Is Marco Scutaro a Viable Option at Short?


One of my favorite writers is Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Every Sunday, Cafardo provides baseball fans a lengthy and informative piece on varying topics in the baseball world. His work today is no different.

One portion of Cafardo’s column is what he labels “Etc.” A separate part of Etc. is what Cafardo calls “Updates on nine”. He looks at nine different players, Red Sox player or not, and discusses a certain aspect of that player. This time of the year, it’s the ol’ “comings and goings” type of deal. It could be a possible rumor and/or possible signing.

Within “Updates on nine”, Cafardo piqued my interest with a blurb about Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro. Recently, Scutaro’s name has cropped up in trade rumors. One of the teams Cafardo thinks may have interest in Scutaro is the Cincinnati Reds. He also states that the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers could have interest, too. For informational purposes, Scutaro came in at #3 today.

"3. Marco Scutaro, SS, Red Sox — He will draw trade interest from teams at two positions, shortstop and second base. The Giants and Reds could see him as a shortstop, the Dodgers as a second baseman. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is likely to go with 28-year-old Paul Janish at shortstop, though, and the Giants may stay with Uribe"

Interesting. Not that far fetched really. This possibility doesn’t exactly induce a lot of excitement in me, though. It’s at least worth a look.

The Reds have temporarily departed ways with Orlando Cabrera. There is some interest to bring OC back to Cincy as has been documented by almost every Reds beat writer including Mark Sheldon. Sheldon had chatted with Reds GM Walt Jocketty on the Cabrera issue to which Jocketty relied that the Reds, which declined their portion a $4 million mutual option, would like to bring OC back at a lower rate. On a recent update, Sheldon, who chatted with Walt at greater length, offered this:

"“It was a tough decision. We’re trying to protect ourselves with payroll and all the arbitration guys we have and the things we need to do. We’re not ruling out the possibility of bringing him back but it will be a while before we know.”Jocketty said that Paul Janish stands to be the regular shortstop at this point, but obviously that would depend partially on what becomes of Cabrera."

So, it looks like Janish could be option #1…again. We saw that last winter and spring, now didn’t we?

Cafardo’s “offering” of Scutaro to the Reds comes with it’s pluses and minuses.

1. Scutaro can bat leadoff, a need in which the Reds are openly exploring according to Jocketty. In 134 games in 2010, Scutaro was slotted at the top of the order. His splits were .282/.336/.399. Cabrera’s stats for batting leadoff are a smaller sample, but were far less impressive. His splits in the 42 games where he topped the order were .225/.268/.297.

2. Scutaro has more power. In those same sample, Scutaro hit 11 HR while driving in 51. Cabrera, 0/12. Granted the opportunity for a leadoff hitter to drive in runs is much greater in the AL, but the power cannot be written off here.

1. Scutaro is slated to make $5 million this season. The Reds want to being Cabrera back at a price less than the $4 million option. No gain on the payroll aspect unless a potential deal includes a player making around $1 million or more to allow for Scutaro’s salary.

2. Scutaro is not a defensive upgrade. I’m no genius in the world of Sabermetrics, but I can see that OC’s range factor per 9 innings is greater (4.06 to 3.83) And OC’s range factor per game is better as well (3.84 to 3.76). Scutaro does grade out better defensively at second which would be a reasno why the Dodgers may have an eye on him.

3. Scutaro could become a free agent after 2011. There is a $6 million team option, $3 million player option along with a $1.5 million buyout.

4. Scutaro, 35, is only one year younger than Cabrera who is 36. Almost to the day, too (Scutaro: October 30, 1975. OC: November 2, 1974).

I have more minuses than pluses. And this deal really isn’t a practical solution. You get a guy who can bat leadoff, has more power, but you lose a bit in the field, makes more dough and isn’t that much younger. Considering the Reds were among the best defensive teams in the NL in 2010, the glove must be an asset. The defense proved to be valuable. And it was part of a plan.

Which brings us back to Paul Janish. Maybe it should stay that way, too.