Marco Scutaro Makes Lowrie Expendable

For a time, Jed Lowrie was one of the ultimate Red Sox prospects, potentially the perfect shortstop of the future. On Wednesday, that fine dream ended as the Boston Red Sox dealt Lowrie to the Houston Astros along with Kyle Weiland in exchange for Mark Melancon. There are plenty of factors which went into this trade, as already covered — Lowrie has struggled with injuries and defense, the Red Sox need relief pitching with Jonathan Papelbon gone. But as great as any of the factors appears to be their shortstop of the present, who for the past three seasons has done about as much as anybody can ask from the position.

I am referring, of course, to Marco Scutaro. The incumbent Red Sox shortstop may not be a household name, but Scutaro ranks seventh in wRC+ at 104 and eighth in WAR at 9.8 among shortstops since 2009. The Red Sox expect more of the same in 2012, and that makes Jed Lowrie expendable.

The six shortstops to out hit Scutaro since 2009: Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Derek Jeter, Asdruabl Cabrera, and Yunel Escobar. Starlin Castro, Stephen Drew, Jhonny Peralta, and Jimmy Rollins, for example, all rank behind the stalwart Scutaro. With Scutaro’s competent defense, he has been consistently good with the potential for great (see 2009 with Toronto, when he hit .282/.379/.409). Even his worst season of the three, a .275/.333/.388 campaign, was still above the shortstop average in all three slash components. His defense isn’t flashy, but it is competent, and as such he ranks highly in overall value as well.

As much as Lowrie feels like a young player due to his “next big thing” status, he will turn 28 in April, mere weeks after opening day. He is already entering his first arbitration-eligible season and has yet to break the 350 plate appearance barrier. To have real value to a team, he needs to be on a major league field receiving full-time at-bats now, not sitting in a backup role.

With Marco Scutaro in tow, the Red Sox feel they have shortstop well covered for 2012. The team is trying to win now, and Scutaro at shorstop gives them the best chance in 2012. With Mike Aviles and Jose Iglesias in the organization as well, the Red Sox justifiably feel like they can account for the future as well. One can certainly debate whether or not the Red Sox needed to ask for a higher price than Mark Melancon in exchange for Lowrie. But regardless of the return, Lowrie’s future with Boston was short due to the emergence of Marco Scutaro as one of the more reliable shortstops in the American League.




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30 Responses to “Marco Scutaro Makes Lowrie Expendable”

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  1. Steve says:

    Scutaro is 36 this year and a FA after the year. Jose Iglesias can’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag.

    The Sox will be looking for a SS next winter.

    Not saying that this is a terrible trade, but I would hardly call Lowrie “expendable.

    And we’re not even getting into the possibility of Youkilis getting injured this year, something that doesn’t seem that improbable since: it has happened 2 years in a row, he is trapped at 3B, and he is 33. Who plays 3B if that happens? Aviles can certainly cover the position, but if that happens, I’d rather have Lowrie in my system than another middle reliever in my bullpen.

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    • NS says:

      Aviles and now Punto. Jose Iglesias was thrown into AAA in his second pro season as a 21 year old playing a defensive position with an 80 glove. The only people worried about him are the stat-page charlatans.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Sorry, but I don’t buy it. He was absolutely pathetic with the bat last year. Couldn’t get a hit, couldn’t draw a walk, couldn’t hit for any power. He was a complete zero in the batters box. 21 is certainly young, but if he has any potential he should be able to show *something* with the bat in AAA. It’s not like he was an 18 year old.

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      • NS says:

        In terms of his pro experience, it is as of e were 19 years old. The only minor leaguers who play their second professional season in AAA are terrific hitting prospects. And you don’t discount them if they’re butchers in the field.

        Iglesias is a phenomenal defensive prospect playing a defensive position. He has shown below-average promise with his bat despite showing decent tools. Boston promoted him because his glove could make him a valuable player already and because their first aggressive promotion to AA in 2010 didn’t slow him down and they wanted him to be challenged. Had he hit competently in AAA last year, he’d immediately have become a top 10 prospect in baseball.

        When you look at any prospect’s stat page, you’ve done about a third of your homework at most. Any argument you make that only has ml stats as its basis is quite weak. All of the contextual data suggests Iglesias is an everyday shortstop at worst.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        “their first aggressive promotion to AA in 2010 didn’t slow him down”

        That’s part of the problem. He was a bad hitter in AA in 2010. If that’s par for the course, and not him slowing down, then he’s in trouble. The only good thing about his 2010 hitting was a .360 babip.

