According to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Giants acquired Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies for minor league second baseman Charlie Culberson on Friday night.
In trading for Scutaro, Giants general manager Brian Sabean shrewdly acquired an extreme contact hitter who squares up a ton of line drives and can play serviceable defense at three infield positions.
I advocated strongly for Scutaro this offseason after he hit .299/.358/.423 for the Boston Red Sox last season. Unfortunately, it's been a down year for Scutaro, who was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Clayton Mortensen in winter.
Despite moving to hitter-friendly Coors Field, he's hit only .271/.324/.359 for Colorado while playing second base and shortstop.
Scutaro, 36, is very similar to Ryan Theriot at this late stage of his career. His walk rate, which peaked at over 13 percent in 2009, is all the way down to 6.6 percent this season, which is below the league average.
However, Scutaro is an extreme contact hitter, striking out in only 8.5 percent of his plate appearances on the season, fourth best in baseball.
Scutaro makes a ton of contact, but he doesn't walk enough anymore to justify his declining power. He's become more aggressive this season, swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone and seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance than he did last season.
Defensively, Scutaro is average at third base, shortstop and second base.
It has not yet been reported how the Giants plan to deploy him, but my guess is that he will likely take over the roll that Joaquin Arias has played for the Giants. He'll fill in at third base at times, with Pablo Sandoval moving to first base, and he'll platoon with Brandon Crawford at shortstop against lefties.
Scutaro is a better offensive player than Arias, with the potential for more upside given his high contact rate and the excellent season he had with the Red Sox last year.
There are also signs that Scutaro could have a much better second half of the season. His .288 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is very low considering that he has hit line drives 25 percent of the time that he's put the ball in play, which is in the top 15 in all of baseball.
Troy Renck of The Denver Post, who has covered Scutaro all season, confirmed on Twitter that Scutaro's bad luck is not just a statistical mirage. Renck mentioned that Scutaro has hit into a ton of line drive outs this season with Colorado.
If Scutaro returns to the offensive form he showed last year, he'll be a significant offensive upgrade over Crawford at shortstop, though Scutaro has nowhere near the range of Crawford in the field.
Another option would be to play Scutaro every day at third base, with Sandoval permanently moving to first for the rest of this season.
In the end, even if Scutaro is used as a bench player, he's an upgrade over Arias and Manny Burriss as both a spot starter and a pinch-hitter.
There's also the upside that he may start having better luck and revert to his outstanding 2011 form. In that case, the Giants would be getting more than just a bench bat.
No matter how the Giants choose to use Scutaro, they made themselves better on Friday night at a very minimal cost.
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