Apart from legitimate aces, quality shortstops that contribute on both sides of the ball might be the hardest commodity to come by. The Red Sox had one in Marco Scutaro, a solid defender who had a triple slash of .299/.358/.423 last season, but they traded him to the Rockies for a pitcher with a career FIP of 5.57.
General manager Ben Cherington had his reasons. The $6 million Boston was set to pay Scutaro in 2012 was allegedly standing in his way of signing a free-agent starting pitcher. The Red Sox have alternatives on their roster, such as Mike Aviles and Nick Punto, who might be able to handle the position in Scutaro’s stead. The aforementioned pitcher, Clayton Mortensen, has an enticing sinker that may have helped Cherington overlook the ugly numbers.
But when push comes to shove, this was a salary dump for the Sox, and a very curious one at that. Scutaro is a 2-3 WARP player, easily worth the $6 million he was due, and hardly easy to replace. Aviles is a defensive liability; Punto is an offensive sinkhole. Top prospect Jose Iglesias, though big league-ready as a fielder, would struggle to match even Punto’s lowly contributions at the plate.
If Cherington is now able to sign Roy Oswalt, and if Oswalt returns to his pre-injury form, and if he maintains that form for the duration of the season, and if Bobby Valentine can squeeze every last drop of value out of the Aviles-Punto platoon, then moving Scutaro’s $6 million for Mortensen might make sense. But that’s an awful lot of ifs. If any one of them fails, there is a better than even chance that the overall impact of this move, plus whatever moves it foretells, will make the Red Sox worse in 2012.