MLB Hot Stove: Boston Red Sox Sign Free Agent Nick Punto

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIDecember 14, 2011

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 27: Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers is safe at second base ahead of Nick Punto #8 of the St. Louis Cardinals after an error by Matt Holliday #7 in the fourth inning during Game Six of the MLB World Series at Busch Stadium on October 27, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Hours after the team traded away utility infielder Jed Lowrie, the Boston Red Sox have signed free-agent infielder Nick Punto to a two-year deal in the $3.5 million range. Punto, having come off one season with the St. Louis Cardinals, will slide right into the void left behind by Lowrie's departure.

In 2011, Punto played in 63 games for the Cardinals, batting .278 with an OBP of .388, SLG of .421 and an OPS of .809.

While Punto has mostly been a utility infielder throughout the course of his career, he has shouldered the load quite a bit when called upon to do so, appearing in over 100 games for the Minnesota Twins from 2005 through 2009.

Offensively, Punto is definitely an upgrade over Lowrie. In 2011, Lowrie appeared in 88 games for the Red Sox and put up a batting average of .252 with a .303 OBP, .382 SLG and an OPS of .685. While it seems silly to say, Lowrie appeared to flash brilliance in Boston for 10 games at a clip, and then go on the disabled list for 30 days.

Defensively, Lowrie did post a slightly higher fielding percentage in 2011 that Punto, .973 versus .970, but with a difference that minimal, I doubt Red Sox fans will even notice.  For advanced metrics, Lowrie did post a higher UZR in 2011 with a 2.4 while Punto posted a 0.7.

Needless to say, the Red Sox are continuing to fill holes by spending minimally and making impactful signings. Surely, this is a sign of more deals to come.