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Entering 2005, the Boston Red Sox had Edgar Renteria locked up for four seasons, to go along with prospects Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia. Shortstop was a crowded place in Boston at one time. Pedroia, drafted from Arizona State, moved to second base to accommodate Ramirez and establish his own path to the major leagues.
Earlier this week, the Red Sox asked Pedroia if the second baseman would consider a return to his old position. Pedroia’s response: “Tell Derek [Jeter] to enjoy the gold glove and silver slugger awards while he can.”
However, it appears that Marco Scutaro has been brought to Boston as yet another free agent shortstop signing, with Scutaro reportedly inking a two-year contract with an option for a third year. Would moving Pedroia to shortstop and signing a free agent second baseman like Orlando Hudson been a better move?
Baseball America reported that minor league managers “rated [Pedroia’s] strike-zone discipline and second-base defense the best in the Eastern League” for the 2005 season, noting that while “his instincts and makeup are excellent…Pedroia’s arm and range weren’t quite up to par at shortstop.” Had Hanley Ramirez not been on the same team as Pedroia, perhaps he would have continued as a shortstop. However, with the trades of Renteria and Ramirez, and the acquisition of Mark Loretta, Pedroia became he full time shortstop in Pawtucket. In 2006, he spent 74 games at the position and 32 at second base before earning a call to the big leagues to play second base.
Since taking over at keystone for the Red Sox, Pedroia has recorded a 7.4 URZ/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games) including 10.5 and 10.6 over the past two seasons. By comparison, Alexi Ramirez, who made the switch from second base to shortstop, was at -10.6 in 2008 playing second base and 2.4 in 2009 at shortstop. Scutaro put up a 1.0 UZR/150 in 2009 as a shortstop but over his career has put up a -2.9 figure. The Red Sox, like most teams, use internal defensive metrics as well as more traditional scouting because defensive statistics have not proven themselves to be as accurate as the offensive statistics.
If we assume Pedroia would be an average defensive shortstop, the chance to upgrade the offense would have been worth shifting him over the bag.
Had Pedroia played shortstop in 2009, he would have compiled the fifth highest OPS at the position of any player with at least 500 at bats. While Bartlett could have been acquired a few years ago, Hanley and Tulowitzki have been untouchable in the trade market. However, Orlando Hudson, another option the Red Sox were looking at to play second base, put up a .283/.357/.417/.774 line last season and would not have cost a draft pick to sign. Maybe that looks close to how Scutaro played for Toronto in 2009, and it does.
The downside of this signing? Marco Scutaro is a lifetime .265/.337/.384/.721 hitter, coming off a career year in a season in which he turned 34.