Hot Stove 2010: Sox ink Scutaro
December 4, 2009 3 Comments
So much for the Dustin Pedroia at short idea. The first domino has fallen in the Red Sox offseason: with not much to work with in the shortstop market, the Red Sox decided to sign the top free agent, Marco Scutaro, effectively swapping shortstops with Toronto and giving them our first-round draft pick in 2010 (for now). Should we sign a higher-ranked free agent this offseason, another team would get our first pick and Toronto would be entitled to our second-round selection. Not to worry, though. With Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito both going to Atlanta, we won’t be shorted any selections overall.
I like that Scutaro is a polished veteran of the American League, and at least a sure-handed defender. He’ll gobble up grounders and avoid errors. I like his increasing on-base ability and his projected .360 OBP for this year. He’ll be an upgrade over anyone we had playing in the hole last season. I also like that fact that his contract is only for two years (with a mutual-ish? option for a third).
Like his defense, Scutaro doesn’t have a huge strength or a glaring weakness at the plate. He’s become pretty patient at the plate, steadily decreasing his swing rate over the years and swinging at just 12.3% of stuff outside the strike zone plus looking at an average of 4.07 pitches/PA in 2009. The Sox have to like that. Scutaro fouls off a ton of pitches and is hard to strike out. He is a very good contact hitter, smacking a lot of liners and he has learned to wait for his pitch, so Terry Francona can slot him anywhere at the top or bottom of the lineup, including leadoff or second, should anyone struggle or get injured.
However, there are some questions about Scutaro as well. Like Nick Green, Scutaro is actually a second baseman with some range, so that’s why the A’s began playing him at shortstop. That’s not the same thing as a real shortstop, so set your expectations accordingly. He’ll handle everything he reaches with aplomb, but he may not reach as many as we’d like. He’s also 34 and coming off a career year. Don’t expect him to repeat 2009, and you’ll be fine.