One of the Giants’ top priorities entering the offseason was to re-sign Marco Scutaro. They indeed accomplished that during the Winter Meetings by inking the 37-year-old for three more years at $20 million total.
Now, here’s the real question: Is it truly possible that Scutaro, 37, can remain productive as he approaches the big “40”?
First, let’s count out the possibility of him slashing for .362/.385/.473 again. Not only was that over a fraction of a season (61 games), but sustaining that type of consistent production over a full season leans on the impossible side.
The formula for Scutaro’s success with San Francisco was quite simple—-hits, bloopers, line drives, and home runs were falling in his favor during that tremendous streak. Eventually, the hits disparity balances out, though. For Scutaro, the balance came in one big spurt.
See, in Colorado, he was probably the unluckiest man on earth. His Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) with the Rockies sat below .300 for the majority 2012 and his OPS checked in south of .700, until he was dealt of course.
For reference, the average BABIP is anywhere in between .290 to .310. So from sub-.300 with Colorado to .366 with the Giants, fate obviously turned in Scutaro’s direction. Still, a .366 BABIP is unsustainable.
Now, Scutaro doesn’t necessarily have to repeat his 61-stretch Scutaro to live up to his contract. If that was an expectation, they’d be paying him a lot more.
However, common sense dictates that Scutaro won’t be productive at the back end of his deal. Let’s set the scene a little. He would be sniffing 40-years-old, his legs would be shot, and his bat speed would likely be dwindling as well. So unless he’s Superman, there are few reasons to believe that he will consistently produce. Heck, one more blow to the hip on a Matt Holliday-esque slide could doom Scutaro.
So, a reasonable barometer would have to be based on the first two years of his contract, whether that seems fair to you or not. And you might be asking why the Giants didn’t just sign him for two years, right? Well, they obviously weren’t Scutaro’s only suitors. St.Louis and the Yankees also had conversations with the NLCS MVP, meaning that general manager Brian Sabean had to “wow” him in some shape or form. I’d presume the “wow” was met.
A reasonable prediction for Scutaro in the first two years of the deal would be an OPS north of .700 with an above average contact rate. Perhaps a contact percentage of 95 percent (led baseball in 2012) would be too much to expect. Then again, he has posted a contact percentage of at least 90 since 2005, and it’s been on the rise too. This niche fits in well with the usually powerless Giants.
If there’s one trap Scutaro must avoid, though, is the infamous Aubrey Huff route from hero to the bench. Huff was undoubtedly one of San Francisco’s key performers during their 2010 championship run, then he got paid (two years, $20 million). And the rest is history, as Huff bounced between bench and disabled list in 2011 and 2012.
Scutaro and Huff are like comparing apples and oranges, though. Huff is still known for his trendiness, having one good year and then being practically nonexistent the following season. Scutaro doesn’t follow that trend, instead being average or better.
Let’s revisit the question: Will Scutaro live up to his contract?
Probably not. It’s like the Giants are rewarding him, and hoping for a few average years so he can be a suitable place-holder for Joe Panik.
So, you have your answer.