Saturday, December 05, 2009

Scutaro to Sign with Red Sox?

According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox have agreed to a two year deal with former Blue Jays' shortstop, Marco Scutaro, with an option for a third year. The cost of the deal hasn't been announced. Of course, with the Red Sox, the cost is irreverent as they have the money to spend. But this is a good deal for the right amount of length for the Boston team.

Scutaro might have had a career year in 2009. He had the most At Bats of his career. The Blue Jays put Scutaro at the top of the lineup and he responded with 90 walks, good for a .379 OBP. He scored 100 runs and played exceptional shortstop. He played so good at short, that he probably should have won the gold glove, with only ten errors and a RTOT well above league average. Scutaro also brings some flexibility as he can play the outfield and third. In fact, he's probably even more exceptional at third than he is at short (see his 39 RTOT at third in 2008).

There are two troubling things about the deal. Well, make that three. First, he is 34 and it seems unlikely that he is going to get better than he is. Secondly, he DID have a career year. His .282 batting average was far over his career .265 mark. Was 2009 an anomaly or can he repeat it this coming year. It certainly appears that he made a vast improvement in his pitch selection and it seems unlikely that this new found skill would diminish.

The third troubling part of this deal is that he couldn't have been terribly expensive, which makes one wonder why the Blue Jays wouldn't have wanted to sign him for a couple more years anyway. But you also have to wonder if the Blue Jays had any chance at signing him to begin with. First, Scutaro gets to go to one of the blue chip teams. Secondly, he gets a much better chance to participate in the post season. Lastly, he goes to a proven organization that just seems to be smarter than their counterparts. And also consider that if the money was about the same, the U. S. dollars are worth more (at least for the moment anyway).

The deal also brings up two other debates. First, Scutaro is a better player than any of the Red Sox' current shortstops, so forget the first debate. Forget the Fan mentioned it. But the other debate is where in the order Scutaro bats. The signing will bring up the age-old debate of if you'd rather have a high on base guy at the top of the batting order despite whether he has speed or not (Scutaro had 14 stolen bases in nineteen attempts). Scutaro isn't a catcher, and runs decently, but Jacobe Ellsbury stole 70 bases, but had an OBP 24 points lower than Scutaro. In the Fan's opinion, Wade Boggs was the second best lead off man in history behind Henderson and Henderson could run faster going backwards than Boggs could going forward. But, man, Boggs scored a lot of runs.

A player who gets on base is today's baseball nirvana. Everyone wants that and covets it. But it's hard to break out of the thinking that the lead off guy has to run like a deer. Ellsbury figures to get better plate discipline as he gets more experienced, but his walk rate did not increase dramatically this past year (7.0 percent compared to 2008's 6.7), so it does not appear that he grew any more likely to take a walk in his third full year. The Fan would start Scutaro at lead off and bat Ellsbury second.

This deal will give Blue Jay fans more reason to believe that the rich get richer in the AL East and it would be hard to blame them. But the Fan isn't convinced that Scutaro (not counting defense, where he is superb) will be able to duplicate his 2009 stats. History is not on his side.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Neither are a lot of Red Sox fans. But the jump from 57 BBs to 90 BBs has me convinced that he's finally learned to be a patient hitter.

A little late in his career, but I don't think it's an aberration. The .400+ SLG might be an aberration, but he could conceivably do it again playing at Fenway.

If Scutaro provides solid defense and is league average at the plate, he'll help this team.