The Revolving Door, Turning One More Time

Marco Scutaro, you're the next contestant!

In the time it took between starting this post more than two hours ago and finishing it now, the Globe has confirmed the report and says it's a two-year deal. I'm pretty ambivalent. Two years is about as long as you want to get with a guy who's 34 and coming off his best season. I don't hold many expectations for Scutaro really providing anything that Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, et al. provided the Red Sox. Yeah, he was great in 2009, but before that his seasonal OPS+ lines were 79-85-96-88-88. And, yes, he improved his walk rate, but improved walk rates are also a potential indicator of massive cliff-falling in subsequent seasons.

Ultimately, it's a safe move, and one that lacks creativity, which is frankly what Epstein's problem has been with the shortstop position since 2004 — free agent signing after free agent signing. But there is some logic here, I think, that prevents this from being easily classified as the Sox just going out and getting the best free agent shortstop out there. First, the one thing a short contract such as this likely affords the Sox is the ability to eat the cash should Jed Lowrie's wrist permit him to swing the bat from the left-hand side again. If not, two years is just enough time to see if Jose Iglasius' nice Arizona Fall League performance is for real.

The Sox will also lose their first-round draft pick, which would make this an awful signing from my perspective had they not just received a better pick from Atlanta. And given they were thinking about this move before Billy Wagner decided to head south, it makes me think the Sox are serious in their pursuit of another Type A free agent whose talents might be more worth the draft-day sacrifice.

25 comments… add one

  • Sentimentally I would rather Jed Lowrie stay healthy and be another young guy to root for. But Jed Lowrie hasn’t proven he can do anything at the Major League level, either stay healthy or play very well. So this is a filler move, and as Paul says hopefully one in concert with another bigger signing (Bay or Holliday) of a position player.
    This move neither excites me nor pisses me off. It is boring. Scutaro is a guy I won’t remember in 15 years, unless the Sox do something special these next two seasons.

    SF December 4, 2009, 6:51 am
  • To answer Andrew’s question in the previous thread, “Why not just keep Julio Lugo?”
    2007:
    Lugo puts up a 65 OPS+, Scutaro puts up an 88 OPS+. Lugo has a decent season in the field, with a UZR/150 of 4.3. Scutaro overall has a poor fielding season, but in limited time a shortstop posts a UZR/150 of 2.6.
    WAR: Lugo 0.8, Scutaro 0.2
    2008:
    Lugo puts up a 78 OPS+. Scutaro again puts up an 88 OPS+. Lugo is below average with the glove, with a UZR/150 of -2.6. Splitting time between short and third, Scutaro excels at both, with a 20.3 UZR/150 at short.
    WAR: Lugo 0.8, Scutaro 2.7 WAR
    2009:
    Lugo puts up an 86 OPS+ in Boston before being released and ends up with a 98 OPS+ after feasting on NL pitching for 51 games. Scutaro has the much-ballyhooed 111 OPS+. But Lugo is laughably bad in the field, with a mind-boggling -44.7 UZR/150 while Scutaro is basically average in his first full season at short, at 1.0.
    WAR: Lugo -0.1, Scutaro 4.5
    Since the Red Sox acquired Lugo, he has been worth 1.5 wins above replacement in three seasons. That’s basically replacement level. Scutaro has been worth 7.4 wins. Even regressing last year’s career year to the mean puts Scutaro at around two wins better than Lugo per season.
    The Red Sox’ vortex of suck at shortstop last year combined for essentially replacement-level baseball. Scutaro is likely to be an improvement of two wins over that motley crew.
    Finally, one thing I neglected to look at last night: League-average OPS+ for the shortstop position: 89. Marco Scutaro’s career average entering last season: 86. Even if we totally toss out last season, assume the changes he made to his game are completely unsustainable, he’s providing league-average offense from a position that features only four other AL hitters with an OPS+ above 90.
    Given that, I feel better about the signing than I did last night. Two wins isn’t chump change in a division like the AL East, and it is only a two-year deal.

    Paul SF December 4, 2009, 8:13 am
  • I agree with SF. This is boring. I don’t think it’s an especially bad or good move. I guess the risk is that Scutaro reverts to his early career form and ends up blocking Lowrie’s way for too long. That would occur only if Francona didn’t know which way the wind was blowing.
    “And given they were thinking about this move before Billy Wagner decided to head south, it makes me think the Sox are serious in their pursuit of another Type A free agent whose talents might be more worth the draft-day sacrifice.”
    I think this might be true, but I also can’t help but read Paul’s secret desires. You want Holliday. You want him a lot. You’re ready to write a giant post about his greatness but are worried you might jinx it and he’ll end up a yankee. I seriously can’t think of another Type A free agent that a Sox fan would be excited about getting. Maybe Lackey? But I think you want Holliday.

