Scutaro talks of 'perfect team' for title

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox on Friday officially signed free-agent shortstop Marco Scutaro, who revealed at his introductory press conference that he took a little less money to join the Red Sox because he thought they gave him his best chance at a ring.

"You get to a point where you just want to live the experience, just want to be in the World Series, just want to win the ring," said the 34-year-old Scutaro, who had a career year with the Toronto Blue Jays last season. "I think this is the perfect team to do that."

Scutaro's deal is for two years with a mutual option for a third season. He will get a $1 million signing bonus and a $5 million salary in 2010 and 2011, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney. The third year carries options of $6 million (team) and $3 million (Scutaro), with a buyout of $1.5 million.

Because of Scutaro's Type A free-agency status, the Red Sox will give up a first-round pick to the Blue Jays. But Boston gets the selection back, thanks to its own Type A free agent, Billy Wagner, signing with the Braves on Wednesday.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said the competition for the right-handed-hitting Scutaro heated up in recent days.

"There was one team in particular that was really pushing aggressively, with a quicker timetable, and it looked like it was going to get done before the winter meetings," Epstein said. "So we acted quickly and Marco really wanted to be a Red Sox and we wanted him to be a Red Sox and it came together rapidly over the last couple of days."

FoxSports.com, citing major-league sources, reported that Scutaro declined a moderately richer three-year contract offer from the Oakland A's before accepting Boston's deal. Scutaro played for the A's from 2004-07 before getting dealt to the Blue Jays in 2007 for two prospects.

The Venezuelan-born Scutaro had been a career utility player before breaking out with the Blue Jays last season, his first as an everyday shortstop. Scutaro hit .282 with 12 homers and 60 RBIs last season, and his .379 on-base percentage was third among shortstops in the American League.

Epstein said he wasn't worried about taking a risk on a player whose best year of his career came in his eighth major league season.

"We don't expect him to go out and repeat what he did last year, that would be unrealistic to expect that," Epstein said. "But I think we feel like we're seeing a really good player finally get his chance and make those improvements on the mental side of the game that players make late in their careers and still have enough physical ability to go out produce. So it's a nice combination."

Scutaro credits his improved numbers with an adjustment he made in his stance and the fact that he got the chance to play every day. He explained that when you don't get a lot of at bats, as was the case through most of his career, he felt like he had to be aggressive. With the chance to play every day came patience at the plate. His 90 walks this season were a career high by a long shot.

"You know when you play every even if you go 0 for 4 or 0 for 10 you know you're still gong to be in the lineup," Scutaro said. "That makes you a little more patient and do adjustments a little better."

Scutaro said he had been targeting the Red Sox from the get-go. Similarly, Epstein said he had made Scutaro his primary target.

"Marco is somebody who grinds his at-bats, sees a ton of pitches, is a pest up there, does all the little things," Epstein said. "He's someone you can hit and run with, someone you can trust in a big at bat. He hits good pitching, hits the ball to all fields, his power is to the pull side [left field], which should play well at Fenway Park."

Scutaro, assuming he opens the 2010 season at shortstop, will become the seventh player since 2003 to be the team's Opening Day shortstop.

Nomar Garciaparra (2003), Pokey Reese (2004), Edgar Renteria (2005), Alex Gonzalez (2006), Julio Lugo (2007 and 2008) and Lowrie (2009) preceded Scutaro.

That list doesn't include Orlando Cabrera, who came in the 2004 trading-deadline deal for Garciaparra and played a key role in the team's World Series title run before leaving as a free agent.

Epstein said he had nothing new to report on the status of negotiations with free-agent left fielder Jason Bay, but said he was relieved to have his shortstop in the fold.

"We still have some moves to make to complete this team," Epstein said. "This was a significant first step. We had a lot of balls in the air. It can be an unsettling feeling when you have so many different variables out there and none of them have reached a conclusion yet. This is significant. We have our shortstop on this club, we have another good piece that fits into the lineup and we'll go forward and see if we can complete the rest of the club."

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes was used in this report.