Are Sox short without Scutaro?


It’s a good thing the Super Bowl is still some 12 days away. Because it might take Red Sox fans that long to realize Marco Scutaro is no longer the team’s shortstop.

Under the cover of Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal attempt on Sunday, the Red Sox traded their best shortstop to Colorado for Clayton Mortensen, a pitcher whose career team total (four) now equals his career victory total (4-8, with a 5.12 ERA) and who by the age of 26 has already achieved status as journeyman.

This means, apparently, the Red Sox’s shortstop position will be manned in 2012 by a platoon of Mike Aviles and Nick Punto. Trying to reach the World Series with that ankle brace is a little like trying to get to the Super Bowl with a flawed defense. There are better ways to pay tribute to the Pats.

That the Red Sox sprung the deal on Sunday is presumably no accident. If they were looking for maximum exposure to share the good news of Mortensen’s acquisition, is there any chance they would do it on a day the Patriots reached the Super Bowl?

Of course, who can blame them. The Yankees arm their pitching staff with Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda; the Red Sox arm theirs with Clayton Mortensen. If the Sox are bringing a knife to a gunfight, it’s a butter knife. And a small one at that.

Dealing Scutaro wasn’t about getting Mortensen, but saving money, which would make sense if the Sox were the Rays. But here we are in January, and the Rays are taking on costs — adding Luke Scott and Carlos Pena — and the Sox are deleting them. It must be reassuring for Sox fans to see their 2012 team assembled with the help of Groupon.

Trading Scutaro might make more sense if the Sox had a younger shortstop waiting his turn. But the oft-injured Jed Lowrie is already gone, and the oft-hyped Jose Iglesias may never arrive as promised (Iglesias is a 22-year-old Cuban defector whose glove may remind scouts of Ozzie Smith, but whose bat and career .624 OPS more closely resembles Rey Ordonez).

The Sox’s story line is that they needed to save Scutaro’s $6 million salary to sign outfielder Cody Ross today — is a right field platoon of Ross and Ryan Sweeney any more palatable than an infield one of Aviles/Punto — and maybe to sign a starting pitcher (Roy Oswalt?) or trade for one (Matt Garza?).

Plus, Scutaro is 36, perhaps brittle and unlikely to repeat 2011’s .781 OPS — which begs the question then of why the Sox signed him for three years. Aviles hit lefties (.924 OPS in 2011) and Punto righties (.814 OPS ) better than Scutaro did either last year, which works in theory (forgetting that Punto’s career OPS vs. righties is 162 points less than 2011’s, and he’d be getting the majority of the playing time in that platoon). But what happens when opponents change pitchers? Darnell McDonald? Aviles, Punto and Iglesias just about add up to one shortstop; so did Scutaro, and he took less roster space.

The Sox’s roster, as of now, is like an incomplete gin rummy hand: two of a kind here, two in a row there, lots of potential but not enough substance. No one will be winning the AL East by drawing to an inside run, as the Sox seem to be trying to.

Last year the Sox built up expectations and disappointed fans. This year, perhaps, they’re doing things in reverse. Sox fans can only hope the eventual buildup is as great as last year’s letdown.

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6 Responses to Are Sox short without Scutaro?

  1. toosoxy says:

    We shouldn’t be surprised. The Sox shortstop position equates to a Spinal Tap drummer.
    Scutaro really grew on me this year…
    I’m just going to take a breath and hope it gets better…

  2. Jeff Navin says:

    As a fan of the New York Yankees, I am delighted that Marco Scuataro is no longer with the Boston Red Sox. He was a Yankee killer. Just ask Mariano Rivera.

    • Soxy — I’m going to have to check the Spinal Tap reference. My familiarity with rock drummers ends with Keith Moon’s death. As for the Sox, not much good has happened since the middle of September; this offseason should be filled with angst. I don’t think my remote control is going to make it through 400 plate appearances of Nick Punto this summer. And Jeff is, of course, right, on the Rivera question, which I forgot about. Scutaro hit him like no Sox player since Bill Mueller. Not sure Ryan Sweeney or Mike Aviles is going to be hitting the Monster in the ninth inning like Scutaro did.

  3. As a Yankees fan, I always enjoy reading a Red Sox fan ripping on the Red Sox. So thanks, Dave. And tooSoxy gets big points for the Spinal Tap reference. Where have you gone, Orlando Cabrera? Red Sox Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

    • Lighthouse, I have no problems ripping the Red Sox when I think they deserve it (and subjecting Red Sox fans to too-much Nick Punto warrants it). Partisanship and objective commentary are not mutually exclusive.
      Interesting thing about the recently retired Orlando Cabrera (he might still be a better option at shortstop than NP): though the mention of Cabrera’s name is supposed to equate with stability at shortstop for the Sox, he played just 72 games for the Red Sox out of 2022 (regular season and postseason) in his career.

      Here are the Sox’s shortstops since Cabrera: 2005- Edgar Renteria (30 errors, $8 mill); 2006-Alex Gonzalez (.299 on-base percentage, $2.6 mill); 2007-Julio Lugo (.294 on-base, 82 strikeouts, $8.2 million); 2008-more Lugo (.330 slugging and 16 errors in 81 games, $9.2 mill) and Alex Cora (.719 OPS, $2 mill); 2009-Nick Green (.303 on base, 69 strikeouts and 14 errors in 81 games, $550,000), Julio Lugo, a little Jed Lowrie and Alex Gonzalez, the sequel; 2010 and 2011– Scutaro (.721 and .781 OPS at $5.5 mill per year). Ugh. And now the Sox get rid of the one guy who’s been at least adequate or even a bit better. Double ugh.

      Of course, I understand why you want to talk about Sox’s shortstops in Januay. If you weren’t, someone might mention that, once again, Nadal beat Federer. That’s 18-9 for Raffy and 8-2 in Grand Slams vs. the greatest tennis player ever.

      But who’s counting?

      • If nothing else, I’m glad I could force a little tennis onto your baseball blog! Federer is the greatest player ever, deny it all you want my friend.
        Didn’t realize how awful the Sox shortstops had been post-Cabrera; wow, that is a horrific list.

        Keep up the great work and watch a little tennis once in a while; you might be surprised at how good it is these days.

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