When it was reported earlier today by Buster Olney that the bidding for Marco Scutaro had reached the range of three years for $24 million, those with nothing at stake financially were taken aback. Three years for a guy who turned 37 two days after the San Francisco Giants clinched their second World Title in three years seemed risky; an average annual value of $8 million seemed a little nuts for a middle infielder who has never made an All-Star team, never received Gold Glove consideration and never hit a lot of home runs or stole many bases.
Scutaro is a steady player, and 37-year-old steady players making $8 million per year are a rarity, even in this insane era of ever-increasing salaries and cartoonish television rights deals. Now that we see Scutaro’s AAV sneaking just under the $7 million range in reality, are things somehow different?
Not with this ownership group. Not with their revenue stream. Not with the other available options (which Grant Brisbee hilariously broke down earlier today). The fact that the Giants either gave an extra year or saved $4 million off what Olney’s report said means nothing. The Giants can shoulder extra costs without issue, and are probably glad they only spent a total of $78 million on Scutaro, Jeremy Affeldt and Angel Pagan.
Yes, Scutaro probably earned an extra $10+ million with a fantastic last three months. Yes, the Giants are giving $20 million to a guy who was traded for a player more well known for having a blonde pregnant wife who the CSN Bay Area broadcast crew fell in love with for a week than anything Charlie Culberson did in the Giants organization. Oh, the Rockies also GAVE THE GIANTS CASH along with Scutaro for the chance to land the prospect (and his wife, if the Rockies’ affiliate is as baby-crazy as CSNBA).
In other words, the “smart” move would’ve been to sign Scutaro to a 2-year, $8 million contract immediately after trading for him. But that’s not how the world works. In actuality, the move everyone expected — and was fine with — was to let Scutaro play out his contract year and hope for the best. And the Giants got even better than that.
What else were the Giants going to do? Let Scutaro go to the Cardinals? The “Plan B” ideas were either bringing Jeff Keppinger back, seeing if Stephen Drew (a Scott Boras client with an option for $10 million for 2013 that the A’s declined) might sign for a bargain price for the opportunity to change middle infield positions, or going with the duct tape option (Joaquin Arias and/or Ryan Theriot).
Fangraph’s Dave Cameron had some interesting things to say about Scutaro’s production over the past five years and the fact that he got very lucky on Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). But after spending so much time around the team over the past couple years I feel like there is so much more at play than Scutaro’s numerical production and age. He just fit.
In a ridiculously short period of time, Scutaro became a team leader. Maybe not in the loud, wild-eyed sense like Hunter Pence, but as the oldest relevant player (sorry, Guillermo Mota) Scutaro already had respect when he arrived. His standing only grew from there. His dry sense of humor didn’t hurt, nor did the fact that he’s bilingual. He also played like a demon from heaven, turning double plays like Robby Thompson and refusing to swing and miss.
That’s another part of the reason why Scutaro was/is such a fit. Bruce Bochy’s dream hitter hits .333 with an OBP of .340.
“Put the ball in play.”
Other than “They’re all gonna play,” that sentence is the one I heard Bochy utter more than any other over the last two seasons.
Sure, there are other, more obvious reasons to bring Scutaro back. The ScutaGnomes are probably already finished and getting loaded into some container ship in Beijing as you read this. He’s also a postseason hero. The injury Scutaro looked to have suffered after Matt Holliday turned into Cortland Finnegan showed just how much the Giants needed him. If Scutaro doesn’t get up, do the Giants win that series? Seeing as he was the MVP of the NLCS, probably not. Do they win the World Series without Scutaro? Possibly, but he drove in the clinching run.
Some of the beat writers have brought up Omar Vizquel (another middle infielder who stayed in phenomenal shape into his 40s) as a good comparison for what Scutaro could bring at an advanced age. Perhaps in terms of body fat percentage that rings true, but Vizquel’s athleticism was upper-end. Scutaro’s strengths lie more in the areas of hand-eye coordination and concentration. There’s a chance this deal looks a little too generous in a year or two, but a team that’s selling out while raising season ticket prices 10% every year can afford a mistake or two, and they aren’t giving away Rowand money to guys over 30 anymore.
The Giants nicknamed Scutaro “Blockbuster” in response to the Dodgers’ huge August trade with the Red Sox that was supposed to carry them to an easy NL West crown. The Giants’ 2012 storyline wasn’t as cute and easy to repackage as the 2010 misfits, but Scutaro epitomized the kind of “everyone counted us out” thinking that every title-winning team carries to some degree.
Speaking of the 2010 team and whether or not a 3-year deal to Scutaro is painfully reminiscent of the Aubrey Huff deal or the one the Giants offered to Juan Uribe before he took a million more to go to L.A., this isn’t quite the same thing. Huff and Uribe represented familiarity. Scutaro represented something almost magical when he arrived, and he embodied the characteristics the front office would probably like to clone and inject in every one of their minor leaguers. Plus, we get to see Scutaro collect a World Series ring in front of Holliday. That’s probably worth at least a $5 million in standing ovation energy alone.
I saw Keppinger walk through the clubhouse as if his own personal raincloud was following him. Scutaro drank in the rain like it was the fountain of youth. Scutaro was the Giants’ only option, they could afford him, and this moment gets to linger a little longer with the news of his return.