Commentary

Sox swap Scutaro ... for Oswalt?

Marco to Colo. yielded another pitcher, but real prize could be extra cash to sign Roy

Updated: January 22, 2012, 4:59 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Here is the question Boston Red Sox fans should be asking themselves:

Would you trade Marco Scutaro straight up for Roy Oswalt?

[+] EnlargeRoy Oswalt
AP Photo/Tom GannamRoy Oswalt struck out 93 with 33 walks in 139 innings for the Phillies in 2011.

My guess is that many of you would say yes. I'm inclined to join you, and soon -- perhaps within days -- it will be clear that Ben Cherington agrees with you.

That was what Saturday night's trade of Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies was all about. Just a couple of days ago, Cherington mentioned that he considered exercising Scutaro's $6 million option for the 2012 season a "significant acquisition," likening the late-October decision to signing a free agent.

Now, a couple of months later, Cherington has decided that money will be better spent elsewhere. He shipped off the 36-year-old Scutaro to a team, the Colorado Rockies, that needed a second baseman, in exchange adding another arm, sinkerballer Clay Mortensen, to the team's inventory of worth-taking-a-flier-on pitchers.

The money saved on Scutaro will now be directed to a full-court press of Oswalt, whose price has dropped substantially since the start of the buying season, when his agent said he was looking for a three-year deal.

The Sox, with Carl Crawford undergoing wrist surgery, also need another outfielder, and free agent Cody Ross would be an ideal fit, especially since he hits lefties, and with power (.349/.563/.912 career line).

But at this stage, the priority is Oswalt, whose ongoing back issues dissuaded teams from making a long-term commitment to him, but who would be worth the risk on a one-year deal, which he has said he would be willing to accept.

In a perfect world, the Sox would add both Oswalt and Ross, and perhaps Cherington has another move left in him to create the financial maneuverability that would make that possible and still not broach the luxury-tax threshold. At one time, there was some hope that David Ortiz would take a multiyear deal that would free up a few million, but judging by Ortiz's comments Thursday at the baseball writers' dinner, that's not going to happen.

There is risk involved in moving Scutaro, the second shortstop -- joining Jed Lowrie (Houston) -- traded by Cherington this winter. The trade ensures that the Sox this season will break double figures in the number of shortstops who played at least 50 games in a season since Nomar Garciaparra's trading-deadline deal in 2004.

(Drumroll, please: Lowrie, Scutaro, Nick Green, Alex Cora, Julio Lugo, Alex Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria, Pokey Reese, Orlando Cabrera. Garciaparra, incidentally, at 38 is just two years older than Scutaro.)

The Sox privately say they are prepared to enter the season with newly acquired Nick Punto and Mike Aviles sharing the position, a prospect that could trigger a sitdown strike by Sox pitchers in spring training. Jose Iglesias' glove projects him as the shortstop of the future; his bat dictates he needs more time in the minor leagues. Remember, Iglesias just turned 22 and has just 671 plate appearances in the minors; let's give him at least 1,000 before deciding whether he'll hit in the big leagues or not.

[+] EnlargeCody Ross
Tony Medina/Getty ImagesFree agent Cody Ross crushes left-handed pitching and could be another OF option for the Sox.

Punto, meanwhile, started six games at short for the Cardinals last season and has never started more than 60 in a season. Aviles, meanwhile, has started a total of 52 games at short over the past three years after his rookie season of 2008, and this winter he took an outfielder's glove to Puerto Rico to expand his repertoire.

Prediction: The Sox will add another shortstop before the regular-season opener. Add prediction: Forget about Hanley Ramirez. The Miami Marlins aren't moving him.

Finding a stopgap solution at short poses less of a problem than trying to match arms with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are awash in quality starting pitching, and the New York Yankees, who last week added Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda to a rotation anchored by CC Sabathia. Oswalt has the pedigree and -- at a reported $8 million or so -- the right price tag for the Sox to make a potentially significant upgrade.

The Red Sox have kept the channels open with Oswalt throughout the winter. They've looked at other options, too, talking to the Chicago White Sox about a potential trade for Gavin Floyd. Cherington on Thursday had said the Sox would keep exploring their options, though it was clear that anything else the team would do would be predicated on moving some money.

That money -- in Scutaro -- has been moved. A healthy Oswalt -- 159 career wins, 3.21 ERA, 5-2 record in 11 career playoff starts -- beckons.

Your move, Ben.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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