Nick Punto to Sign with Boston

According to John Heyman (now at CBS Sports, apparently), Nick Punto has agreed to a 2 year, $3.0 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. The deal will also include $500k in incentives.

So remember that news earlier today about the Red Sox trading away Jed Lowrie to the Astros for reliever Mark Melancon? Now that all begins to make some sense. It’s not that trading Lowrie for Melancon was a bad deal for the Red Sox, as they were trading from a position of strength and they acquired a dominant reliever that should help the back end of their bullpen. It just…something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t like the Red Sox to trade away a young position player with upside for a reliever. It was an okay deal, but I’m used to seeing more from the Red Sox.

By signing Punto, though, everything comes into focus.

Despite all the internal snark tossed his way, Nick Punto is actually a valuable player. He won’t hit for much power at all — he’s a lock to hit one home run each season — but he has good plate discipline (10% career walk rate), he doesn’t strike out often (16% career), and he plays average to above average defense at shortstop, second base, and third base. In many ways, he’s an ideal bench player; he may not be an offensive powerhouse, but he has his uses offensively and he can play great defense anywhere in the infield. “Nick Punto: He Does The Little Things Right.” Except this cliche has a basis in truth.

Punto is essentially replacing Jed Lowrie on the roster, as Lowrie would only have been used as a bench player this season with Marco Scutaro under contract for 2012. When looked at from that perspective, the Red Sox have likely improved their team. Punto rates as a better defender than Lowrie by both DRS and UZR (although don’t trust the number too much, as both players have had limited playing time), and Lowrie has the slight nod over Punto offensively. Punto is older, but he’s also been considerably more productive than Lowrie over the past three seasons (4.9 WAR to 1.9 WAR). At worst, Punto and Lowrie are essentially a wash. At best, the Red Sox improved their bench by a small amount.

When you factor in the money, this deal looks even better. Lowrie is under team control for three more seasons, and he is projected to make $1.2 million in arbitration this year. Meanwhile, Punto is now under control by the Red Sox for two seasons at a comparable price  to Lowrie. He’s getting paid much less than Jerry Hairston Jr. got from the Dodgers earlier this offseason (2 years, $6 million), so all in all, he looks like a great value.

Oh, and the Red Sox also acquired Mark Melancon today. He only had a 2.93 SIERA and 25 shutdowns last season – no big deal. Even if Melancon doesn’t end up being a dominant back of the ‘pen arm in the AL East, he’s pure gravy at this point. The Sox have improved their bullpen and their bench all in the same day, and they didn’t have to give up much in the way of talent to do so.

Now that’s more what I expect to see from the Red Sox. Impressive, Cherington. Most impressive.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

47 Responses to “Nick Punto to Sign with Boston”

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  1. Slartibartfast says:

    Unremarkable utility infielder signs with Red Sox… I guess that’s worth an entire article.

    I find my lack of faith disturbing.

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  2. SC2GG says:

    The Sox trading away Lowrie reminds me of how the Jays acquired Ben Francsico to be the 4th OF when they already had a glut of OFs, it made you think an additional move was going to happen. Then AA said there were no other moves. I don’t believe him.

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  3. Samuel Lingle says:

    Would have much rather have Punto than Schumaker at the 3 million for 2 years they are both getting. Oh well.

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  4. Joe says:

    The focus on the Lowrie trade is….. it was still a bad deal? .The only thing this signing does is suggest that that trading Lowrie makes sense, but it does nothing to answer the question of whether it was a good trade.

    Could they have used Lowrie as part of a package which would have netted a starter? (which in turn bolsters the bullpen by leaving Aceves or Bard in the pen) A better reliever?

    This site seems to view offseason moves a lot through the perspective of who or what organization is making them…. if Amaro Jr traded Lowrie and Weiland for Melancolm, I wonder how it is viewed here.

    I guess the obviously unasked question in this article is… could they have improved their team more with a better deal for Lowrie?

    The Yankees could probably improve their roster trading away Montero for a middle of the road starter and signing a DH… would that make the trade smart though?

