The cost was high in terms of prospects for the San Francisco Giants to land Hunter Pence from Philadelphia before last month’s non-waiver trade deadline. Marco Scutaro, who was brought in prior to the deadline from Colorado, was acquired for one prospect, yet the 36-year-old infielder is dramatically outperforming Pence.
Especially with the suspension of Melky Cabrera earlier this week from his involvement in using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, the Giants need Pence to produce in the middle of the order.
Instead, he is batting .211 with one home run, 15 RBI and a .592 OPS in 176 at-bats since joining the club on July 31 for Major League outfielder Nate Schierholtz and minor leaguers Seth Rosin and Tommy Joseph.
The versatile Scutaro, who can play every infield position and also the corner outfield spots, filled in admirably at third base while Pablo Sandoval was on the disabled list and is currently starting at second base. San Francisco traded for Scutaro on July 27, sending infield prospect Charlie Culberson to the Rockies. He was 2-for-3 in the team’s 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday and is hitting .330 with two home runs, 18 RBI and a .811 OPS in 91 at-bats for the Giants.
Signed by the Cleveland Indians as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 1994, Scutaro is a prime example of how resilience and determinations pays off from some professional baseball players. He spent six full seasons in the minors before making his Major League debut with the New York Mets in 2002, getting 36 at-bats and hitting .222.
In 2000 – amid his fifth season in the Indians farm system – Scutaro was shipped to Milwaukee that August as a player to be named later in trade deadline deal that featured recognizable names like Richie Sexson and Bob Wickman.
Scutaro remained at Triple-A in the Brewers organization and was waived before the 2002 season started. He was picked up by the Mets, but was stuck at Triple-A for most of 2002 and 2003, seeing the 36 at-bats in the majors in 2002 and 75 at-bats in the bigs the next season.
At 27 and having spent most of his first eight professional seasons in the minors, Scutaro was placed on waivers yet again after the 2003 campaign. He was plucked off the waiver wire by Oakland that October, and his fortune changed.
Intrigued by his versatility, the A’s used Scutaro as a utility infielder in 2004. He played second base, shortstop and third base, and for the first time in his career, Scutaro spent the entire season in the majors, hitting .273 with seven home runs and 43 RBI in 455 at-bats.
Scutaro finally reached his goal of sticking with a Major League club. His next objective was getting a team to remove the utility label attached to him. Over four seasons in Oakland, Scutaro batted .262 but did not have a set position and tallied no more than 381 at-bats in his final three years with the A’s.
After the 2007 season, Scutaro was dealt to Toronto for two minor leaguers, and the Blue Jays gave him a chance to play every day, though he did see time at all four infield spots, DH and left field. His average in 2008 was .267, and he added seven home runs and 60 RBI in 145 games and 517 at-bats. The numbers were not spectacular, but they remained steady.
It was 2009 when Scutaro had a breakout year, playing 143 of his 146 games at shortstop. That year, he had 12 home runs, 35 doubles and 60 RBI to accompany a .282 average.
Scutaro parlayed that success into a two-year, $11 million free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox, which primarily used him as the starting shortstop in 2010 (when he collected a career-high 150 games and 632 at-bats with a .275 average, 11 home runs and 56 RBI. Last year, he batted a career-high .299 with seven home runs and 54 RBI.
With Mike Aviles on the roster, and shortstop phenom Jose Iglesias at Triple-A Pawtucket, the Red Sox decided to send Scutaro to Colorado for reliever Clayton Mortensen in January. He played second base and shortstop this season for the Rockies, posting a .271 average with four home runs and 30 RBI.
Now the journeyman who produces respectable numbers, provides reliable defense and serves as a positive clubhouse presence finds himself in the midst of a pennant race. The Giants are 67-55 and own a half-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West standings. With the unwanted turmoil surrounding Cabrera’s suspension, Scutaro is a calming veteran presence who leads by example.
When the off-season arrives, Scutaro will be eligible for free agency and could be searching for a new Major League home. If does not return to San Francisco, his new team will represent his ninth organization.
Just as there is always work for a left-handed reliever, there is always a need for a versatile and personable veteran who delivers steady numbers regardless of what position he plays and what uniform he wears.