Theo Epstein has tried some pretty “unconventional” things since being installed as Red Sox GM. Closing by committee. Mutually renewing contracts. That gorilla suit.
But the Sox’ quandary at shortstop has been his Achilles’ heel, and solving it this winter is going to take all his ingenuity. And a Marco Scutaro deal seems to be gaining momentum, especially with Alex Gonzalez headed to Scutaro’s team, Toronto.
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Many wanted Theo to resign “Gonzo,” whose glovey performance helped the team stabilize a position that had been anything but.
Scutaro’s offense would definitely be an upgrade. Yet while the chances of a Scutaro signing seem to increase daily, there’s a palpable nervousness in the Hub about whether the Sox should make the move.
Some scribes have written that they don’t think Scutaro’s “hot streak” in ’09 is worth Boston’s dime in ’10. I would normally agree, but Scutaro’s ’09 campaign featured not just new highs in doubles, home runs, hits and on-base percentage, but a new career high in walks. Drawing walks is skill, not luck, and Scutaro dramatically increased his walk rate last year. It’s rare for a player to learn new skills at 33, but it happens: If Scutaro has truly learned one, Boston could solve its problem at leadoff hitter, as well as shortstop. On defense, Scutaro is no leather-flashing Wallenda, but his UZR/150 (don’t even ask; just trust the nerds) at the position has been positive for three years.
Although Boston could likely meet Scutaro’s salary demands, signing a Type A free agent who has been offered arbitration will cost two early draft picks — a price Boston is loath to pay. But the shortstop market is very weak this winter, and the only other options would be to trade for mediocrity or sign a gloveful, batless type.
A recent Peter Gammons column speculated on a third way: Ask Dustin Pedroia to take a few steps to his right. Before breaking into the bigs, Pedroia spent most of his time at short. He says he’d be willing to make the move, and that would allow Boston to dip into the deeper market of available second basemen. And since Pedroia could just move back later, top short prospect Jose Iglesias would remain unblocked.
Crazy? Or crazy like the Sox?
– Sarah Green also writes for UmpBump.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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