I’m conflicted – mainly, and mostly, because I know that betting on 37-year-old Marco Scutaro is a poor bet. The odds are that the Scutaro we saw down the stretch – the one that ingested the distilled clutch-sweat of Derek Jeter – won’t be coming back. It’s unrealistic to expect Scutaro to bat within even 100-ish points of the .859 OPS that he gave the Giants post-trade.
This, as you know, was awesome:
I’m no stats scientist, but I think we can safely conclude that, by this upward trajectory, Scutaro will be OPS’ing somewhere around 1.400 by next June. Graphs never lie.
For no real reason, here’s a list of Scutaro’s comparables by age via Baseball-Reference.
Let’s check out how this group did in their age 37 seasons:
1. Chris Gomez – 200 PA, 76 OPS+, 0.0 WAR
2. Rick Burleson – Did not play
3. Andy High – 77 PA, 38 OPS+, -0.5 WAR
4. Jim Gantner – 358 PA, 83 OPS+, 0.8 WAR
5. Johnny Logan – Did not play
6. Don Hoak – Did not play
7. Kid Elberfeld – Did not play
8. Jose Vizcaino – 205 PA, 66 OPS+, 0.2 WAR
9. Mike Bordick – 379 PA, 88 OPS+, 1.5 WAR
10. Scott Fletcher – Did not play
Two takeaways: 1) It’s hard to be good at baseball in your late-30s and 2) fungible middle infielder types will get a lot of chances to play (see: Vizcaino, Jose). Chances are that Scutaro will post a 80-90 OPS+ next year with average defense at second base. That’s a valuable player to have, but at what cost? As we saw last year, middle infielders were getting paid. And, as of now, if you’re a team looking for help at second base, Scutaro is probably the best guy out there. (A quick look at this list will confirm your fears.)
And unless the Giants want to call up their top middle infield prospect (pictured below):
A Scutaro return seems likely. Though, the Giants should have learned some important lessons from the 2010 World Championship — namely that “keeping the band together” isn’t always the best idea. The Giants had better realize that what they pay for and what they actually get could be two vastly different things. Because unless you believe that Scutaro somehow learned to hit at an above-average level during his time as a Giant — which I don’t — he’s much more likely to perform at past levels with some decline added in for aging.
(A quick side note: I think Kelly Johnson would be an acceptable alternative to Scutaro at second. If you can get past the fact that he plays defense like someone hot-glued mittens to his hands, that is. He would probably come cheap and his career OBP of .338 is only two points lower than Scutaro’s career OBP.)
My heart wants Scutaro back no matter what the cost. My brain is rolling its eyes at my heart while muttering bad things.
Two years, $14M seems fair. More than that, and I don’t want to think about it.