|Where It Stands with Scutaro||11.28.09 at 5:56 pm ET|
The Red Sox shortstop situation was infused with some potential positive news for the team on Saturday.
Two days after news came out that Alex Gonzalez would be signing with the Blue Jays, Marco Scutaro — thought to be a target of the Red Sox to replace Gonzalez — was quoted by Venezuelan reporter Augusto Cardenas as saying that four teams — the Rangers, Mariners, Dodgers, and Red Sox — have all shown interest in him.
Scutaro went on to say that he preferred the Red Sox and Dodgers at this point because of their potential to reach the postseason, and that he hopes to define his situation sometime after Dec. 1. None of the teams, the 34-year-old was quoted as saying, has made a formal offer. Scutaro explained that the Dodgers are interested in him playing second base — his primary position in the minors, and a spot where he spent about half of his defensive time as recently as 2008 with the Blue Jays — while the Red Sox are looking at him as a shortstop, with the other organizations perhaps identifying him as a third baseman.
Since the report came out, Texas general manager Jon Daniels was quoted by the Dallas News as saying the Rangers have no interest in acquiring Scutaro as a third baseman to replace Michael Young. There would be presumably no other place to fit Scutaro, with Elvis Andrus at shortstop and All-Star Ian Kinsler at second.
“We haven’t inquired about anyone for 3B and have no plans to,” Daniels wrote in an email to the Dallas News. “End of story.”
Scutaro is a ‘Type A’ free agent, meaning that any team that signs him would have to forfeit a draft pick, assuming Toronto offers arbitration to the shortstop by Dec. 1. After the signing of Gonzalez, and given the interest from other teams in the free-agent market, it is not expected that Scutaro will accept the Blue Jays’ offer of arbitraiton.
The Red Sox had told Gonzalez that they were prepared to offer him a one-year, $3 million deal, but that he would have to wait until the Winter Meetings to do so. The Meetings start on Dec. 7, which is also the last day players have to decide whether or not they are going to accept arbitration.
By that date, the Sox will know whether they are likely to net a draft pick from reliever Billy Wagner, another Type A free agent who is all but certain to receive an arbitration offer from the Sox.
(Wagner’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, told WEEI.com Wednesday that he fully expected his client would be offered arbitration by the Red Sox, and isn’t ruling out a return to Boston.
“Billy is absolutely, believe or not, open to going back to Boston,” Stringfellow said. It was Wagner, the agent said, that listed the Red Sox as one of the teams he would be open to signing with when Stringfellow met with his client immediately after the regular season ended. “If you asked me if he would be open to returning to Boston right after the season ended I would say there was no chance. But he’s the one that brought it up to me,” he said. “He shared some stories that gave him comfort there in Boston that made him feel like he could come back there. It was one of the most positive experiences that he ever had.”)
The Red Sox presumably set the timetable for the offer to Gonzalez to pursue what they deemed more desirable shortstop options, one of whom figures to be Scutaro. Gonzalez, in turn, decided to take the sure offer of Toronto’s one-year, $2.75 million guarantee for 2010, with a $2.5 million option for 2011.
Many fans have been critical of the Red Sox in the wake of Gonzalez’ departure, feeling the 32-year-old’s defensive abilities made him difficult to replace. But according to baseball executives, coaches and players who have worked with Scutaro, the 34-year-old is at least comparable with Gonzalez defensively, with one general manager giving Scutaro the slight edge.
“His hands are as good as any hands I’ve ever coached in major league baseball, and I’ve been in the big leagues for 14 years and I’ve had the opportunity to be around some great infielders,” said Blue Jays third base and infielders coach Brian Butterfield when appearing on the Mut and Bradford Show, Friday.
“This guy has no panic in his hands and he’s going to catch the ball. He’s very intelligent. He is 34 years old, but he takes great care of himself. He’s got a youthful body and he cares about baseball. A lot of times you look over at the other side of the field and you can see the skill, the arm strength, the running, the quickness, the ability to catch the ball, the ability to get it in the air. But a lot of times as a scout or being on the other side you don’t get a chance to get to know the player. But having had Marco I can assure you he cares about the game, he’s very popular among his teammates, he’s got an infectious personality, his teammates gravitate to him, and he does a lot of things on a baseball that help you win the game.”
Butterfield said that, if given the chance, he would have voted for Scutaro for the American League Gold Glove. Another advocate of Scutaro’s abilities is Blue Jays infielder John McDonald, who came up through the minor leagues with the former second baseman.
“Last year I think he played one of the best shortstops (in baseball) for the first five months, until he hurt his heel,” said McDonald on the Mut and Bradford Show, referencing Scutaro’s battle plantar fasciitis. “He was tremendous playing defense … I thought last year (Scutaro and Gonzalez) were very comparable.”
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