        “Had he hit competently in AAA last year, he’d immediately have become a top 10 prospect in baseball.”

        I have a feeling people will be saying that about him for the next 5-6 years. “If he can start to hit, then he’ll be a very good player.” Wake me up when he starts to hit competently.

        If you want to say that he might be a competent enough hitter a few years down the road, then yeah, maybe that would happen. But based on what he’s shown with the bat so far, there’s no way he can be a competent ML hitter within the next couple years. And one main reason for trading Lowrie is that Iglesias will be there when Scutaro $hits the bed.

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      • NS says:

        “But based on what he’s shown with the bat so far, there’s no way he can be a competent ML hitter within the next couple years.”

        You don’t have any strong evidence for this claim. You couldn’t even say this about a player in his second pro season who struggled in high-A, let alone AAA.

        “one main reason for trading Lowrie is that Iglesias will be there”

        Just making things up now. But even if this were true, Iglesias wouldn’t need to be a competent major league hitter in order to replace Jed Lowrie. Nick Punto isn’t.

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    • CampBrice says:

      “another arm in my bullpen” – I think you are underselling Melancon a bit, but we’ll see and honestly there is no-one in the current Sox pen that I would trust in a setup role, so the only other option is to sign a FA reliever for big bucks and potentially for mulit-years. Melancon is young, cheap and under team control. I would call that positive asset management

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  2. Bryan says:

    Steve, all your points are true but I disagree with your last sentence that you’d rather have Lowrie in the system than another middle reliever in your bullpen. Papelbon is gone, Aceves is likely going to the rotation and Bard might be joining him as the fifth starter. Even if Bard stays in the pen that means the back end is Bard, Melancon, Jenks and Albers. Even with Melancon you can’t feel good about that.

    The offense is good enough that if/when Youkilis misses some time we can afford to plug someone like Aviles in, and it’s still not out of the realm of possibility that they add a bench bat. In fact, as of writing this I learned that added Nick Punto. He’s not a great hitter but he is another utility type.

    I would have liked more for Lowrie but I’m glad we got someone who’s been effective to shore up the back end of the bullpen.

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  3. Blase says:

    Except for the fact that he’s not a shortstop and they can’t get away with playing him there full time. Other than a hot stretch last season his bat doesn’t make up for his lack of glove at SS.

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  4. Slartibartfast says:

    Lowrie played like a serious bag of dicks after April. I swear there was one week where he made a major MENTAL mistake in the field 3 games in a row, 1 which ended up costing us a the game. Would’ve bet 100 bucks he’d be dealt this offseason. Good riddance.

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  5. hernandez17 says:

    Lowrie has now proven that he can’t hit for power and can’t field, so he’s now Keppinger 2.0. The “Scutaro since 2009″ numbers are a bit of a selection bias since they count his career year that he had at age 33 in Toronto. He’s going to be 36 next year, so if the Sox are expecting more of the same as in more of 2009, they’re nuts. They still need a SS.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Agreed about the selection bias. He was 14th in WAR last year. He was 14th in WAR when you combine 2010-2011. Assuming he doesn’t have a fluke year, chances are he’ll top out as a middling SS.

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      • NS says:

        “He was 14th in WAR when you combine 2010-2011″

        Right above Jeter.

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      • Tom says:

        NS – And your point is? (other than continuing to validate Boston fans insecurity with all things NY and a need to measure everything against them)

        Scutaro is a middling SS, at this point Jeter, who had the worst year of his career last year, is a middling SS.

        Is the comparison somehow suggesting that Jeter at this stage of the career is a top tier SS? I don’t even think Yankee fans (and I’m not one) would consider Jeter anything but middle of the pack at this point.

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      • NS says:

        Yeah, it’s about insecurity and not the fact that the man’s screenname refers to Jeter while he and the other poster talks about Boston “still needing” a SS. If Boston needs one, so does NYY.

        In reality, neither team does. Scutaro is competent and so is Jeter. Making the point about Derek is not a jab, but a means of pointing out the boring double standard in play here.

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  6. Dan G says:

    My feeling is not “good riddance”, but more, “good luck, we hardly knew ye.” Things never really clicked for Lowrie in Boston so we only saw glimpses of what he might yet become, but he was here long enough that you got the sense that whatever he might yet become is going to happen somewhere else. The combination of Lowrie and the Red Sox seemed to create bad juju – that is not a very FanGraph-friendly concept and I’m a bit embarrassed to be writing it, but that is what I am honestly thinking right now.

