Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Meetings Wonderland

I'll take a break from my end-of-decade posts to update on some hot stove happenings. The Winter Meetings, that annual rite of the snowy offseason, start today in Indianapolis. As much as I love the excitement of baseball talk dominating the airwaves in December, lots of times the Winter Meetings are a bunch of sizzle without any steak.

Two years ago, rumors were flying in every possible direction about Johan Santana, and some were even reporting a deal with Boston was just about done. It didn't happen, and it was another two months before Santana relocated to Queens. The groundwork is often laid for big deals, but big action often waits until just before and just after Christmas.

So for this week, take some advice from Marvin Gaye: Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.

One deal finalized this week was the Red Sox signing of Marco Scutaro, a Venezuelan shortstop who two years ago was a utility man on bad Oakland team. Now, one of baseball's elite teams will be asking him to be their shortstop for the next two seasons.

I wasn't thrilled about the possibility of Scutaro coming on board earlier in the offseason, mostly because he'd be costing the Red Sox their first round pick (29th overall) as a Type A free agent. However, whatever reluctance existed about that dissipated for myself, and probably for Theo Epstein, after the Braves signed Billy Wagner and handed Boston the 20th selection.

Scutaro is cashing to the tune of $12.5 million over two years mostly because of his career season in '09, when he posted these numbers (all career highs): .282/.379/.409/.789, 12 homers, 35 doubles 100 runs, 162 hits, 14 steals, 90 walks and 235 total bases. He did this while playing just above average defense at shortstop (UZR/150: 0.9). The caveat: Scutaro enjoyed this season at age 33.

I think it'd be a lot to ask for Scutaro to put up these numbers again. But he's a patient contact hitter with excellent discipline (he made contact on 93.3 percent of his swings last season, tied with Luis Castillo for best in the Majors), and that lends itself to continued success. He ran into some issues with plantar fasciitis late last year, but it wasn't enough to scare Boston away.

At the very least, if Scutaro struggles, Red Sox fans can't complain that they spent too much money on him like they did with Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo. In a winter when they needed a shortstop with almost no good options on the table, I think the Sox did the best they could and aren't tying themselves down to a long-term deal as a result.

A few other thoughts:
  • Newsflash: The Phillies are awesome, and just got better. They pounced on ex-Phil Placido Polanco to play third base for the next three seasons at just $6 million per year. He might not be as strong defensively as Pedro Feliz, but does a lot more with the bat. It would be hard to imagine a better No. 8 hitter for a strong N.L. team given his contact hitting and situational prowess. They now have former All Stars or All Star-caliber players at every position, a terrific bench and two lefty starters capable of being aces. Now if they could only do something about that bullpen...
  • Has anyone been able to explain why the Dodgers didn't offer arbitration to Randy Wolf? Behind John Lackey, he's easily the best free agent starter available and will probably be paid around $10 million per year if not by the Dodgers than some other team for sure. It's not like Wolf would have accepted an arbitration offer, he's nearly guaranteed to get multi-year offers from around baseball. So why not go for it and collect the two draft picks? It really made no sense, unless there's something I'm missing.
  • Looks like a four-year, $36 million deal for Chone Figgins and the Mariners will be finalized sometime this week. Even if Adrian Beltre were to somehow accept the M's offer for arbitration, they could still make it work, with Figgins likely to supplant Jose Lopez at second base as long as they find a taker. Or they can just throw him in left field. Either way, it's a fantastic signing that makes their division rival Angels significantly weaker. They could swap third basemen and wind up with Beltre as a result. There's a lot of buzz surrounding Seattle as they're apparently flush with cash and might make runs at Jason Bay, John Lackey and look to extend Felix Hernandez.
  • I'm still formulating an opinion on whether I'd like the Red Sox to re-sign Bay or make the big run at Matt Holliday. Holliday is a better long-term investment, but Bay has proven he can handle the heat of Boston. Four years is the most Bay deserves to be offered while I don't think I'd hesitate to give Holliday five or six. Either way the Red Sox probably need to sign one or the other because otherwise they'll be, you know, screwed.
Unless something epic happens between now and then, my next post will be an all-decade twofer: the five best managers and five best teams of the Aughts. It'll be good. I promise.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

I see Red Sox fans getting more and more nervous with Theo yet to act, except for the Scutaro signing, which I do think is significant and now Scott Atchison. I am hoping that the Sox will have either Holliday or Bay in left field on opening day. Theo is working on an extension for V-Mart and having his bat in the lineup for the foreseeable future will be huge for the Sox as that spot has been kind of a void for them in recent years. Add to that, the promise of a healthy and conditioned Dice-K who we really didn't have last year and hopefully Big Papi will be the Big papi of the second half of '09. I like this team. Sure there are a couple of "ifs" but every team has them. I think we just have to be patient and wait and see what Theo puts together for 2010.