|KEVIN YOUKILIS: Versatility valuable to Sox (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Coming off a season in which Kevin Youkilis earned his first Gold Glove - and backed it up with a nice offensive performance - the Red Sox first baseman will get a hefty raise in 2008.
Youkilis agreed to terms yesterday on a $3 million contract for the '08 season, continuing the Sox' streak of never having gone to an arbitration hearing in the Theo Epstein era.
But Youkilis did not get quite the raise he was hoping for, signing for less than the midpoint between the amount he asked for and the amount the Sox offered when the sides exchanged numbers Jan. 18.
Youkilis, who turns 29 March 15, had asked for $3.7 million, and the team offered $2.525 million. Youkilis earned $424,500 last season, after the sides could not come to a contract agreement, leading the Sox to renew him at that number. This was the first time Youkilis was eligible for arbitration, which is an option for players who have from three years of service time to less than six years.
The first baseman did not commit an error at the position last season, and had a .288 average in the regular season, hitting 16 home runs, scoring 85 runs, and driving in 83.
Youkilis really exploded in the postseason, helping the Sox to the title. In the American League Championship Series, Youkilis went 14 for 28 with three home runs, seven RBIs, 10 runs, and five walks as the Sox defeated the Indians in seven games.
Youkilis's regular-season numbers were good enough to rank him third among qualifiers at first base in batting average, second in OBP, and second in OPS.
With the Sox having signed Sean Casey to back up at first base, Youkilis again will be relied upon for his versatility, likely backing up Mike Lowell at third.
Youkilis played third base in the minor leagues before switching to first base for the Sox, his first full season at the position coming in 2006. He has become excellent at first, going without an error in 1,094 innings over 135 games last season, though he did make three errors at third base in 13 games.
The other two Sox who had been eligible for arbitration, pitchers Javier Lopez and Kyle Snyder, already have signed. Snyder exchanged numbers with the team, then agreed to an $835,000 contract; Lopez filed before agreeing to an $840,000 deal.
The closest the Sox have come to arbitration was last season, when Wily Mo Peña came to terms about an hour before he was scheduled to meet with the three-member panel that decides such situations.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.