NEW YORK — Kevin Youkilis and the Yankees reached a deal Tuesday, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press, returning the hard-nosed All-Star to the AL East and filling New York’s immediate need for a third baseman.
The one-year contract for $12 million is pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement.
Youkilis is expected to play third base while Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery. Rodriguez plans to have the surgery in mid-January and could be sidelined until the All-Star break or beyond.
Eric Chavez, A-Rod’s backup for most of last season, joined Arizona last week. The Yankees considered several options as a stopgap at third, including Jeff Keppinger and Mark Reynolds, but both accepted deals with other teams.
The Yankees made the offer to Youkilis last week at the baseball winter meetings. The agreement was first reported by Fox Sports.
Youkilis turns 34 in March. He played third base and first base last season for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox.
Youkilis was traded to the White Sox last June as Boston’s new management reshaped the Red Sox roster. He combined to hit a career-low .235 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs.
An All-Star in 2008, 2009 and 2011, Youkilis won a Gold Glove at first base in 2007. He is a .283 hitter with 148 home runs in nine seasons, and was on Boston teams that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.
For years, Youkilis was one of the more prominent faces in the fierce Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, and his intensity made him among the more popular players at Fenway Park. He and Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain had a feud that exemplified the ill will between the clubs — the inside fastballs that caused the trouble tapered off in recent seasons and now they’re teammates.
With the Yankees, Youkilis could also play first base to give Mark Teixeira a break and could be the designated hitter.
There is still uncertainty about when Rodriguez will return. He is a 14-time All-Star and baseball’s priciest player, with his current overall contract worth $275 million.
Rodriguez hit .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs last season, and is fifth on the career homers list with 647. He slumped to .120 with zero RBIs in the playoffs, and was benched and replaced by a pinch hitter in key situations.
Keppinger isn’t sure where he’ll play with the White Sox. He is certain Chicago is the place for him, though.
The White Sox announced a three-year, $12 million contract with Keppinger on Monday after reaching an agreement last week, adding a versatile infielder who could fill a hole at third base.
“I really like that city,” he said on a conference call. “I thought it would be a good fit for me.”
Keppinger is set to earn $3.5 million next season, $4 million in 2014 and $4.5 million in 2015 after hitting a career-high .325 in 115 games with Tampa Bay last season. He made 41 starts at third base, 23 at second, 21 at first and 19 as the designated hitter. The White Sox have an opening at third and there’s a good chance he’ll wind up there even though he never discussed that with them.
“I haven’t talked to anybody about where I’m going to play,” Keppinger said. “To me, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve played a lot of different positions throughout my career, and I feel comfortable at all of them. Wherever they want me to play, I’m good with it.”
Just as important, his right leg is improving. Keppinger broke his fibula when he tripped down some stairs at home early in the offseason, terrible timing for a player on the market. He said he’ll be out of his walking boot on Tuesday and expects to be healed by the start of spring training.
“I thought I just rolled my ankle and sprained it,” he said. “I’m wearing flip-flops coming down the stairs and slipped. I tried to catch myself and I just didn’t land right.”
Keppinger is a career .288 hitter over eight seasons with the New York Mets, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Houston, San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
“His versatility gives (manager Robin Ventura) some options to move him around the infield, which was part of the appeal for us,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Obviously, if we were to start the season today — which we obviously don’t — I would expect him to be the Opening Day third baseman, but there’s still a fair amount of the offseason to go.”
He said the White Sox are still in contact with other teams and free agents. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski remains unsigned, too, but Hahn had no update on that situation.
“We’re not going to give any update on it,” he said. “I think we’re better served by not providing conversation about conversations, blow-by-blow updates, on how the talks are going other than saying we’re in regular contact, and the dialog’s been very open and honest from our perspective about expectations and fit. We expect it to continue in that vein until there’s some resolution.”