
The one saving grace is that Lowrie is not going to be a perennial All-Star or anything, because while a useful player he can't stay on the field. He put up a .769 OPS last year, along with 16 homers, but only played in 98 games. Still, would we be better off with two years of Lowrie than four years of Mark Melancon? It's hard to say no.
What do these players mean for the future of the Sox? Nothing, directly. Neither is returning to Boston. But both serve as cautionary tales. In Youkilis, we were forced to deal off a somewhat useful player for nothing because of the toxic environment that had developed. In Lowrie, Cherington dealt an important position for an unimportant position -- even throwing out the results, it's hard to look back and think that was a good idea. At the time we were able to talk ourselves into it -- hey, Melancon had closed for half a season! -- but going forward, Cherington will have to treasure players up the middle and trust himself to build a bullpen from castoffs and reclamation projects like Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller.