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3 Quick Thoughts on Red Sox Trade of Marco Scutaro

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The Boston Red Sox have shipped Marco Scutaro – and his $6 million contract – off to Colorado for pitcher Clayton Mortensen.

This move is a salary dump.

The Red Sox say they see Mortensen as competing for a spot in the starting rotation. But nothing in his past performance – lifetime MLB record: 4-8, 5.12 ERA – says he can play that role.

The Red Sox are Mortensen’s fourth organization in his brief career.

Here are three quick thoughts on the trade:


The Red Sox have the reputation as having a bright, forward-thinking front office – but something slipped here.

It was only last October when Boston picked up Scutaro’s $6 million option. And their need for pitching was apparent then – with the team’s September collapse fresh in their minds.

Fast forward three months and the Red Sox can’t afford Scutaro and more pitching.

What’s changed? Boston hasn’t signed any new, big contract players.

Why did they extend Scutaro if they needed budget resources elsewhere?

Red Sox Shortstop

Mike Aviles and Nick Punto will carry the load at shortstop for the Red Sox in 2012 – at least that’s the plan right now.

So much for Aviles chipping in as a righty bat in the outfield.

Aviles has not been an everyday shortstop since 2008. Punto has never been an everyday shortstop – and he played eight games there last season.

I am not worried about the offense they will contribute – the Red Sox lineup will continue to score plenty of runs to win.

It’s the defense. While Scutaro was no Gold Glover – he was steady in the field. (Not to mention, one of the team’s gritty players – on a team that quit down the stretch last season.)

And Aviles and Punto are keeping the position warm until Jose Iglesias is ready.

To date, Iglesias has only shown himself to be a modern day Mark Belanger – great field, no hit.

Iglesias has disappeared from the top shortstop prospect list and Baseball America’s top ten Red Sox prospects.

Starting Pitching

How will the Red Sox use this new-found budget room to help the pitching staff? Here are some possibilities:

Brandon McCarthy – My choice. Oakland has been having a fire sale. McCarthy is in line for a salary boost through arbitration and then free agency after the season. The Red Sox should see if Billy Beane is still open for business.

Edwin JacksonScott Boras has not been able to land the big long-term deal for Jackson. Will he go the Ryan Madson (and Adrian Beltre) route and sign a one-year deal to demonstrate his value? Even if he does, Jackson still may be out of the Red Sox price range.

Gavin Floyd – Consistently an innings eater. The White Sox are rebuilding so he may be available. Would be a solid addition.

Roy Oswalt – Over his career, an excellent pitcher. He’s getting old and last year had a bad back. Boston has two cranky backs in the rotation already (Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz). I would pass on him.

Which starting pitcher do you think the Red Sox should go after? Or does Boston have enough pitching and should grab a righty hitting outfielder like Cody Ross?

Do the Red Sox Really Need to Trade Marco Scutaro to Add a Pitcher?

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What a sorry state of affairs.

It appears the Boston Red Sox have become one of those teams that need to shed salary in order to add the talent they need compete.

The Red Sox are said to have been talking with the Colorado Rockies about shipping out Marco Scutaro. (Update: Trade has been completed.)

The driver for the trade was to cut salary so Boston can use the money to fix a hole in their rotation.

Three things to examine about this situation.

1. Don’t the Red Sox Have a Plan?

How the Red Sox got in this position makes you wonder if Ben Cherington is up for the General Manager job.

Start with Boston picked up Scutaro’s $6 million option this off-season. Didn’t they have a 2012 budget in place when they made the move? And didn’t the front office see pitching (after the team’s pitching breakdown in 2011) needed to be priority number one?

Next, the Red Sox had a low-cost shortstop alternative already on the team – Jed Lowrie. Now, one can argue whether Lowrie will ever be able to stand up to the rigors of a full season – but from here, he looks like a better option than either Mike Aviles or Nick Punto if Boston does dump Scutaro.

2. Are the Red Sox Really Strapped for Payroll Room?

Dan Shaughnessy questioned whether Boston is really tapped out and can’t spend any more. I agree.

There are two paths in the American League East.

Spend the big money to keep up with the Yankees.

Or develop the high-caliber prospects – most notably in pitching – like the Rays. (Actually, one of the things that makes New York so formidable is they develop players – Ivan Nova and Jesus Montero who enabled them to get Michael Pineda – and sign free agents like Hiroki Kuroda.)

The Red Sox are a big market team – they have the money if they want to spend it.

Forbes Magazine placed them as the second most valuable franchise in baseball – worth $912 million on team that was bought for $380 million. The magazine wrote 2011 team revenue was $272 million.

The Red Sox don’t have the pitching prospects on the horizon to contribute in 2011.

So it is either pay up or take the bailing wire approach of hope key bullpen pieces can move to the rotation and lightning strikes with one or more veteran retreads.

3. Paying for Mistakes of the Past

So why are the Red Sox bumping against their self-imposed salary cap?

Bad investments in big-time free agent contracts.

  • Carl Crawford – Not ready to call him bust but based on 2011, it is fair to say Crawford’s performance did not equal a $20 million a year player (the average annual dollar value over his seven year deal).
  • John Lackey – This one we can call a bust of Edgar Renteria proportions – at $15 million a season.
  • Daisuke Matuszaka – Sixteen wins – combined – over the last three years. Overall, Dice-K has not lived up to his six year/$52 million contract.

It was moves like these that seem to be preventing the Red Sox from making an $8 or $9 million investment in someone like Gavin Floyd or Roy Oswalt to shore up the starting staff.

Makes one yearn for the old days, when the Red Sox could sweep their mistakes under the rug by eating salary and dumping contracts that didn’t work out – like Renteria and Julio Lugo. And then move to make the acquisitions they needed in order to compete to win.


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