(Photo by Sam)
Well, by now the news is old, every "Marco Polo" and "Scooter" reference has been used, and the long national nightmare of moving a gold-glove MVP out of position in the infield is finally over. And the latest white knight to attempt to fill the shortstop-sized hole that's been in our hearts since Nomar and Hanley Ramirez were traded heads to town in the form of Marco Scutaro.
I went on record at the time Josh Beckett was acquired saying I didn't like that deal. I still don't like having lost Hanley Ramirez, in a vacuum, but have long since eaten crow over my assessment of Josh Beckett as little more than a DL-frequenting head case. Before last season, I went on record again saying I liked the deals for Brad Penny and the other projects the Sox signed, appreciating their frugal approach while the Yankees broke the bank again for (I thought) overpriced free agents. I think we all know how that worked out.
So whatever I think of a deal, it's probably wisest to assume the opposite will be the outcome.
I can see how the Sox might have wanted to take a gamble on Scutaro over Alex Gonzalez based on last year's hitting numbers and the general consensus that we desperately, DESPERATELY need some better bats up in this. Last year he posted some career-high numbers, including (via Red Sox Monster) batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.379), slugging percentage (.408), hits (162), runs (100) home runs (12), stolen bases (14), and walks (90).
"Not that he's due for a letdown or anything," adds the Monster's Dan Lamothe. Yeah, World Series or no World Series, we remain a cynical bunch.
In terms of the pure numbers, depending on how you look at it, Scutaro is either a moderate improvement over Gonzo or a wash. Gonzalez put up a career-high season-long batting average of .277...in 1999. Last year with the Red Sox, in 44 games, he batted .285 / .316 / .485. Judging by the splits it seems Scutaro gets on base more often, which is certainly something we need.
I am sure Scutaro will be at least passable; the Sox won the World Series with Julio Lugo, after all. But he also doesn't seem to be what we all actually seem to be longing for, which is the Once and Future Shortstop, the big-time franchise guy. And more offense is always appreciated wherever we can get it. So basically, you can put me down on this move with a resounding 'eh.'
The Sox may have signed Scutaro to a two-year deal with an option because they're eyeing another prospect rising through the ranks. Oscar Tejeda is often mentioned, but according to the SoSH wiki he does not have a plus bat. Casey Kelley is also frequently a part of the discussion, but he is a two-way prospect who could also be a pitcher, so it's unclear where he'll end up.
At the time we traded Ramirez for Beckett, I was horrified, but this off-season I'd like to see a similarly sized move to revamp the Red Sox roster. They need power, leadership and most of all, they need to shake things up. The Sox approach has never been a pure moneyball approach -- they have always said they will balance farm development with strategic free-agent acquisitions. Now's the time to make at least one.