Red Sox lock up Youkilis through 2012
First baseman's four-year, $41.25 million contract finalized Friday
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Everything is right in Red Sox Nation.
Six weeks after second baseman and reigning American League Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia was locked up to a six-year deal, first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who finished third in the MVP voting, committed to be a member of the Red Sox until at least 2012.
After passing his physical, Youkilis' four-year, $41.25 million contract, with a team option for a fifth season, was formalized on Friday, making Youkilis part of the potent Boston lineup for years to come.
"It's exciting," said manager Terry Francona during Friday's news conference, held at Fenway Park. "Tying up young players in theory sounds good, but they also have to be good enough to handle giving your ballclub a chance to win every year, and that's not easy.
"And now, on the right side of our infield, you have a guy that won the MVP [and] a guy that came in third. Both guys are Gold Glove-caliber players, they both love to win, and we've seen them both come through our Minor League system, so that certainly provides us a huge comfort zone."
Youkilis, an eighth-round pick of the Red Sox in 2001, had his breakout season in his fifth year in the Major Leagues in 2008. The righty hit a career-high .312, with 29 home runs and 115 RBIs.
More importantly, he was a significant cog at the cleanup spot once the club traded slugger Manny Ramirez at the Trade Deadline. While hitting fourth for the Red Sox, Youkilis batted .299, with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs in 48 games.
"I never pictured myself on another team," Youkilis said. "All my buddies back home in Cincinnati said, 'You've got to come play for the Reds, we need a player like you on the Reds.' And I said, 'It's not that easy.' For me, I never saw myself on another team. I've always seen myself putting on that Red Sox uniform every day, putting on that 'B' on the hat. This is home to me."
Youkilis' signing is further evidence of the supremely talented farm system of the Red Sox, which features homegrown players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Papelbon -- who is arbitration-eligible this offseason -- and Jon Lester, along with Pedroia and Youkilis.
"We've made no secrets about our priorities here, that we want to develop a homegrown core of talent," general manager Theo Epstein said. "We feel like that's the best way, the only way, to achieve sustainable success year in and year out.
"It's hard to keep preaching that message if the only players you give money to are players that you bring in from outside the organization."
Youkilis' deal, which gives him a $1 million signing bonus, earns him $6 million in 2009, $10 million in '10 and $12 million in '11 and '12. If the club picks up his option for '13, he will make $14 million with a $1.25 million buyout.
The contract will cut into the first two years that he would've been eligible for free agency, but Youkilis, who turns 30 in March, doesn't see that as a problem.
"It can go either way," he said. "You could get injured and you could go into arbitration next year and not make your money. There's a lot of things that happen. Could I have made a little more money? Maybe. But I think the biggest thing, when you look at it, is, for me personally, like Theo said, it's not about the money. It's about going out and playing baseball."
Besides, for the remainder of his career -- however long that will span -- Youkilis doesn't want to go anywhere else.
"It's a great feeling to know that I might also have the opportunity to end my career here, too," said Youkilis, whose wife is from Boston. "That's one thing we've discussed. I would love to end my career playing for the Boston Red Sox. I always tell them I'm not looking to play until I'm 42, but I'm looking hopefully to end my career here with the Boston Red Sox."
Now this is news. Not a bad deal for a nice Jewish ballplayer!