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  7. Joe says:

    Red Sox reportedly set to sign Nick Punto to a 2 (yes TWO) year deal (per MLBTradeRumors)

    So much for the surplus in the middle of the infield….. It’s a bit odd after dealing Lowrie they’d sign someone for 2 years to replace him when they have such a surplus there….

    This trade needs to be look at value for value, not opportunity costs… I think the Red Sox involvement has people looking for a reason to like this trade (or at the least make it seem reasonable)

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    • Me says:

      It’s not odd at all when you look at it from a certain perspective. Punto is Lowrie with less bat and more glove. Lowrie and Punto’s salaries are going to be nearly identical this year, with Punto making less than Lowrie in 2013. Their value is roughly equal. So, at the end of the day, they didn’t downgrade at backup position, shaved a small bit of money off of next year’s payroll, and got a potentially dominant late-inning reliever for the cost of Weiland and Lowrie’s “potential” which would’ve been tough for him to realize in Boston…

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  8. Bronnt says:

    Seriously, if they wanted a relief pitcher, why couldn’t they talk to my Atlanta Braves? I’d happily have sent Jonny Venters, better at the same age, over for the same two players the Astros got for Melancon.

    If there are a few teams who would have sent you something better for the package you just sent out, it’s a bad deal.

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    • Me says:

      When did you and the Braves come up with this plan? I didn’t know you had the ear of the GM like that. Pretty sure all of the GMs talk to one another, and had they been able to get Venters, they would have. Just because you would give up Venters doesn’t mean the Braves would…

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      • Bronnt says:

        My comment at the end is more a non-sequitor. I wanted Lowrie, would have given up probably any of the three Braves studs at the end of the bullpen (though I would have asked for more for Kimbrel), so I’m a bit petulant.

        But I’m sure other teams would have given them better than Mark Melancon. Ken Rosenthal almost immediately tweeted that two rival executives thought the Red Sox overpaid for him. There have to be multiple executives who would trade a solid relief pitcher for a starting caliber shortstop in this market, especially when Kyle Weiland is thrown in.

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      • Me says:

        This is a response to the post directly below it… I’m not so sure about that. If I’m the Braves GM, Venters or Kimbrel require more. I’m no Houston baseball expert, but Melancon seems to have pretty decent peripheral numbers, and, more importantly, is cheap and under team control for a long time. Its a bit of a gamble for both sides, but if Melancon can replicate his numbers from last year, this deal is fine. Also, if the other option is to sign a guy like Madson for 3/$30mil, how much better does he have to be to be worth the extra 9,500,00 per year? If it works, it gives them some financial flexibility. The only way this is a bad move is if Lowrie becomes a superstar AND Melancon is a complete bust. I’m not sold on Weiland, he has always had pretty good numbers, but never great, and was never age-advanced in the minors, which, to me, is a warning flag for pitching prospects.

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      • Me says:

        That last one was actually a response to the post above it, hahaha. And to finish my point, nobody is giving up a beast proven commodity for a player who has something like 500 PAs over the last 4 years.

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    • Tom says:

      I wonder if that package gets Jurrjens? (I think the Braves would happily do that?)

      I realize the Red Sox will be able to successfully convert all of their relievers into starters… but wouldn’t plugging Jurrjens into the rotation be essentially like acquiring a major reliever if it means you can leave Bard in the pen?

      Basically you would have Jurrjens-SP/Bard-RP vs Bard – SP/Malcolm- RP. A little more expensive, but I’d rather have the former…. especially in the “‘win now” context as is there anyway Bard would be allowed to throw a full year as a starter?

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    • JG says:

      How do you know the Braves would have sent Venters over? Their bullpen trio is pretty popular among fans; I doubt they would move one of them so easily.

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  9. AK707 says:

    Sabean really dropped the ball if all it took to get Lowrie away from the sox was a fungible reliever. Among the contenders, nobody needed a SS like they did, and the Astros likely won’t ever glean value out of Lowrie in a “competitive season.” All I’m saying is that this trade doesn’t likely boost Houston much, or the Red Sox much. There are teams that it could have benefited.

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  10. Dave says:

    Lowrie sucks defensively at SS.

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  11. james wilson says:

    The Red Sox have at times been impressed with snapshots of Lowrey’s talent at the plate but were shocked at his defensive regression last year, and are convinced he cannot stay on the field. He won’t. They traded Weiland for Melancon.

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