Yankees agree to terms with nemesis Kevin Youkilis
But come Opening Day, they'll be scrambling for reasons to cheer.
The Yankees' bizarro offseason took its latest twist Tuesday when the longtime foe agreed to terms on a one-year, $12-million pact, according to multiple sources, who said the deal is pending the completion of a physical.
By the time Youkilis' signing is official sometime this week, a source said that the Yankees likely would be on the verge of another critical offseason move, re-signing veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal of his own.
In tandem, the moves will allow the Yankees to fill openings left by injuries and free- agent defections.
Ichiro, 39, is expected to play rightfield, filling the void left by Nick Swisher. Youkilis, 33, will fill in primarily at third base as Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery that is expected to sideline him for at least half the season.
When Youkilis is not at third, sources said the Yankees intend to use him at first base and at designated hitter, where his righthanded bat will add balance to a lefty-heavy lineup.
On the surface, Youkilis appears to be an odd choice. But in nine seasons, spent almost exclusively with the Red Sox, Youkilis is a .283 hitter with an on-base percentage of .384. The three-time all-star and two-time World Series champion also has displayed power with 148 career homers.
Youkilis' successful run in Boston ended last summer with his trade to the White Sox, for whom he hit .236 with 15 homers and 46 RBIs.
It was during his time with the Red Sox that he became an easy target for Yankees fans. Through the years, his bad blood with Chamberlain led to several testy exchanges, adding fuel to an already tense rivalry. His quirks at the plate, including his unorthodox batting stance, have long invited scorn from Yankees fans.
Philosophically, Youkilis' plate approach is already in line with that of the Yankees. He is known for his patience and the ability to draw walks while providing some needed pop from the right side.
Once Rodriguez's injury was revealed, Youkilis emerged as a solution. After missing out on initial targets such as Jeff Keppinger, the Yankees offered Youkilis a one-year deal before leaving last week's winter meetings. An agreement appeared more likely earlier this week when the Indians, considered one of his strongest suitors, chose to sign Mark Reynolds.
The Yankees essentially matched Youkilis' 2012 salary to bring him aboard. By accepting a one-year deal, he proved to be a fit for the budget-conscious Bombers, who are determined to keep payroll under $189 million in 2014.
But Youkilis' signing comes with some risk. Various injuries have limited him to an average of 117 games over the last three seasons.
Despite a strong finish in Chicago, Youkilis is coming off perhaps his least productive season since 2004. And his defense at third has dropped off with age.
Nevertheless, he remains a force against lefties, hitting .275 with an on-base percentage of .386 against them last season.