John Mozeliak has yet to strike, and there’s certainly a reasonably high probability that he won’t, but free agent second baseman Marco Scutaro has become the latest in a series of alleged targets for the Cardinal GM. We’ve already pitched our tent and pulled out the cooler in the “don’t give Sean Burnett a multi-year deal” camp, so it seems prudent to examine what we’d be willing to accept when it comes to Scutaro theoretically becoming a Cardinal.
Before I get into actually examining the possibilities and facts involving the incumbent Giants second baseman, I’m going to have to go on record as saying I simply can’t stand the guy. Don’t get me wrong, Marco Scutaro may in fact be a lovely individual. I don’t care, though. I had to choke down a stunningly flaccid end to the 2012 NLCS and watch my favorite baseball team go down in flames mere days after looking almost certain to reach a second-straight World Series, and plenty of that blame has to go in Scutaro’s direction. It wasn’t just that Scutaro unlocked a long-dead sorcerer’s spell to enable unlimited awkwardly-slashed singles all series long, it was that he had to be so annoying about it. All of that smiling and laughing and prancing about in the rain like a farmer learning that a drought was over was simply too much to take. The final dagger was quite clearly Scutaro’s insistence to give into his worst dramatic impulses and turn his head skyward while throwing his stupid hands in the air. Plus he looks like Voldemort.
Whew, that felt good! I guess I can get around to the analysis portion of the program now that all grievances are aired. (We are very near Festivus season, after all. so grievances seem necessary!) Scutaro reached the Giants only after being sent to the bay area after an abysmal start that found him hitting .271/.324/.361 as a Rockies player. Not even Coors Field could spruce up Scutaro’s season, but for some reason a move to San Francisco could. Scutaro went on to ride a huge wave of BABIP water to a .362/.385/.473 line with the Giants in 268 PA, a level of play that is quite obviously over his head. Per UZR, he wasn’t exactly stellar with the glove, so the end result of his hodgepodge season was a .329 wOBA, 2.5 WAR worth of production, and a stinky heap of praise. High batting averages and perceived grit and postseason victories will do that for a guy.
So what kind of player is Marco Scutaro, anyway? He’s a good one, but that isn’t breaking news. Scutaro has maintained a strong reputation among those of us who like fancy numbers thanks to his ability to take a walk (although he stopped messing around with that in 2012 once the previously-mentioned sorcerer’s spell took effect), his ability to play multiple positions, his occasional pop, and his competence on the bases. Scutaro’s last five seasons have all been valued between 2.4 WAR and 4.5 WAR per the wonderful FanGraphs, so he’s a player worth having on the roster.
Perhaps more importantly, Scutaro could be an effective bridge to Kolten Wong. With Wong progressing nicely this fall (we guess?), his timetable might be speeding up; still, it would be nice to have someone standing at the keystone who isn’t a complete liability. The prospect of another season featuring Daniel Descalso‘s limp bat and Skip Schumaker‘s iron glove/lefty allergy at second base isn’t an attractive one, and a year or two of Scutaro would go a long way to remedy the situation. Despite my personal vendetta against his reaction to precipitation, I actually felt a bit intrigued to learn that Scutaro was someone Motown was asking about, at least until I realized there is absolutely no way this is going to happen.
The key here is that Kolten Wong isn’t that far away. Well, that and Brian Sabean is most certainly going to far and away beat any offer the Cardinals might make to retain his 2012 NLCS MVP. Sabean has an nearly-unblemished record when it comes to coughing up money in head-scratching ways, and he’s pretty much a lock to give Scutaro a lengthy deal worth too much. It’s important to remember that Scutaro recently turned 37 years old, so his viability up the middle might not be something anyone can inherently count on. Add in the fact that Scutaro’s perceived value is likely at its peak right now and we have the recipe for a perfect storm. Scutaro and the Giants have already publicly declared mutual love, and recent reports are returning to the common theme that the player’s most recent past team is most likely to also be his future team.
MLB Trade Rumors shared a report that Scutaro and the Giants are working on a three-year deal that may be worth around $24 million. That just won’t work for the Cardinals; they don’t need an aging stopgap infielder for that long, nor would they take the risk. As for the value of the contract, it’s probably about fair, but the Giants certainly aren’t getting much of a discount if the rumored amount is accurate. A three-year deal with a 37-year-old player who has forgotten how to draw a walk is a recipe for potential disaster, and I don’t see many scenarios in which Scutaro winds up averaging more than 2.0 WAR a season for the life of a contract like that. If that’s the case, the Giants will be roughly breaking even. I’m still not a fan of Sabean’s methods of roster construction, and it sure seems like he’s going to bring Marco Scutaro back no matter what.