… And Nick Punto

My favorite part of this weekend’s Red Sox-Dodgers blockbuster isn’t the absolutely insane nature of the trade, it’s the “… and Nick Punto” that will forever be attached to it until the end of time. Los Angeles surrendered two high-end pitching prospects and absorbed more than a quarter-billion dollars in salary obligation to acquire a star-caliber first baseman, a potential star-caliber outfielder, and a serviceable (with a chance for lots more) starting pitcher. Oh yeah, and a utility infielder.

I don’t want this to sound like an insult to Punto, because it isn’t intended to come off that way. He’s had a 12-year big league career and has a World Series ring sitting in his trophy case somewhere, with more money in the bank than I could ever possibly dream of having to my name. Punto’s had a long career and has been a serviceable player for five teams now … it’s just that he sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the other players in the trade.

The 34-year-old infielder posted a 63 wRC+ in 148 plate appearances for the Red Sox this season after having a career-best 123 wRC+ (in 166 plate appearances) for the Cardinals last summer. In seven plate appearances with the Dodgers, Punto has a single and three walks. His best years came a half-decade ago with the Twins, when he put together a 3.4 WAR effort in 2006 and then another 2.7 WAR in 2008. That’s when he was playing second and short regularly. This season he’s been almost exactly replacement level in limited time, pretty much par for the utility infielder course.

Punto is not alone in his fate as the “… and [miscellaneous guy]” annals of baseball trade history. Lee Stevens was the extra guy in the Bartolo Colon-Grady Sizemore/Brandon Phillips/Cliff Lee trade. Terrmel Sledge went from the Rangers to the Padres with Adrian Gonzalez a few years ago. You surely remember Ron Mahay, but how many remember him going from the Rangers to the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade? Leroy Stanton was part of the Nolan Ryan-led package that sent Jim Fregosi to the Mets. Baseball history is littered with these extra guys thrown into massive, franchise-altering trades, and Punto is better than pretty much all of them.

The Dodgers recently lost Jerry Hairston Jr. to a season-ending hip injury and are still being suffocated by Juan Uribe‘s expensive 46 wRC+, so getting Punto in the blockbuster made a ton of sense. He can fill in at third base, spell Mark Ellis at second, sneak in a few shortstop starts whenever Hanley Ramirez needs a blow, all sorts of stuff. They needed the infield help, and they just so happened to satisfy that need as a footnote in one of the biggest trades of our lifetime.




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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

32 Responses to “… And Nick Punto”

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  1. D4P says:

    When in doubt, Punto.

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  2. Uh Oh Cordero says:

    Punto on first down.

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  3. Hanley Ramirez says:

    I aint getting no blow from Nick Punto. No Homo.

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    • gobears says:

      That sentence definitely left me mystified too! Huh?!

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      • SKob says:

        That is easily the most asinine expression I have ever heard. Not taking a shot at the author, it’s a very common saying, I just can’t bring myself to understand how a guy can use it without feeling like he just participated in gay porn! Giving a guy a breather or a break should not be said as ‘giving him a blow’ EVER!

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    • MadMonk says:

      i thought Punto was going to start supplying cocaine/heroin.

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  4. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Always did like Punto as a utility man. Good defense, even if his bat is the worst thing since unsliced bread.

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  5. Jack says:

    I don’t know why Nick Punto is always mentioned last. Considering the Dodgers’ love of utility infielders, I imagine he was their top target in this trade.

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  6. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Not only my favorite part of the trade, but my favorite article title of the year.

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  7. NSB says:

    …And Mike Crudale?

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  8. I love guys like Punto, Caesar Izturis, Mark McLemore, Steve Balboni and so on. These guys achieved and then improbably kept living the dream where more talented guys flamed out (ahem Elijah Dukes, Ambiorix Burgos, Steve Howe). These guys inspire all of us compensated above our weight, who surpassed smarter and more talented peers, who are not HOFers but manage to raise and feed a family, some dogs, cats & fish, own a little land, and buy Festina Peche by the case.

    (The Fangraph pages explain these guys’ basic competence, but it’s unexamined (for good reason) skills that set them apart from all the other barely competents- versatility, likeability, conformity, utility, clean-nose behavior, and mastering the fear shared by all who live on 1 year contracts.)

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    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      ::slow clap::

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    • olethros says:

      Festina Peche? De gustibus non disputandum, I suppose, but damn, mix it up a little. I couldn’t drink a case of that in a month.

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      • When it’s not really hot, I agree with you. When it’s really hot I can’t get enough of sour and sour-ish beers, just not that sickly sweet Flemish style. If you got a better recommendation, please share (WBE, you got something?).

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      • Also, I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out if you purposely & properly converted that entire latin phrase into the ablative, or just carelessly & erroneously forgot the verb sum (conjugated present indicative singular est/i>, or, like my link: conjugate immediately please, plural and imperative).

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    • CardinalRules says:

      Are you Tony La Russa?

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  9. Wes says:

    Sneaky pick up

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  10. capnsparrow says:

    If Ned had his way the whole club would be utility something or other. Old habits are hard to break but Punto will do just fine here in LA he made some diving stops the other day and hes NOT the broom swining Drunken Dominican Donkey Swatter that Uribe has become!

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  11. Angelsjunky says:

    Best article title ever.

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  12. Bernice says:

    *Whenever Hanley Ramirez needs blow.

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  13. Willie Bloomquist says:

    I always admire the little guys who make the most of their skills. Helps us everyday players keep on kicking ass.

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  14. Charlie Sheen says:

    Did somebody say blow?

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  15. jon says:

    man nick punto has earned over 14m bucks

    wow

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  16. Marc says:

    I can always appreciate players like him. Cared about by nobody, lived out his dreams, had a long, successful career.

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  17. OSG says:

    I suspect the people who appreciate him haven’t had him batting for their favorite team very much. As a Twins fan, when he came up to bat you knew either something mundane (groundout to second) or infuriating (headfirst slide into 1B trying to beat out said groundout to second) was going to happen.

    It’s fun to admire his heart and his attitude…as long as it’s at a safe distance from your favorite team’s lineup.

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    • adohaj says:

      I was always pissed off when he wouldn’t get injured on those slides into first. Oh how I still loath a man I have never met.

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  18. Ian says:

    I always loved how he’d do something that would just make the opposing teams fanbase explode. Once Ozzie intentionally walked him (it backfired awesomely), a three hopper over the third base bag that turned into a metrodome double, his relatively good patience at the plate, leading to longer at bats than you’d guess and a lot more walks than he deserved (career walk rate over 10% is great for a no pop UI). And he really is a good defender.

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  19. Sean says:

    Terrmel Sledge was also included in the Nats-Rangers Soriano trade. A double afterthought!

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  20. Nate says:

    Least favorite Punto moments:
    2009 ALCS: Punto overruns third base because he thinks the ball got through the infield. It didn’t, Yanks pick him off. I’ve never heard a crowd go from being that loud to that quite ever.
    2011 World Series: Punto called on to bunt in 9th inning. Fails twice.
    Any potentially close play at first: Punto dives head first.
    Some key moment in the playoffs for the Cards: Punto tries unsuccessfully to break is bat over his knee. (That’s actually a favorite moment)

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