Despite there not being an official salary cap in the sport of baseball, the luxury tax threshold that imposes as such is having a grueling affect on the Boston Red Sox for the first time in recent memory. Just $8 million shy of the proposed spending ceiling and much needed support in both the bullpen and the starting rotation, the Red Sox may end up being fairly quiet during the off season when it comes to signing high priced free agents.
There are still options for the Red Sox if they wish to be the agressor and go after guys like Ryan Madson or Carlos Beltran. They could blow past the $178 million dollar ceiling and encounter the financial consequences and as Buster Olney writes, it may be a wise decision. The second option is to try and trade off some salary to allow some room for some key additions. Hence, the option of trading Marco Scutaro.
It was Olney who first reported that the Colorado Rockies are one of a few clubs interested in Scutaro, giving Cherington some possibilities. Don’t forget that the Rockies were reportedly interested in Kevin Youkilis, but any deal involving Youk doesn’t appear to be happening.
Any deal that would see Scutaro going the other way would likely have prospects returning to Boston. After all, this deal would be made to unload salary so there’s no point in bringing in roster players. That would be saved for a starting pitcher (let’s hope) or a right fielder.
Scutaro is set to make $6 million next season so he’s well within the affordable zone for many clubs including the Rockies. While it is salary dump if Cherington does move the former Blue Jay, it isn’t a lot. Consider that David Ortiz will make anywhere from $2-$4 million more next year thanks to arbitration, suddenly that $8 million dollars could be cut in half. Throw Scutaro’s $6 million on that and it’s around $10 million that would be available. Ryan Madson anyone?
But if Scutaro is dealt, that would leave a huge hole at shortstop. From an offensive standpoint, Scutaro hit a career high .299 last season with 7 long balls and 54 RBI. His line was .358, .423 and .781 while he had a WAR of 1.4. Not a great WAR, but consider he lost the starting shortstop job to Jed Lowrie for part of the year and it was a nice year from Scutaro.
On a defensive side, Scutaro made 12 errors last year, the second highest in his career. There were times you wondered if he would ever make another play without throwing it away, but he buckled down in September both defensively and offensively. He was one of only a few that actually showed up in September and for that I tip my cap to him.
Back to the hole at short. Jed Lowrie hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough for an entire season so he’s more than a little concerning to pencil in at shortstop. He did show flashes of brilliance at the plate last year, but again, his health is the biggest question mark.
Jose Iglesias doesn’t appear to be ready for the majors, at least from a batting point of view. His defensive skills have matured well beyond his years but his hitting and plate discipline leaves something to be desired, making him a question mark for next season. When the Red Sox picked up Scutaro’s option shortly after the year ended, it pointed all signs that Iglesias would spend next season in AAA working on his offensive skills. Suddenly, he may be platooning the shortstop duties with Lowrie if Scutaro were to get traded.
While I understand the reasoning for this potential move, it doesn’t make sense to me. Keep Scutaro for one more year and if Iglesias proves he is major league ready by July then a deal involving Scutaro at that time would be more beneficial. $6 million dollars isn’t a lot of money on a major league roster and it won’t give Cherington the financial freedom he needs to improve this club. But dealing Kevin Youkilis and unloading his $12 million annual salary just might shore up a little more cash. But that’s another conversation for another time.
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