Red Sox agree to $12.5M deal with SS Scutaro
BOSTON (AP) – Marco Scutaro slipped on his new Red Sox jersey to pose for the cameras, then asked whether he should leave it on for the rest of the news conference.
“Sure. Go for it,” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein confirmed.
You’ll excuse Scutaro if he’s tentative about slipping into a position that’s seen little stability since 2004. Boston has churned through seven regular shortstops since trading away Nomar Garciaparra, but Epstein thinks he has one that can solidify the position for at leas the next two years.
“We identified Marco as the best free agent and the guy that would be the best fit for the ballclub,” Epstein said. “We’re getting a really good player who’s finally getting his chance.”
Scutaro and the Red Sox agrees to a contract that guarantees him $12.5 million over two seasons over $14 million over three.
He will get a $1 million signing bonus and $5 million salaries in 2010 and 2011. The club holds a $6 million option for 2012, and if it declines Scutaro could exercise a $3 million option or take a $1.5 million buyout.
If Scutaro is traded before the option is excercised, the option base would increase to $3.5 million.
Scutaro said he took a little less to join the Red Sox, a big-market club with a chance to contend. He said another team offered more; he did not identify it.
“Since Day 1, this was my first choice,” Scutaro said. “We have a chance to win a championship. … You get to a point where you want to live the experience. You want to be in the World Series. I think this is the perfect team.”
The 34-year-old was a utility player with the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics before earning the starting job in Toronto in 2008 and then posting a career year in ’09 with a .282 average, 12 homers and 60 RBIs. He missed the last two weeks of last season with a torn plantar fascia in his right heel.
Epstein sent assistant Allard Baird to Miami to work Scutaro out and make sure he wasn’t suffering any lingering effects of the injury. Scutaro said he’s been doing a lot of baseball activity and “it’s feeling great.”
The Red Sox also have Jed Lowrie at shortstop, and he will have a chance to prove he is healthy and productive enough to serve as a backup or force his way into a trade. He was unable to do that last year, when he injured his wrist and went on the disabled list after just five games.
That left Nick Green as the starter until the Red Sox went out and got Alex Gonzalez from the Reds for a second stint in Boston. Gonzalez, who also played for the Red Sox in 2006, became a free agent last month and signed with the Blue Jays after Boston declined his $6 million option.
The signing of a shortstop closes one of two holes in the Red Sox lineup. They are still looking for someone to replace free agent Jason Bay in left field, or to sign Bay himself.
Epstein said he also is hoping that the winter meetings will lay the groundwork for the addition of depth throughout the roster, especially in starting pitching and the bullpen.
In all, seven shortstops have started at least 50 games for the Red Sox since they traded disgruntled two-time batting champion Nomar Garciaparra at the 2004 deadline. Boston got Orlando Cabrera in the deal – and won the World Series as a result.
But the Red Sox let Cabrera go after the season and signed Edgar Renteria to a $40 million, four-year deal. He was followed by Gonzalez, Julio Lugo and Gonzalez again; Lowrie, Green and Alex Cora were also part of the solution at times, and part of the problem at others.
Epstein hopes Scutaro can stop the revolving door and hold the spot until prospect Jose Iglesias is ready. The 20-year-old Cuban defector is believed to be a year or two away from the major leagues.