Eduardo Nunez’s inability to make the routine play and Jayson Nix’s generally inability to handle shortstop should have the Yankees in the market for a utility infielder prior to the trade deadline. The Rockies are one of the worst teams in baseball this season at 28-44, due in large part to an ineffective pitching staff that has allowed 5.6 runs per game. Although we’ve seen speculation about the availability of Carlos Gonzalez, a much more realistic trade target is Marco Scutaro.
We’re all familiar with Scutaro from his days with the Blue Jays and Red Sox, and I’m sure we all remember the walk-off three-run homer he hit against Mariano Rivera while with the Athletics years ago. He went to the Rockies in a salary dump trade this offseason and with Colorado out of contention, he could be available in another salary dump deal in the coming weeks. Let’s take a look to see what, if anything, he could offer New York…
- A high contact hitter, Scutaro has the second lowest swing-and-miss rate (5.4%) and ninth lowest strikeout rate (9.2%) in baseball over the last three seasons. That has allowed him to consistently hit for a solid average (.284 with a .300 BABIP since the start of 2010).
- In addition to putting the ball in play, Scutaro has a good eye and will supplement his average with walks. His 7.6% walk rate over the last three years is about league averge and he’s swung at just 18.9% of the pitches he’s seen outside of the strike zone during that time, the seventh lowest rate in baseball.
- Versatility is a major plus, as he’s played every position other than pitcher, catcher, and center field during his 11-year career. His career UZR marks are right around league average at all positions except first base, which is a super small sample (15 defensive innings).
- Scutaro is obviously familiar with the AL East and its various pitchers. There is a benefit to that experience but I’m not sure how significant. If nothing else, he’ll know what to expect in this division.
- Scutaro is a pure rental player, due to become a free agent after the season. He’s making $6M this season, so approximately $1M a month the rest of the way.
- At 36 years old, Scutaro is having his worst offensive season in years. He’s hit .276/.328/.385 with four homers in 301 plate appearances, an 86 wRC+ that is the worst full season mark of his career. His walk rate (6.3%) is his lowest since 2004, his first full season in the show.
- Although he has experience as a bench player, Scutaro has been a full-time player for the last five years. Sticking a guy who has been accustomed to regular at-bats on the bench and expecting similar production is always a tricky proposition.
- All of that versatility is a thing of the past. Scutaro has played the middle infield exclusively for the last four seasons, so it’s unclear what he could contribute in the outfield. I’m sure third base wouldn’t be much of a problem though.
- Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Yankees will not be able to recoup draft pick compensation should Scutaro sign with another team after the season.
Now things got slightly complicated last night because Scutaro took a Stephen Strasburg fastball to the head. He left the game under his own power and will be re-evaluated today, so we don’t know how much or if he’ll miss any time. Right now he’s listed as day-to-day. Obviously a DL stint of any length would throw a wrench into any team’s plans to acquire him. We’re all in wait-and-see mode at the moment.
Assuming he’ll be fine just for the sake of argument, Colorado acquired Scutaro for a pittance (Clayton Mortenson) from the Red Sox because they assumed all of his salary, and the same should be true at the deadline. They need pitching so perhaps a Grade-B pitching prospect fits the bill — Mikey O’Brien? Brett Marshall? — though I suppose it’s worth noting that the Yankees acquired Jerry Hairston Jr. for a Grade-D prospect (catcher Chase Weems) back in 2009. That’s not a perfect comparison since Scutaro is the better player and makes three times the money, but we’re in the same ballpark.
Joe Girardi and the Yankees emphasize rest — both half-days at DH and full days — for their older players and Scutaro would allow them to sit Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter without missing a beat. He would also be able to step right in should an injury arise, an underrated quality. The Yankees could use a little more contact in their offense and Scutaro would certainly help in that regard as well. There is no indication that he is or available or that the Rockies are ready to sell, but if and when the do, the Bombers should get involved and quickly. Replacing Nix with Scutaro is a clear upgrade and one that is unlikely to cost an arm and a leg.