Marco Scuataro has always been thought of as a nice player. Before this year, Scutaro was thought of as nothing more than a backup middle infielder, who could play some solid defense, hit for some power, and come up with the occasional clutch hit.
But this season, Scutaro was given the chance to play everyday at short for the Blue Jays and he's taken the opportunity and run with it. Scutaro has emerged as a tremendous shortstop and leadoff hitter and he's set new career highs (so far) in batting average, runs, OBP, walks, OPS, and more.
So what will Scutaro's big 2009 campaign mean for his potential free agent earnings? Let's take a look:
The Case for Scutaro
-He can hit
Scutaro's numbers this season don't lie; this guy can hit. A .293 batting average, .388 OBP, 11 homers, .818 OPS, and 89 runs scored is the recipe for a very effective leadoff hitter. I'm sure there are plenty of teams around baseball that would love to have that kind of production from their shortstop.
According to fangraphs, Scutaro has been fantastic defensively this season at shortstop. His UZR/150 is an impressive 9.5 in large part because of his improved range (4.0 in '09). Scutaro is far from a liability as shortstop and can be counted on to play solid defense.
The Case against Scutaro
Even though Scutaro was one of 2009's breakout stars, it's important to remember that Scutaro has been around baseball for awhile and is going to be 34 years old when the 2010 season begins. By no means should Scutaro be considered a long term building block.
The question has to be asked when evaluating Scuatro: was his 2009 season a fluke? There aren't too many players, who put up the best numbers of their career at 33 years old.
The crop of free agent shortstops this offseason is pretty weak. Unless your a huge fan of Orlando Cabrera or you really want to give Khalil Greene/Bobby Crosby another chance, then this group really comes down to Miguel Tejada and Scutaro. While Tejada will probably hit for a higher average with more doubles and HRs, Scutaro is younger (33), has a much better OBP, and has shown the ability to play some pretty solid defense. Who would you go with?
(2 years/$10 million)
Here are some comparable contracts:
Kaz Masui (3 years/$15.5 million)
Mark Ellis (2 years/$11 million)
Akinori Iwamura (3 years/$7.7 million)
I think Scutaro's 2009 campaign has established him as a legitimate starting shortstop so obviously, he should receive a nice raise from the $1.1 million that he earned this year. However, I have a tough time believing that he would get anything more than a 2 year deal on the open market. When you combine his age (33) with the fact that the 2009 season was his only as a starter, I find it hard to think that a team would commit to him for more than 2 years.