Free Agent Flea Market, Part TWO: Sox Shopping for a SHORTSTOP

Bud’s MLB Free Agent Flea Market opens 12:01 a.m. ET on Saturday, so let’s amble around the folding tables and eager agents to see if there are any SHORTSTOP bargains for the Red Sox.

In Part OneStarters and Closers, we identified the following Sox needs:  Starting pitcher[s]; closer, SS, OF, 1b.

[http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/10/31/free-agent-flea-market-opens-saturday-who-fits-needs-of-red-sox-wallet/]

Today, in Part Two will cover FA shortstops; Part Three FA 1bs; Part Four FA OFs.

To begin the list, here are the Red Sox FAs:
Aaron Cook
James Loney
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Vicente Padilla
Scott Podsednik

David Ortiz*
Cody Ross*

[*Current thinking on the street says the Sox will sign Ortiz and Ross before the deadline on Saturday; that would fill the DH slot and make a FA OF from another team less of a priority.]

NOTE: The MLBPA contract says that a team must offer a player a contract that averages a minimum of $13.3 million per year.  David Pinto at Baseball Musings proves the point:

[You can assess the “possibles”—listed alphabetically--for the Red Sox by going here: http://www.spotrac.com/free-agents/mlb/.]

Why do the Red Sox need to shop the FA Flea Market for a shortstop?

Recall, the man who “runs the Red Sox”—Larry Lucchino told his puppet GM, Ben, to give away Jed Lowrie [and RHP Kyle Weiland] to Houston for Mark Melancon last December.

Recall that Larry The Boss also ordered Ben to give away the Red Sox starting SS, Marco Scutaro [MVP of NLCS] for Clay Mortensen [1-1, 3.21 for 2012 Sox] in order to get the team budget under the Luxury tax limit.

Recall that Larry The Boss also ordered Ben to give away the Red Sox starting SS, Mike Aviles [13 HRs, 60 RBIs, 14 SBs] to obtain John Farrell [who cannot play SS] from the Jays, who were about to fire him and hire Sandy Alomar.

Larry’s starting shortstop for 2013 is Jose “Can You Swing?” Iglesias, who would struggle to match Aviles’s offensive stats and will be an automatic out in the batting order.  Aviles made 15 errors for a .975 Fld. Avg. in 2012, so Jose would need to be a Gold Glove candidate to allow his “runs saved” ratio to justify his weak offense.  In the 23 games he started in 2012 he made 2 errors; that would project to 14 errors for 162 games; just one fewer than Aviles, and a .980 vs. .975 Fld Avg for Aviles.

What are the FA options for the Red Sox?

SHORTSTOP

1. Marco Scutaro

Over the last four seasons, the 36-year-old Scutaro has played for four teams (Toronto, Boston, Colorado and San Francisco) and he has been an asset at every destination. The versatile Scutaro can serve as a starting shortstop, second baseman or third baseman, and he has a career .272 average over 11 Major League seasons, including a .331 mark in 130 at-bats for the Giants since he was acquired at July’s non-waiver trade deadline. Scutaro is not flashy, and at 36 he is not a team’s long-term answer at any position, but with his ability to at the least serve as a super utility player, he will be sought after this off-season.

2. Stephen Drew

As detailed above, the 29-year-old Drew has been woeful at the plate this season. He didn’t produce much at the plate in 2011 either, batting .252 with five home runs and 45 RBI in 354 plate appearances. Likely, there will be a team that believes Drew will benefit from a change of scenery. It will probably be a club that plays in a hitting-friendly ballpark, which eliminates the A’s. Drew batted .278 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI in 2010, so the potential for offensive production exists if he remains healthy.

3. Jason Bartlett

On the disabled list with a knee strain since May 17, the 32-year-old Bartlett was released by the Padres earlier in August. It was a lost season for the veteran who played in 29 games and batted .133 in 98 plate appearances. When he is healthy, Bartlett is a plus defensive shortstop who has a career average of .271, though he has posted seasons of .254, .245 and now .133 since hitting .320 with Tampa Bay in 2009.