    Nick-YF December 4, 2009, 8:26 am
  • you guys seem pretty luke-warm on this…when you combine your ho-hum expectations with the lost draft pick and 2 year commitment, i wonder why theo didn’t just pick up the option on gonzo, or try to work a similar 1yr/$2.75m deal that he settled for in toronto…what kind of money is scutaro getting?…maybe that’ll give it some better perspective…

    dc December 4, 2009, 8:30 am
  • Scutaro is a better player than Gonzo, so any improvement is a positive. Still boring though.

    SF December 4, 2009, 9:16 am
  • Damn, I would have loved to have seen Pedroia out there. At least that would have been interesting.
    All things considered, it’s the right move. The Jays really made it hard and they get the draft picks. That was perfectly executed.
    Why weren’t the Sox in on Hardy? He has the glove and his bat would have recovered in Fenway. For a team that’s had a few months to plan, they’ve been caught flat footed way too often.

    Jeff December 4, 2009, 9:27 am
  • I just don’t think Scutaro actually projects to be enough of an improvement over the other options to be worth the first rounder. Remember, he had a year that is extremely incongruent with the rest of his career. He will be 34 next year. The chances of him even coming close to last year’s numbers are almost nil.
    Also remember that Julio Lugo cost the Red Sox Rick Porcello. Who will Marco Scutaro cost them?
    One of my favorite trades of the decade (in terms of ones that benefit the Yankees) is the one that took Hanley Ramirez away from Boston. It’s already caused them no end of trouble, and will continue to do so for a very long time.

    AndrewYF December 4, 2009, 10:05 am
  • Money for Scutaro, according to Buster Olney:

    Terms on Marco Scutaro — $5 m. ’10, $5 m. ’11, $1 m. signing bonus. Mutual option ’12 — $6 m. p. option, $3 m. team option, $1.5 m buyout.

    $5.3M per annum for the next two years, not factoring in unknown buyout/option in 2012. Seems like less than what was being talked about.

    SF December 4, 2009, 11:00 am
  • i’ll leave it up to you guys to decide if it’s boring or not, but it’s certainly not a big splash…
    “…First, the one thing a short contract such as this likely affords the Sox is the ability to eat the cash should Jed Lowrie’s wrist permit him to swing the bat from the left-hand side again. If not, two years is just enough time to see if Jose Iglasius’ nice Arizona Fall League performance is for real….”
    couldn’t the same 2 goals have been accomplished cheaper with gonz?…so you don’t offer him arb, but give him 2 years $3m per…he got less than that from toronto…is scutaro that much better?…judging from most of the comments, i didn’t get that sense…am i missing something?…

    dc December 4, 2009, 11:23 am
  • One of my favorite trades of the decade (in terms of ones that benefit the Yankees) is the one that took Hanley Ramirez away from Boston.
    This is kind of funny. My favorite trades that involve the Yankees are typically the ones where they trade someone away and obtain a player or two that help them lose games, finish in the basement, and keep them from ever sniffing a World Championship.
    But I have f*cked up standards, so don’t go by me.

    SF December 4, 2009, 12:00 pm
  • Well, obviously those trades would be good too, but neither of our teams have made such trades this decade, so I went with the one that’s cost, besides one of the best young players in the game, multiple other players, roster flexibility, and general team performance, and will continue to do so at least through 2014.

    AndrewYF December 4, 2009, 2:31 pm
  • but neither of our teams have made such trades this decade
    No, but the Sox did make the exact opposite of this type of trade. It might have involved a shortstop, but I can’t remember. I am pretty sure there was a cost involved, but I keep thinking about the “return” on that trade, and instantaneously stop thinking about the cost as I get lost in the glee of the “return”.

    SF December 4, 2009, 3:19 pm
  • Of course, as a Sox fan, you have to like the trade.
    But as a Yankees fan, I can also like the trade. The Red Sox winning the World Series in 2007 had no effect whatsoever on the Yankees. What does affect the Yankees is their in-season performance against the Red Sox, and that has been improved, then, now and far in the future, by the Red Sox not having one of the best young players in the game in the middle of their lineup. And also not having Rick Porcello. Phew!

