Red Sox fans are waiting for the next Nomar Garciaparra. Not to knock the talent of the shortstops Boston has seen since 2004, but there have been seven (eight if you count Alex Gonzalez twice) in a five-and-a-half-year span. Compared to Garciaparra, who was Red Sox Nation's superstar for seven years, that's a merry-go-round.
Will the offseason acquisition of Marco Scutaro end the Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Alex Cora, Jed Lowrie, Nick Green, Gonzalez Part Two succession?
Scutaro is not the answer to the Red Sox' revolving door at shortstop. However, he is a means to an end. The 34-year-old is a good short-term addition for the Red Sox. Provided he stays healthy with no recurring plantar fasciitis, the short-term may actually be an entire season — and perhaps even the two seasons agreed upon in his contract.
To a certain extent, the ex-Blue Jay has become synonymous with "bridge," in Boston, acting as a placeholder for the Red Sox until Jose Iglesias is ready for the majors. But Scutaro is much more than a mere fill-in.
Although he isn't the remedy to the shortstop jinx, bind, shuffle, situation — whatever you want to call it — he should be a steadying influence.
With him in the lineup, the Red Sox won't have to worry about offense, which has been an issue with recent shortstops. After becoming an everyday player, Scutaro had his best season last year, hitting .282 with 12 home runs, 60 RBI and a .789 OPS. He should be an offensive upgrade over Gonzalez, whom Boston acquired from the Reds last August. Gonzalez logged a .238 average (.284 with Red Sox) with eight home runs (five with Red Sox), 41 RBIs (15 with Red Sox) and a .635 OPS (.769 with Red Sox) on the year.
Scutaro's bat won't make or break the 2010 team. He likely will hit eight or ninth and is an on-base machine, giving the Red Sox another table setter at the bottom of the order. He had a .379 OBP last season — much higher than Gonzalez' .279 OBP (.316 with Red Sox) — and over the past four years, Scutaro's on-base percentage hasn't dipped below .332.
Unlike some veterans, Scutaro is getting better with age, and his success last season was no fluke. Being a regular, he made adjustments — including changing his stance — and saw immediate results.
"I just kind of spread out my legs a little bit, so that way you see the ball a little longer, you see it better," Scutaro told MLB.com. "I just focused on being consistent. I think that's the toughest part of hitting, too — being consistent day in and day out. Your swing is sometimes not there. You're tired or whatever, and your swing is not there. Try to make the adjustment and be consistent. Don't try to throw at-bats away."
At worst, he puts up similar numbers for the Red Sox. At best, he continues to improve.
Scutaro is also a capable defender. He might not have the range or hands of Gonzalez, but Scutaro proved to be more than just a utility man last season as the day-to-day shortstop in Toronto. He ranked third in fielding percentage among AL shortstops, had 421 assists and made 99 double plays.
Plus, he allows Dustin Pedroia to remain at second base.
The Red Sox are excited about everything Scutaro has to offer.
"I know he's beyond the age when you normally say this about a player, but we feel like he really is coming into his own and is a difference-maker out there," Theo Epstein said at Scutaro's introductory news conference in December. "He'll fit in perfectly into our lineup and into our clubhouse and into the shortstop position here, so we're really happy about it."
Scutaro is a solid all-around addition for the Red Sox. But we still wait for our next Nomar.
NESN.com will be answering one Red Sox question every day through Feb. 23.
Friday, Feb. 5: What does the future hold for Jed Lowrie?
Sunday, Feb. 7: Can Dustin Pedroia win another MVP?
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