The Boston Red Sox surprised the baseball world over the weekend by trading shortstop Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Clayton Mortensen. It’s less confusing than it first seemed thanks to WEEI’s Alex Speier who pointed out the move was made to get the Red Sox under the luxury tax. Smart teams, especially smart and rich teams, don’t dump salary without reason. No matter the reasoning, the move has a pretty large affect on a number of players in the fantasy world.
The first is Marco Scutaro. With Troy Tulowitzki entrenched at shortstop Scutaro will have to slide over to second base. He finished the season in the middle of the pack among shortstops, hitting .299/.358/.423 in 113 games. Second base isn’t as thin of a position, and Scutaro will be staring up at names like Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Ian Kinsler, Rickie Weeks and Chase Utley to name a few. Those players rank as some of the best in baseball regardless of position. Scutaro doesn’t do anything that makes him stand out offensively. He doesn’t steal bases (44 over 10 seasons), hit home runs (68 career), drive in runs (single season high of 60) or hit for a high average (.285 over last three seasons). He’s picking up a position which inherently increases a player’s worth, and should see a small boost in his numbers, but his overall value goes largely unchanged.
Trading Scutaro and Jed Lowrie to the National League allows Boston to use a combination of Mike Aviles and Nick Punto at short. It’s not a perfect platoon, but it should be able to replace the production of Scutaro. When he’s played a full season, 2008 and 2010, Aviles has been a pretty solid player, hitting over .300 each time and posting an OPS of .833 and .748 respectively. He’s not likely to hit 10 home runs, but has the ability to steal 15 bases. The skills that make Punto an attractive asset in real life, patience and defense, don’t translate well to the fantasy game. He hits for even less power (.078 ISO) than Aviles and although his on base percentage can range from decent to very good he doesn’t hit high enough in the order, or get enough playing time, to make an impact. Some want to see 22-year-old Jose Iglesias get a shot, but after hitting .235/.285/.269 in 101 Triple-A games last season that seems unrealistic. The Red Sox will get by just fine with Aviles and Punto, letting Iglesias get every day playing time in the minors.
While Scutaro gains extra position eligibility, the big winner is Aviles, who will get a majority of the at bats to start the season. Though “big” is a relative term when talking about a mid-to-lower tier shortstop. Neither player merits more than a late round pick in standard mixed leagues.