I'm not sure what you're saying. Yes, I think Middlebrooks has played well enough to win the starting job. He's currently sporting a .863 OPS after being above 1.000 in AAA. That's slightly better than Youkilis was last year, and of course much better than Youkilis has been this year. My bet would be that Middlebrooks will probably be better than Youkilis for the rest of the year.
Thus, Youkilis is not "a valuable piece of the puzzle." He's an obstacle to a better player playing every day. You trade him because if you can get something valuable in return then you've made your team better both by addition and subtraction.
I guess this is where I differ from you.
I think Middlebrooks will be a solid MLB player and he's the future at third. But just like Reddick last year, pitchers are starting to learn where the holes in his swing are and they'll soon begin to ruthlessly exploit those holes until Middlebrooks learns to adjust. There's nothing wrong with this and it's not a criticism of Middlebrooks at all. But I have no confidence that he'll be more productive than Youks for the remainder of the year.
Assuming he stays healthy - and yeah, that's a big if - I expect Youks to start hitting and playing much better. And because I don't expect the Sox to get anything significant in return for him right now, I think that's his greatest value to the team. If Middlebrooks has to go back down or sit for stretches to let this happen, it's not the end of the world. And if I'm wrong and Youkilis struggles, Middlebrooks can always take over.
I just don't see a downside to playing Youkilis regularly until he either snaps out of his funk and can be moved for fair value or the team concludes that he's toast and they can't wait. But we're clearly not there yet.
Edit: Middlebrooks trying hard tonight to make me erase my entire post.
Edited by Average Reds, 21 June 2012 - 09:09 PM.