4. Cesar Izturis

It has been a busy year for the 32-year-old Izturis. He was released by the Milwaukee Brewers, picked up Washington in August, played five games for the Nationals before getting designated for assignment. He could rejoin the Nationals when rosters expand on September 1. A super defensive shortstop, Izturis has a career .255 average, including a .241 mark this season.

5. Alex Gonzalez

The 35-year-old Gonzalez, who has slowed down in the field but is still a defensively proficient shortstop, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee back in May and has not played since. If his knee recovers sufficiently, he should have no trouble finding a home in 2013. Gonzalez had 23 home runs and 88 RBI between Toronto and Atlanta in 2010 and then collected 15 home runs and 56 RBI with the Braves last season. He was batting .259 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 89 plate appearances at the time of his injury in May. Gonzalez is a career .247 hitter over 14 Major League seasons.”

[SOURCE: http://baseballnewssource.com/2012/08/31/analysis/mlb-top-5-free-agent-shortstops-for-2013]

Depending on contract issues, the following SSs may also be in the FA market on Saturday:

Alexi Casilla SS, 2B UFA Minnesota
Ronny Cedeno SS, 2B UFA New York
Jeff Keppinger 2B, SS UFA Tampa Bay

Who are the possibles for the Sox?

Scutaro is 36, but, coming off a career season with the Giants, he will be over-priced and Drew will be wanting a 4-5 year contract for big bucks [at least $10 million a year for 4-5 years] and there is his injury history. And, his agent: Scott Boras.

LISTEN:  Jed Lowrie is eligible for arbitration, which means the Astros can keep him by accepting the result of arbitration for his 2013 contract year, or not tender an offer and let him fall into the FA pool on Saturday.

Lowrie would be a great bargain, as he would like likely sign for 10% of a Drew or Scuatro contract; think 3 year deal for $1.5 million per year.  He is 28 and his career Fld Avg at SS is .977 and he has played all four infield positions.  He is a career .250 hitter, who hit .287 for the Sox in 2010

Lowrie is fully recovered from his ankle injury.

Stat-based Fangraphs says:

“He has always shown patience at the plate, and he managed to cut his strikeout rate in his past two seasons with the Red Sox. Even though his .338 BABIP is due for some regression, there’s reason to believe Lowrie is still on his way to a career-best season.

So far, Lowrie is walking more (12.9% to 10.0%) and striking out less (15.8% to 18.5%) often. When he has made contact, Lowrie is spraying line drives all over the field. While his 22.4% line drive rate seems high, Lowrie’s career performance in the category is 19.4%. His ground ball and fly ball rates have also remained somewhat similar to his career rates.

Those small changes may not explain why Lowrie has experienced success this season, but a look at his PITCHf/x plate discipline numbers is encouraging. Lowrie has taken a much more patient approach at the plate this season, as all of his swing percentages are down this year. But Lowrie isn’t coming up to the plate looking for a walk, either. He seems to be waiting for a pitch he can hit — a strategy that seems to be working out well early on.

Because while Lowrie’s swing percentages may be down, all of his contact rates are up. So while he’s being pickier, he’s making solid contact with the pitches he swings at. And as his 6.1 SwStr% shows, he’s whiffing at fewer pitches this season. This strategy could be part of the reason for Lowrie’s strong line-drive rate.”

[http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/jed-lowrie-rewards-the-astros/]

CONCLUSION:

Until the real future Red Sox SS, Deven Marerro, arrives in 2-3 years, the Sox can fill the gap, as the team recharges itself to contend for the playoffs, with Jed Lowrie; he is a known quantity and will fit right back in with Pedroia; he will be a great bargain at $1.5 million per season; his hitting skills are improving [as per Fangraphs] and he can replace Pedroia and Middlebrooks in the event of injuries.

With Lowrie starting at SS, the Sox would have the luxury of running a Gold Glove, Iglesias, into the game for late innings’ defense in close games.

After giving away their starting SSs so often, getting one back might—ironically–be the ideal FA solution for the next few years.

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Topics: Jed Lowrie, Jose Iglesias, Poll, Xander Bogaerts

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  • John Fahrer

    Maybe get Andrus in an Ellsbury deal. He’s a FA the season after next.

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