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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.