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    • NS says:

      ‘Could they have used Lowrie as part of a package which would have netted a starter?”

      I’m sure that never occurred to them.

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      • Joe says:

        And with Spring Training next week, obviously it was key they pull the trigger right now…

        Thanks for the snarky response, I had forgotten they can do no wrong and every deal they get is a either a good one or the best they could have done.

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      • NS says:

        No, that’s a good point. They should have held off until a week before spring training.

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    • Earl Sweatshirt says:

      By all accounts, Jed Lowrie was shopped since the start of the offseason. I’m sure the Red Sox performed due dillegence and no one in the league wanted to give away a legit starter or better piece. Lowrie’s value was probably overstated from the jump.

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    • Los says:

      Well, us fangraphers (is that a word) just love Theo and the Sox so much. Oh wait…

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  5. Gregory says:

    This should be a good signing for Boston. He’s a good defender who can play multiple positions on the infield and the contract shows that he was undervalued.

    Defense-only guys may not be popular with GMs, but I think middle-infield types are underappreciated and definitely valuable.

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  6. pft says:

    Punto has been on the DL 5 times in the past 3 years, is 34, can’t hit (despite last years SSS fluky numbers driven by a 378 2nd half BABIP), has 0 power, and is below average defensively at SS, yet was still able to get a 2 year deal?

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    • williams .482 says:

      He got a 2 year deal for a combined $3 million. The Red Sox are paying him like he would add approximately 4.4 runs above a replacement player:

      $3M – $0.8M ML minimum = $2.2M marginal salary, at $5M per WAR he would have to produce 0.44 WAR combined to break even.

      Nick Punto, while certainly not a good player, has averaged +5.4 runs every *two months* over the last three years.

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  7. Why in God’s name would you use UZR when both players combined have roughly one season’s worth of innings at SS over the last three years? It’s not that you can’t put much stock in the numbers. YOU CAN’T PUT ANY STOCK IN THE NUMBERS. As a real Rays fan I can tell you that I’m glad to see Lowrie out of the division and Punto in it.

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    • HasonJeyward says:

      Not only that — why use a WAR comparison at all? The UZR funkiness certainly throws a huge question mark into short term WAR calculations, but in the sample mentioned, Lowrie has 614 PAs against Punto’s 894. Punto was essentially a starter in 2009, while Lowrie has yet to be given a starting role. WAR isn’t a rate stat.

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      • Right, the Red Sox traded Lowrie because they were sick of counting on him and being rewarded by having to put him on the DL. They’ll take the lesser player that might profile better as a bench jockey due to the glove-first approach and it’s not like Boston needs more offense. The error bars on these guy’s WAR value would be enormous so it feels forced. Just say that they were sick of Lowrie. I’m not sure Punto is the answer, but dude’s glove is probably more of a need at this time. Especially if you factor in that Youk can break down at any second and Pedo could probably use more days off to hedge against foot injuries and poor second half performance.

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      • Matt says:

        What poor 2nd half performances are you talking about? The only sort of bad month he had in the second half was September, and even then he still had an .827 OPS.
        ..

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      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        You’re probably right, Matt. I put this together looking at his rolling 15-day wOBA over his career ignoring the handful of games from March and October.
        http://i273.photobucket.com/albums/jj216/SayHeyRays/Pedroia.png
        You can see that he’s generally north of .300 wOBA, about where you’d expect in the .340-.350 areas. Though they’re down from his hottest streaks of each season, there’s a reason they’re called hot streaks. I guess I was put off by the bad memory of his 2010 finish that was injury plagued, though it does look like he cooled off quite a bit last year before finishing very strongly over the last two weeks.

        Still, it must be comforting to know that you can rest a guy like Pedo for a scrappy gloveman like Punto in games where you’re beating the snot out of teams or just want to give him a rest before a day off or something.

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  8. ‘Wash trade’ you say?

    One above average offensive MI with a history of injury issues for one below average MI, period, with a history of injury issues is not a wash.

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    • Adam says:

      What is the basis for calling Lowrie an above average offensive MI? He’s been in the league 4 years, of those he put up a better OPS+ and wOBA than Punto exactly once. In 2010 a year in which he made 197 plate appearances. Despite not having any power the case could be made that Punto is a better player defensively AND offensively.

