Just Go to Boston Already, Marco

So here’s a name we haven’t discussed around here before, and with good reason: Marco Scutaro. Scutaro’s spent the last six years in Oakland and Toronto as a somewhat-useful infield supersub before being given the Blue Jay shortstop gig full time last year, coming through with a surprisingly nice .282/.379/.404 line for a 111 OPS+.

That makes him the top shortstop in a lousy free-agent market, and with Toronto recently signing Boston’s Alex Gonzalez, all indications are that Scutaro shouldn’t be hesistating in putting down a payment on homes in Boston. MLBtraderumors even went so far as to say he’s “destined to end up” there.

So what does this have to do with the Dodgers? Well, for some reason they don’t appear to be letting him go to Boston without a fight (also via MLBTR):

Free agent Marco Scutaro is said to prefer the Dodgers and Red Sox because they give him the best chance to make the postseason, according to a report by Augusto Cardenas of Diaro Panorama, which was passed along by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times has a quote from Scutaro on the situation:

“Boston is interested, like the Dodgers, Seattle and Texas,” Scutaro said. “They have just called to say they have interest, but they haven’t made an offer yet.

“The Dodgers want me to play second base, shortstop in Boston, and there are other teams who have called to play third. Although not close the doors, I would rather be between short and second.”

I still think he’s going to end up in Boston regardless, but let’s at least take this opportunity to point out how much “no!” there is in this rumor. I won’t deny that Scutaro had a very good season in 2009, but he’s the classic example of a guy that some team is going to overpay and regret it – and you don’t want to be that team.

Let’s count the reasons why…

1) 2009 looks a lot like a fluke season. Scutaro was a negative value (based on wRAA, Weighted Runs Above Average) for every single season of his career before breaking out with a huge 14.3 mark in 2009. It was also the first time in his entire career he’d managed to walk more than strike out, and his BABIP increased by .015 over 2008. He’s already turned 34, and it’s incredibly rare that a player who was mediocre his entire life can keep up a sustained turnaround at that age.

2) He’s only an average fielder. Scutaro spent most of his time in 2009 at shortstop, where he was just barely above average (1.0 in UZR/150). For his career, he’s -2.9 at SS, fueled by some brutal years in Oakland (really, -28.1 in 2006? How did he get 61 starts? Yikes.)

Of course, he’d be a second baseman in LA, and he played just four innings there in 2009. For his career, he’s 0.1 in UZR/150 at the keystone, so almost exactly average. If you can hit, there’s some value in being an average defender – Adam Dunn would probably be a first-ballot Hall of Famer if he wasn’t such a trainwreck with the glove – but Scutaro’s unlikely to keep up that production at the plate.

3) He’s a type A free agent. That, of course, means you have to give up your first-round pick to sign him. How is it a good idea to give that up two years in a row for the same position? Are we really thinking of giving up a first-rounder for a mediocre 34-year-old middle infielder coming off a career year? I sure hope not.

4) You’d have to outbid Boston. This is actually a good thing, because it’s probably why Scutaro won’t be coming to LA. Still, some are saying that he might be in line for a three-year deal, which sounds like a completely horrendous idea. If he gets that, good for him. Just don’t let it be the Dodgers who hands it to him.

5) Because people smarter than I are saying almost the exact same things. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, hit me:

Marco Scutaro: One of the biggest mistakes in free agency is deciding that a player’s career season at an advanced age heralds some change in his level of performance, and paying him as such. Scutaro is a good utility infielder and a marginal starter who had the best year of his life at 33 on the basis of some walks, power, and defense. It wasn’t a one-category thing; he played better than he ever had before. But we have a hundred years of information that tells us that utility infielders don’t become starting shortstops at 33 on one side, and Marco Scutaro on the other. He absolutely can help a good team, but if you sign him and pay him money that indicates you think that he’s going to have 2009 three more times, you’re making a big mistake. One big year at 33 doesn’t change what a player is. Scutaro is something of a competence test for front offices this offseason, and likely to be perceived as a disappointment come next summer.

Exactly. Sure, I’d love the guy to come and be a super-utility man. But to give up a first-round draft pick and a three-year deal? Absolutely not. I don’t really see him coming, so the rumor doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is the idea that the front office is sniffing around him as though it’s a good idea.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post-Thanksgiving gluttony.

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