The Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies have been discussing a trade that would send shortstop Marco Scutaro to Denver, and the Sox have finally pulled the trigger on the deal. Scutaro will now start at second base for the Rockies, and the team finally has a solid double-play partner for superstar Troy Tulowitzki. Right-hander Clay Mortensen was shipped to the northeast and will provide some bullpen depth. The Sox have cleared $6 million in cap in order to get starting pitching help, such as Roy Oswalt, but this wasn’t an easy deal for them. They already traded Jed Lowrie to the Houston Astros for Mark Melancon earlier this offseason, and thus lacked depth at shortstop, despite also signing former Twin Nick Punto. Boston will platoon Punto and Mike Aviles until Jose Iglesias is ready to make it to the Majors.
It is a mistake to evaluate this trade from the Red Sox standpoint in terms of value vs. value, because Clay Mortensen is much worse than Marco Scutaro. The Sox made this deal solely because they want to upgrade at other positions. With this trade finalized after nearly breaking down completely, the Sox now have the ability to sign an Oswalt or an Edwin Jackson to bolster an awful rotation. The real question is, how effective can the combination of Mike Aviles and Nick Punto be?
RotoChamp projects 289 plate appearances for Aviles next season, and they have earmarked 256 PAs for Punto in 2012. Neither of them will receive significant time at short with Iglesias looming in the minors, but these two will platoon at short for about half of the season. Scutaro is certainly better than both of them combined, so the Sox will suffer at this position for a portion of the year. Based on RotoChamp’s projections, Punto is a 2.3 WAR player and Aviles is worth 0.8 WAR.
The problem with these projections is that RotoChamp’s projection for Nick Punto is too optimistic, because Punto has never been worth 2 WAR in the past three seasons. He is worth about 1.5 WAR, but the projection for Aviles is fair. Bill James sees Aviles as a 1.1 WAR player and values Punto at 1.7 WAR.
Combined, Punto and Aviles are worth around 1.5 WAR, so the drop-off between a platoon of Punto and Aviles and Scutaro alone is a little over one win when given the same number of at-bats. If the Sox can sign Oswalt or Jackson, then this deal was a successful one for the organization.
Either way, the Colorado Rockies made themselves a better team with this trade. Clay Mortensen has a career FIP of 5.58 in 95 innings and was worth -0.1 WAR last season in 58.1 innings. RotoChamp projects 60 innings out of Mort and a 4.65 ERA (5.35 FIP). Thus, he is a replacement-level reliever who will have a minimal impact and was as expendable as it gets after the acquisitions of Josh Outman and the young Zach Putnam, who will be a decent MLB middle reliever soon.
Marco Scutaro replaces a 1 WAR second baseman in Jonathan Herrera who was serviceable but nothing more. Last year, Scutaro was worth a solid 2.9 WAR with the Red Sox and does a good job getting on base (.358 OBP). Bill James and RotoChamp see him as a 3.0 and 2.8 WAR player respectively, while the fans on FanGraphs tab him as a 2.8 WAR player next season (but the projections are based on him as a shortstop).
Scutaro will be worth about 2.8 WAR next season as a second baseman, which is about how much the Rockies have gained in value from this deal. The Sox were able to clear out a little bit of cap space in their quest to piece together a pitching staff, whereas Colorado gets a solid second baseman who is under an extremely cost-effective deal. Chalk this one up as a solid deal for the Sox, but one may wonder if they could have received more out of it. However, the team is going even harder after former Astro Roy Oswalt and should make this deal look good in the end. The Rockies struck the perfect deal here and are nearly two wins better for it.
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Topics: Boston Red Sox, Clay Mortensen, Colorado Rockies, Edwin Jackson, Houston Astros, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Herrera, Josh Outman, Marco Scutaro, Mark Melancon, Mike Aviles, Minnesota Twins, Nick Punto, Roy Oswalt, Troy Tulowitzki, Zach Putnam