Scutaro, Drew Top the List of 2013 Free Agent Shortstops
Even though they do not have a clear-cut shortstop of the future, the Arizona Diamondbacks appeared ecstatic to rid themselves of Stephen Drew when they traded him to Oakland in August.
The 29-year-old Drew – whose two-year, $13.76 million deal expires at the end of this season – was batting just .193 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 155 plate appearances this season. He has a $10 million mutual option and a $1.35 million buyout for 2013. The Diamondbacks did not plan to pick up their end of the option. Oakland officials say they will wait until the end of the season to determine if Drew will be retained.
Likely, the penny-pinching A’s will let Drew enter the pool of free agent shortstops when the off-season arrives. Drew has a .219 average with no home runs and one RBI in 39 plate appearances since joining the team, but even if his numbers were dramatically better, the chance of Oakland paying him $10 million next season would be slim.
Unlike Drew, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta will probably see his option exercised. The 30-year-old Peralta – who is having an off year with a .256 average, 10 home runs and 53 RBI in 465 plate appearances after batting .299 with 21 home runs and 86 RBI in 576 plate appearances in 2011 – has a $6 million team option with a $500,000 buyout.
Lynn Henning of the Detroit News suggests that the Tigers could pick up Peralta’s option and they trade him in an effort to upgrade the club’s porous infield defense. The Diamondbacks, Henning pointed out, expressed interest in Peralta before July’s non-waiver trade deadline.
Peralta will be the top free agent shortstop on the market this off-season – at least offensively – if the Tigers do not pick up his option. If Henning is correct and Peralta’s option is exercised, here is what the list of top five free agent shortstops will look like:
Over the last four seasons, the 36-year-old Scutaro has played for four teams (Toronto, Boston, Colorado and San Francisco) and he has been an asset at every destination. The versatile Scutaro can serve as a starting shortstop, second baseman or third baseman, and he has a career .272 average over 11 Major League seasons, including a .331 mark in 130 at-bats for the Giants since he was acquired at July’s non-waiver trade deadline. Scutaro is not flashy, and at 36 he is not a team’s long-term answer at any position, but with his ability to at the least serve as a super utility player, he will be sought after this off-season.
2. Stephen Drew
As detailed above, the 29-year-old Drew has been woeful at the plate this season. He didn’t produce much at the plate in 2011 either, batting .252 with five home runs and 45 RBI in 354 plate appearances. Likely, there will be a team that believes Drew will benefit from a change of scenery. It will probably be a club that plays in a hitting-friendly ballpark, which eliminates the A’s. Drew batted .278 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI in 2010, so the potential for offensive production exists if he remains healthy.
On the disabled list with a knee strain since May 17, the 32-year-old Bartlett was released by the Padres earlier in August. It was a lost season for the veteran who played in 29 games and batted .133 in 98 plate appearances. When he is healthy, Bartlett is a plus defensive shortstop who has a career average of .271, though he has posted seasons of .254, .245 and now .133 since hitting .320 with Tampa Bay in 2009.
It has been a busy year for the 32-year-old Izturis. He was released by the Milwaukee Brewers, picked up Washington in August, played five games for the Nationals before getting designated for assignment. He could rejoin the Nationals when rosters expand on September 1. A super defensive shortstop, Izturis has a career .255 average, including a .241 mark this season.
The 35-year-old Gonzalez, who has slowed down in the field but is still a defensively proficient shortstop, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee back in May and has not played since. If his knee recovers sufficiently, he should have no trouble finding a home in 2013. Gonzalez had 23 home runs and 88 RBI between Toronto and Atlanta in 2010 and then collected 15 home runs and 56 RBI with the Braves last season. He was batting .259 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 89 plate appearances at the time of his injury in May. Gonzalez is a career .247 hitter over 14 Major League seasons.