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      • Fred says:

        Punto career wOBA .296
        Lowrie career wOBA: .320

        Tell me again how you can make the case that Punto is a better offensive player? Does it involve drinking a case first?

        And Lowrie’s put up a better wOBA in 2 of the 4 years (2008. 2010) and in one of the years he was lower that Punto he had all of 72 AB’s…. for some reason you count this is meaningful but you want to dismiss the year he had over 2X the PA’s?

        Why again would you just not use career #’s? (other than they don’t suit your point)

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      • NS says:

        Probably the same reason we don’t ever use data from 5+ years ago when projecting performance.

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      • Adam says:

        I didn’t use career numbers because I’m not getting nick punto 7 years ago,I’m getting him today.
        I didn’t omit 2008, read my post I said a higher wOBA AND OPS+, so while Lowrie had a .002 higher wOBA Punto had the higher OPS+ 96 to 90.

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      • Fred says:

        Last 4 years: Nick Punto: .307 wOBA…. 11 more points…. obviously a ‘changed’ hitter

        Please teach me more how to anaylze data… maybe I should throw out Lowrie’s best year and Punto’s worst year?

        I get defending the flag of a nation like in NS’s case… but are folks seriously arguing that Punto is better offensively? Could an actual statistic be used when making this case?

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      • Adam says:

        I’m not actually arguing Punto is likely to be the better offensove player, I’m pointing out the flaw in definitively saying Lowrie is any better. Lowrie has one good string of 197 PAs in 2010, however the rest of his short career he isn’t much if any better than Nick Punto, over the same time period. The argument isn’t that Punto is a good hitter, it is that Lowrie hasn’t shown any real evidence he is a good hitter either.

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      • Fred says:

        “Despite not having any power the case could be made that Punto is a better player defensively AND offensively”

        Actually you were arguing exactly that case… and presented ridiculous observations to support that case. You were presented with data to the contrary, attacked the data, were presented with new data, probably are unable/unwilling to attack that and now are evolving your argument to say “well I wasn’t arguing better”?

        Just a little tip: When you say you could make the case Punto is better…. most people don’t substitute better with “no better” or “similar” t and when you capitalize AND right before the offensive… you are ACCENTUATING the point.

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      • Adam says:

        Ok here’s an argument. Nick Punto has been the better offensive player three of the last four years based on his performance. Now you can feel free to argue that Lowrie’s 2010 is somehow more indicative of his skill than 2008 and 2011.

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      • Adam says:

        You are right about the semantics I should have said.. outside of 2010 he has been a worse hitter than Punto. I think he likely will be a better hitter than Punto going forward, but your assertion that he is an above average hitter and Punto below has no basis in fact, unless you think that .013 in wOBA over the last 4 years is the difference between below average and above average.

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  9. Dave J. says:

    It’s funny…if Ruben Amaro makes this same deal, we get a 5000 word soliloquy on why he is the dumbest GM known to man. When Cherington and the Sawx make this deal…he gets a literal Fangraphs blowjob. I love it.

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  10. Jair Jarrkjens says:

    How on earth did the Braves miss out on both Lowrie and Punto!?

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  11. Steve says:

    In all my years, I never thought I’d see the sentence “Most Impressive.” at the end of an article about the signing of NICK PUNTO. To a TWO YEAR contract.

    I have to agree that if another team did this, it would never warrant such a reaction. So far the Sox traded for a good middle reliever, in which they may have slightly overpaid but not inexcusably so, then signed two mediocre to sh*tty players in Shoppach and Punto and FG’s is falling over themselves to praise Cherington.

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    • Art says:

      With Theo gone…. Cherington, a SABR/stat leaning guy needs to be built up.

      Last year there was an article on a pickup of some no-name 1st baseman who would never play in the bigs as an example of how the great Theo builds organizational depth (can’t remember the name of the first baseman… likely becasue he never saw, nor will likely ever see time in the bigs)

      Even narratives take time and effort

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