Recently, the 2012 ZiPS projections went live on FanGraphs. What that means is that you can now browse the projections at length, and FanGraphs has also conveniently included a wOBA calculation along with the projections.
Really cool stuff.
But, after looking through pages of these projections, I always eventually come back to the same feeling: Why in the world didn’t the Giants make a play for Marco Scutaro?
On January 21, 2012, the Red Sox traded Marco Scutaro to the Rockies for salary relief and a C-level prospect, Clayton Mortensen. Scutaro, 36, is due $6M this season and the Red Sox, in an effort to try and free up some money, dealt him to the Rockies for essentially nothing but salary relief. Mortensen is a ‘throw-in’ in the truest sense of the phrase; he’s a 27-year-old pitcher with a career 5.12 ERA in the majors over 95 innings. In 567 career innings in the minor leagues he owns a 4.67 ERA. Every team in baseball has several Clayton Mortensens kicking around at any moment in their farm system.
Back to the ZiPS projections …
Marco Scutaro is projected as the 4th best hitter (.337 wOBA) among all shortstops in baseball. That’s higher than stars, or near-stars, like Starlin Castro (.336), Jimmy Rollins (.330), Stephen Drew (.331), J.J. Hardy (.329), and Elvis Andrus (.319). And, remember he was, essentially, free for the price of $6M.
Now, we can be sure that Scutaro isn’t a slick fielding shortstop, but by the defensive metrics, he’s held his own remarkably well at the position over his career. Per 150 defensive games, UZR has Scutaro rated at -2.8 runs for his career; defensive runs saved has Scutaro at a cumulative (total, not prorated on games like UZR/150) -13 runs; the Fan Scouting Reports are a little harsher, pegging Scutaro at -7 runs in 2011 and -9 runs in 2010. Scutaro doesn’t possess a plus-glove, but it’s respectable enough, and most likely much better than recent shortstops like Miguel Tejada and soon-to-be shortstops like Ryan Theriot.
In addition to playing shortstop, Scutaro also has experience at several other key infield positions like 3B and 2B. And he’s even played a little outfield in his career. At minimum, he would serve as great Freddy Sanchez sproing insurance.
Scutaro hasn’t posted an OBP under the league average rate since 2005, and since then he’s ranged from a low of .332 to a high of .379. That makes him the perfect guy to slot in front of guys like Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval.
Shortstop was an extremely weak position for the Giants in 2011. The team’s solution was to turn the position over to some combination of Brandon Crawford (all field, no hit), Mike Fontenot (might field, might hit), and Ryan Theriot (can’t field, can only hit LHP). For a team with playoff aspirations, that’s a scary collective. If the Giants end up missing the playoffs by a few games this year, and the team has another problematic year at shortstop, we might be able to say that the Giants’ season was decided all the way back in January when the team didn’t bring in Marco Scutaro.