Scutaro a Perfect Fit for Rockies

The Rockies have had a confusing offseason, but there should be no confusion on their latest move, which was to acquire infielder Marco Scutaro from the Red Sox. The move, a salary dump for the Red Sox, is a clear win for Colorado.

Any devoted Rockies follower will tell you that the Rox have had their fair share of turnover at the keystone. The elder Eric Young was a mainstay for a few years, and Clint Barmes held things down for a few years after Troy Tulowitzki bumped him off of shortstop, but otherwise it has been a revolving door. A revolving door is no problem if the players coming through are good ones, but that has not been the case in Colorado. Collectively, Rockies’ second basemen have been worth three wins in a season once in 19 tries. And while a part-time player can quickly drag an overall position WAR down in a short amount of time, their individual leaderboard tells a very similar story:

Year Player WAR
2006 Jamey Carroll 3.1
1996 Eric Young 2.8
2007 Kaz Matsui 2.7
1999 Terry Shumpert 2.4
1997 Eric Young 2.4

The instability at second reached a fevered pitch last season. Seven players accumulated at least 15 innings in the field, and three of them — Mark Ellis, Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson — manned the spot for at least 200.

All of this is to say that Scutaro should be like a soothing balm for the Rockies. He has been worth at least 2.4 wins in each of the past four seasons. He has held his own defensively at shortstop throughout his career, and while he has only played significant innings at second in one season, he has played there enough that he has put together 2,000 innings at the position overall, and those overall defensive numbers at second are sound. He should be a boon for the Rockies, and has an outside shot at being the best they ever had at second.

The arrival of Scutaro also fills one of the Rockies two remaining holes, and pushes the candidates that were likely to compete for the second base job into a competition for utility roles. If we operate under the assumption that there are roster spots already slotted for 12 pitchers, two catchers, five outfielders and infielders Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Troy Tulowitzki and Scutaro, that leaves two spots for the following seven players:

Nolan Arenado
Casey Blake
– Jonathan Herrera
DJ LeMahieu
– Chris Nelson
Jordan Pacheco
Eric Young, Jr.

Now, that assumption could be faulty. The team could choose to run with 11 pitchers, or four true outfielders with one of the players listed in a hybrid infielder/outfielder role. But the point is that the battles on the position-player side of the map have dwindled considerably with this deal. With only third base — where Blake and Arenado figure to be the chief candidates — and one or two utility spots left up for grabs, the roster instantly has more shape and certainty than it did on Friday.

Scutaro doesn’t just stabilize the Rockies defensively and help shape the roster though, he can also stabilize the batting order. Last season, the ever-tinkering Jim Tracy started five different players in the two-hole in at least seven games, and the team’s second basemen were among the more popular choices for that spot in the lineup. Here, Scutaro will be a major upgrade. Not only is he one of the peskiest hitters in the game, but he is also quite patient. In two of the last three seasons, he has walked more frequently than he has struck out and last season he was one of just 10 players to walk more than they struck out (min. 400 PA). Assuming Tracy can resist the urge to tinker with the lineup too much, Scutaro should slot in nicely in the two-hole.

The icing on the cake of this deal is that Colorado gave up nothing that they valued. As I discussed last week, the Rockies have plenty of candidates for their pitching staff, and there were going to have to be a lot of injuries for Clayton Mortensen to work his way into the picture. While Mortensen put up a decent enough 3.86 ERA in the bigs last season, his peripheral stats were much worse, and the Rockies weren’t counting on him. It doesn’t appear that the Red Sox will be counting on him either, as from their side the deal was mainly about freeing up money to pursue another starting pitcher, with the after-effect of creating an unusual platoon at shortstop.

In an offseason where the Rockies have confounded observers, they pulled a rare carrot out of their hat — taking on money in a deal from a team in a (much) larger market that needed/wanted to dump it. It’s a move that few would have expected, which in a sense puts it right alongside some of their other deals this winter. But whether the Rockies are intending to compete, reload or rebuild, this deal is a no-brainer. The team had no prospect beating down the door at second, and no proven option already in the stable (though I still would like to see Chris Nelson get 500 plate appearances on some big-league team), which was a scary thought for a team with a history of poor play at second. Scutaro fits the Rockies’ needs perfectly, and while this trade isn’t the master stroke that puts Colorado on par with the Diamondbacks or Giants, it certainly narrows the gap.

