In 2011, Kevin Youkilis was an All-Star and appeared to be settled into a role as one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. Fast forward two years and now he’ll be playing his baseball overseas.
On Friday the 34-year-old Youkilis signed a contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan after not seeing any real interest on the major league free agent market this offseason. While his OPS has dropped for three straight seasons all the way down to .648 in 2013, it’s still shocking that Youkilis couldn’t find a big league team to at least give him a shot.
Youkilis was limited to just 28 games with the New York Yankees in 2013 thanks to injuries and he’s coming off June back surgery, but he should be completely healthy by now.
The three-time All-Star hit just .219 with two home runs and eight RBIs this past season and his WAR was a dismal -0.2. But again, he only got in 28 games and suffered through back problems.
Youkilis is a lifetime .281 hitter, with an on-base percentage of .382 and an OPS of .860. He has 150 home runs and 618 RBIs in his nine-season career. He also won two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox.
He will be joining a Rakuten team that won the Japan Series in 2013 and he will be a teammate of Masahiro Tanaka, the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball. Tanaka was expected to join Major League Baseball this year, but the Golden Eagles elected to hold on to him for at least another season. Tanaka was the league’s 2013 MVP and won its version of the Cy Young award as well.
Youkilis has to be hoping he can revitalize his career with a great season on Japan’s best team. It might actually be the best move he can make at this point in his career. He has gotten a guaranteed contract rather than inking a minor league deal with someone for what would essentially be a spring training tryout.