By Mark Gonzales, Tribune reporter
11:58 PM CDT, October 11, 2012
Mark De Rosa? Kevin Kouzmanoff? Placido Polanco? Scott Rolen?
That’s the bulk of your 2012-13 free agent third basemen, unless you count first baseman Mark Reynolds, the only player to strike out more times in a single season than Adam Dunn but lower his strikeout total to 159 under Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley.
With the New York Mets feverishly trying to re-sign Wright to a lucrative extension, that leaves an undistinguished cast of potential external candidates for the White Sox to replace Kevin Youkilis at third base should he depart via free agency - a likely scenario.
It will come as no surprise to Youkilis if and when the Sox elect not to pick up his $13 million option for 2013. In fact, Youkilis chuckled when asked in early August about a Boston Globe report saying the Sox were inclined not to pick up the option, sensing the source of the story came from an office at 4 Yawkey Way.
Youkilis, 33, batted only three points higher than he did during his last 42 games with the Red Sox. But he slugged 15 home runs in only 80 games with the White Sox, his on-base was .346 (lower than his career average but higher than your typical White Sox player) and he displayed a knack for working deep counts — a rarity among most Sox players.
Also, he rarely got caught between hops and was one of the few third basemen who could take a step back and still retire a batter at first.
This marks the first time, however, in Youkilis’ career that he will be eligible for free agency, and that wasn’t lost on him during the final days of the 2012 season.
“The whole thing is a business,” Youkilis said. “Sometimes it’s out of your control. So, that’s part of the game and I learned that this year. Baseball is a business, so you have to …
“For me personally, I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve had a lot of fun. It’s great for my family in Cincinnati to come up and watch. But the future, who knows what’s going to happen.”
There will be no shortage of teams interested in Youkilis, who filled various roles with the Sox.
The biggest issue will be the health of his knee that he insisted was fine, adding that the source of his ailment was a bursa sac that required rest.
“The only thing you can do is rest, and in baseball there are no six (days) before the next game,” Youkilis said. “It will be fine in the offseason with rest.”
As much as Youkilis invigorated the Sox over most of the second half of the season, it came after Brent Morel suffered a mid-back strain and Orlando Hudson couldn’t make a successful transformation from second base to third (where he played for the first time since 2001 at Triple-A Syracuse).
Unless the Sox deal for a third baseman, Morel becomes the wild card at this position. Until his back pain flared up in spring training, he appeared on track to fill the position as well as the No. 2 spot in the lineup. The discomfort, however, was evident by his inability to extend on outside pitches and his unusually high strikeout total in the first five weeks. Scouts who watched him on his rehabilitation assignment and after his option to Triple-A Charlotte weren’t overwhelmed.
When asked about Morel’s status in 2013, general manager Ken Williams was direct.
“Hopefully he fits as a healthy Brent Morel so we can see what he’s all about and what he brings to a ballclub because he’s a pretty good player,” Williams said on the final day of the 2012 season. “But at this point, I couldn’t answer that question. I can’t answer that question without seeing him on the field in spring training.”
An emailer suggested an attractive but somewhat unlikely proposal — that the Sox move Dayan Viciedo from left field to third base.
Viciedo has played third in the past, possesses a strong arm and has maintained a weight level that has enabled him to move quicker than when he joined the Sox before the 2009 season.
But the Sox probably would hesitate to move Viciedo, who has played third, first, right and left fields in his first four seasons in the organization.
Barring a trade, Morel could regain his starting position — provided he’s fully recovered from his back problems.
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