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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times and a writer and editor for FanGraphs. He has written for the Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

30 Responses to “Scutaro a Perfect Fit for Rockies”

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  1. Awesome says:

    They may go with 4 “OF” in Gonzalez, Fowler, Cuddyer, Blackmon with Blake starting at 3B and occasionally playing some RF that leavea Pacheco(who the team has talked up quite a bit, and can play 1B/2B/3B/C) and one of Nelson/EY2/Herrera as the UT SS/2B with LeMahieu and Colvin both going to AAA
    My guess would be Nelson and Herrera being traded for MiLB depth or cash and EY2 getting time as the 25th man, pinch runner, “2B” and “OF”.

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  2. Jim Lahey says:

    Perfect fit for Colorado, awful trade for the Red Sox.

    I’ve been waiting for an analysis on why the Red Sox would make such a trade because I can’t freakin figure it out.

    Can’t you get something more valuable than Mortensen for a SS that is about 2 WAR / season under contract for 1 more season at a very reasonable $6m? Or are we ready to call Scutaro barely having any surplus value? I just don’t get it.

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    • EarlSweatshirt says:

      The Red Sox are clearly trying to get under the luxury tax for this season. Trading Scutaro cleared 7.67m for this season (strictly talking $ against the CBT). It looks like they think Oswalt + Aviles/Punto >>> Padilla/Cook/Silva + Scutaro.

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      • BX says:

        That made sense until they signed Cody Ross. If you have to apply any luxury tax calculation to Oswalt that you applied to Scutaro, (and both were 2012 only commitments), then Ross just used up a lot of the Scutaro money.

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      • drew says:

        Red Sox had a 1.5 million buyout on Scutaro’s 6 million option. They didn’t want him but they didn’t want to give up 1.5 million. So they traded to the only team that pick up all the salary AND send something back; basically getting 1.5 million and crummy prospect for nothing.

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    • B N says:

      Yah, I’m kind of confused why the Red Sox seem so intent on collecting relief pitchers myself. Given how bad the SS field is, I would have thought he’d have more surplus value than a mediocre RP.

      But hey, at this rate they’ll have pieces of the bullpens of BUNCHES of teams that sucked last year. And that’s gotta be some sort of recipe for success. Much more so than having a good shortstop…

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  3. Jim Lahey says:

    Also, isn’t Cuddyer that super utility INF/OF guy?

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    • Paul Swydan says:


      I think it is prudent to wait and see what the Red Sox actually do first before jumping to conclusions. I thought part of why they made it happen so fast was because they were ready to move on a free-agent pitcher right away, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least not yet.

      As for Cuddyer, no, it’s my understanding that he will primarily be the right fielder. Though obviously that could change as Tracy tinkers.

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      • Resolution says:

        Right fielder and primary Helton stand-in it looks like – barring Tracy bringing his ‘questionable tinkering’ game to a new level.

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      • Not Dave says:

        Its like when the Phils traded Cliff Lee a couple years ago. While there is a reason they may have wanted to trade a particular player, it doesn’t seem like they had explored the market fully to get the best value.

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  4. Oliver says:

    This is the kind of deal the Twins should be able and willing to do. Unfortunately, they ham-strung themselves. SS/2B has been a sucking wound in MN for years.

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  5. MAD-ness says:

    It is good to finally see a good big move this off-season from the Rockies that clearly adds value to the major league team.

    This was clearly a team that needed to significantly add talent/production to the major league roster in order to compete in 2012. While the Rockies seem to prefer the players that they were acquiring to the players that they were sending away it seemed like a significant stretch to project any of the moves as resulting in a large net increase in performance.

    This move might get them close enough that if they have good luck and/or the young arms come along ahead of schedule that they could compete in the NL West.

