Rumours are funny thing. Friday, it was rumoured that the Colorado Rockies were very close to acquiring Boston Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro. Less than half an hour after the initial report, it was leaked that talks had cooled; then finally, not long after that, the deal was nixed altogether.
Then last night, things picked up again with Troy Renck of the Denver Post reporting that it looked as though a deal would get done. Sure enough, it was confirmed not long after that the Red Sox had sent Scutaro to the Rockies for righthander Clayton Mortensen.
This is both a strange and intriguing deal for both teams. The Red Sox are clearly dumping salary as Colorado will be on the hook for all $6-million owed to Scutaro and it’s likely that they’ll use that extra $6-million to go after one of the remaining free agent pitchers on the market; Roy Oswalt makes the most sense. Colorado, meanwhile, needed a capable second baseman and Scutaro is certainly that.
But I’m still sitting here scratching my head in equanimical confusion.
Yes, Scutaro is about to enter his age 36 season and traditionally shortstops that age don’t do well, but he’s also averaged just less than 3.2 fWAR over the past four seasons and posted a career high in slugging percentage in 2011. He’s at least an average defensive shortstop and probably an above average defensive second baseman; he can also play third base and has even seen time in the outfield in his career. It seems as though Boston could have done significantly better than a 26-year-old sinker-baller with a career 5.89 tERA. Even at his age, players like Scutaro don’t grow on trees.
It also puts Boston in a precarious position regarding their starting shortstop for 2012. As of now, their depth chart includes such uninspiring names as Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and although Jose Iglesias’ defense is off-the-frickin’-charts awesome, he has yet to show too much in the way of offensive ability. The Red Sox need a starting pitcher and were clearly up against their budget; they must be close to signing an Oswalt-type, otherwise this deal makes even less sense, but trading a legitimate starting shortstop for unexceptional returns seems foolish.
Rockies’ GM Dan O’Dowd, meanwhile, pulls off quite the heist, but one still has to wonder exactly what direction the Rockies are headed in. Are they rebuilding? Do they think they’re contenders? Where exactly do they think they are? Not only did they acquire Scutaro yesterday, but they also traded away starting pitcher Kevin Slowey to Cleveland; a pitcher they acquired a mere month earlier from Minnesota.
The always great Matt Klaassen* wrote about the Rockies’ confusing direction earlier this month and the moves they’ve made in the last 48 hours continue to perplex.
The latest Slowey trade fits in with the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, the Chris Iannetta trade and more recently the Seth Smith trade. They all seem to point to a team embarking on at least a partial rebuild. The first Slowey trade, the Michael Cuddyer and Ramon Hernandez signings, and now the Scutaro trade have all the markings of a team on the bubble.
Both versions of the Rockies’ “plan” are plausible; they neither seem like a complete disaster incapable of contention nor a team that should surprise you with a rebuild, but their moves so far this winter seem schizophrenic and in the past teams like that don’t normally fare well.
Don’t get me wrong, I think O’Dowd grabbing a player of Scutaro’s calibre for practically nothing is an incredible move; even if he totally poops in the sheets he’s likely going to be worth more than the 1.2 fWAR they’re paying him for. I just don’t get the overarching plan; and that would worry me if I was a fan of the team.
This deal is a strange one either way and it’s difficult to understand why Boston was so desperate to get rid of Scutaro, even if a deal with a Roy Oswalt-type is imminent and they needed the budget space. If that is the reason they’re so hastily trading a valuable asset, why wouldn’t they wait and try to get more? Surely a team like the Nationals or the Cardinals would have been at least somewhat interested in acquiring Scutaro and that might have allowed Boston to start a bidding war of sorts.
I suppose, as a supporter of the Blue Jays, I shouldn’t be so critical of the Red Sox. It would be sort of amazing to see them trot out Nick Punto every day at shortstop for 2012, even if the rest of their team is quite amazing.
*Seriously, how is it that a scrub like me gets to share webspace with the writers on this site? I’m more than privileged.