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Red Sox fans have been clamoring for a solution to the shortstop carousel since the end of the 2004 season. The two big names, Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo, did not pan out as expected. The Red Sox are set to enter another season without a clear successor to the title of starting shortstop, although Jose Iglesias is nearing the major leagues. What the Red Sox do have is veteran shortstop Marco Scutaro and the major league ready Jed Lowrie. For manager Terry Francona, there is no question: Scutaro is the shortstop.
In his first year in a Red Sox uniform, Scutaro hit .275/.333/.388/.721 with eleven home runs and ninety-two runs scored. This was the third highest OPS of his career and only one home run shy of his career mark set in 2009. In the beefed up Red Sox lineup, this kind of production out of the seventh, eighth or ninth, spot in the lineup could be icing on the cake built with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. However, he will be 35 on opening day and entering what could be his last year with Boston. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Red Sox hold a $6 million option on Scutaro for 2012, though there is a $3 million player option and a $1.5 million buyout. As we’ve seen in the past, the Red Sox don’t have a problem sending money along to move a player.
Lowrie on the other hand will turn just 27 in April and has proven himself capable in the majors. Over the last three years Lowrie has hit .253/.336/.425/.761 with and outstanding .287/.381/.526/.907 campaign through fifty-five games in 2010. Obviously this is a small sample size but his career line, which includes 168 games, compares favorably with Scutaro. Lowrie can play every infield position so he brings a lot of value as a utility man if Scutaro is the starting shortstop. With Pedroia, Youkilis, Gonzalez and Scutaro all recovering from various ailments, Lowrie could find himself in a number of games, though he has suffered a few injuries himself.
Lowrie beat out Julio Lugo for the starting a few years ago after a strong spring training and will likely try to do the same, even if Francona is not interested in a roster shakeup this time around. While there is no guarantee that he can pull ahead of Scutaro, shortstop is the only position with even a hint of a battle.