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  6. From everything I’ve read this offseason, my guess is they will go with 4 OF to start. So the bench would be Blackmon, Rosario, Pacheco, Giambi and the winner in ST between Herrera, LeMahieu, Nelson and Young. Blake starts at 3rd

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    • Resolution says:

      Does this include a spot for Jamie Moyer? Otherwise, I’m unhappy.

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    • Paul Swydan says:

      Not sure that Tyler Colvin will be kicked to the curb that quickly.

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      • David C. says:

        I agree. I don’t think Blackmon has won that 4 OF’er position like so many believe. Also, can’t sleep on Arenado making the club out of Spring Training, multiple reports have said he will get a legit shot. I don’t agree with having him start the season at the major league level but will be fun to watch how it shapes out.

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      • Awesome says:

        Colvin has options left right? not sure that he will be kicked to the curb, just that he will need to kill it in spring training to make the team.

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  7. LTG says:

    How on earth did Terry Shumpert, that great Royals prospect of the early 90s, manage 2.4 WAR in a year?

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      What’s amazing is he managed to accumulate more than 2,000 PA during his career, had a season with 2.4 WAR, and has a career 0.6 WAR (including his 2.4 WAR season).

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    • Awesome says:

      by posting a .347/.413/.584 over 300 PA in ’99 a .434 wOBA with 10HR and 14SB

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  8. Houdini says:

    Is it a good thing to pull a “carrot” out of one’s hat? Maybe the carrot will tempt the rabbit to come out too?

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  9. Michael says:

    This deal was a steal for Colorado and Boston was o.k. with that because they needed and wanted salary relief for another move.

    Scutaro is a productive player and fills a hole for the Rockies, at least temporarily (until Josh Rutledge is ready) and Mortensen cannot achieve positive results long term. His stuff won’t play. It will be worse in the AL than it would be in the NL.

    The over-hyped, overplayed WAR is not even needed to decide who has the advantage in this trade.

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  10. tdotsports says:

    A fangraphs article implying a guy Bill James projects to have a .318 wOBA will be the “ideal” #2 hole hitter?


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  11. themick says:

    Just shows you how good Tulo really is, I bet no other shortstop has worked with so many second basemen in such a small amount of time. We would be a much better team without Giambi and EYjr, in my opinion both are just taking up space Jason is not the feared hitter he once was and can no longer play defence at all, replace him with a younger positon player for more options. EY2 is fast but a dumb base runner I have no idea how many times in the last 2 years he has been picked off first base but to many. Also can’t bunt or field. Scutaro should be an asset by making the pitcher throw a lot of pitches in the first inning and helping out Cargo, Tulo and Cuddy. Plus he will be a plus on defence.
    Thanks for my rambling.

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    • Andrew says:

      Um, did you watch what Jason Giambi did last year? He had a WRC+ of 150, highest on the team. His WAR was over 1.0, with a measly 152 PA. I don’t expect him to be as great next year, but come on – only Jose Bautista and Mike Napoli out-slugged him last year. It’s not like we have a bunch of MLB caliber infielders rotting in the minors to replace him with. Also, Jason hasn’t been atrocious on D. Certainly below average, but the thunder he brings with the stick more than makes up for it.

      Agree with your assessment of EY, which is why Tracy hates him as well. He will likely be dealt when he doesn’t make the team out of ST. Some team will be able to use him in that super utility/pinch runner role.

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  12. Baltar says:

    It is clear that the Rockies came out way ahead by adding Scutaro. However, stating that he will add value by “stabilizing” the lineup and keeping Tracy from “tinkering” is dubious, to say the least.
    As far as I know, there is no evidence that a “stable” lineup produces better than a variable one. If anyone knows otherwise, please educate me.

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    • MAD-ness says:

      They were referencing the annoying habit of Jim Tracy to indulge in crazy line-up tinkering.

      Not so much in reference to any statistical benefit.

      Lineup construction isn’t so much about results as about the manager’s belief in what the results will be. :(

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  13. davisnc says:

    If my clicking fingers weren’t so fast, I would have been forced to listen to Drake. I feel betrayed.

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