    AndrewYF December 4, 2009, 4:16 pm
  • And also not having Rick Porcello.
    This is irrelevant and nonsensical. Nobody knows who the Sox would have picked in that first round at the 20 slot, so it’s pure convenience on your part, and bordering on intellectually dishonest, to pretend that #20 pick would have been Porcello, the only guy after that 20 slot (up to #55, when the Sox picked next) who has contributed at the ML level.

    SF December 4, 2009, 5:25 pm
  • Oh I’m sorry, I was just assuming a modicum of intelligence on the Red Sox’s part. It’s well known that the only reason Porcello, a consensus top 5 talent in the draft that year, fell that far was because no one other than a select few teams who loved to pay overslot wanted to give him a major league deal north of $10 million. The Red Sox had up to that point consistently, and intelligently, been one of those few teams. To pretend that it was all up in the air is pure intellectual dishonesty.

    AndrewYF December 5, 2009, 1:23 am
  • If you want to start going through all the Yankee and Red Sox free agent signings and see which players they could have drafted with lost compensation picks had they drafted the exactly right guy in said future draft months later and then reassess all signings based on that criterion then go for it. It’s a foolish measure, and even more foolish and mistaken with years of hindsight.

    SF December 5, 2009, 6:55 am
  • It’s really not foolish in this case. I’m not saying the Red Sox signed Julio Lugo with the full knowledge that they were costing themselves Rick Porcello. I’m saying that they signed him with the full knowledge that they were costing themselves a first round pick, and that as it turned out, they could have had Rick Porcello. It’s hindsight, but it’s not too much of a leap to say had the Sox not traded away Ramirez, they likely wouldn’t have signed Lugo, and could have had their first round pick in which Rick Porcello was available. The Sox couldn’t have seen ahead of time what it would cost them to trade away Hanley Ramirez, but it doesn’t mean we can’t look and see what it has actually cost them.

    AndrewYF December 5, 2009, 11:19 am
  • Also, Rick Porcello was not a shot in the dark. He was ‘exactly the right guy’ because he was an incredibly talented high school player. He was a consensus top-5 talent in the draft, by far the most talented High School player, and every single person knew he would demand a humongous signing bonus. This was common knowledge at the time of the draft. To pretend it wasn’t, or that the Red Sox didn’t know this, lacks that ‘intellectual fortitude’ Paul has been talking about.

    AndrewYF December 5, 2009, 11:21 am
  • andrew probably thinks water is wet too…
    ;)

    dc December 5, 2009, 12:47 pm
  • It’s no surprise sometimes how some Sox fans can sound so ignorant. From Sox propagandist Nick Cafardo:
    “The last few days, baseball people were privately calling the thought of moving Dustin Pedroia to shortstop anything from insane to stupid. How on earth could you move an MVP second baseman, who might be the best second baseman in baseball, to a position that’s not only harder, but that he hadn’t played for four years?”
    http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2009/12/05/hell_be_a_hit_in_boston/
    Sure, a guy who slashes .283/.350/.406 on the road in his career might just be the best second baseman in baseball. Sure.
    Any one care to pull the Rentaria and Lugo missives while we’re at it?
    I’d still love to know how the heck the Sox let Hardy get past them, especially at the cost of Carlos Gomez.

    Jeff December 5, 2009, 3:23 pm
  • Hey look! Citing road stats to knock a Red Sox player? Now who on earth does that sound like? Hmmmm. That didn’t take long…

    Paul SF December 5, 2009, 7:05 pm
  • Maybe Cafardo meant it ironically, like saying 1 plus 1 might equal 3.

    AndrewYF December 5, 2009, 10:54 pm
  • It seems self-evident that Scutaro would not have been in the mix had the Sox not wanted to buy a couple more years to evaluate Lowrie.
    If Lowrie lives up to expectations, they can jettison or bench Scutaro without much cost, and be done with him after two years. If Lowrie hovers in limbo, they can platoon the two and decide in two years. If Lowrie is a bust, then they have a decent shortstop in Scutaro for two years, then go shopping for a star shortstop.
    It’s not a move that is going to make anyone excited now. But if either Scutaro overperforms, or Lowrie lives up to expectations, it will seem like a wise move; if not, the Sox can at least be said to have saved some cash for a big move at another position.

    Hudson December 6, 2009, 10:26 am
  • krueg December 7, 2009, 2:32 pm
  • The trade is for the Nationals’ pick in the Rule V draft, which happens to be the first overall pick. The Yankees must really like a guy.

    AndrewYF December 7, 2009, 6:25 pm

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