The Toronto Blue Jays have a fair number of on field questions in the off-season, and the biggest one, outside of what to do with ace pitcher Roy Halladay, might be the question of whether or not they should re-sign shortstop Marco Scutaro.
Scutaro, who had an outstanding 2009 season at the plate posting a .279 avg with 12 HR, 100 runs scored and a career high .379 OBP as the Jays leadoff hitter, has filed for free agency will undoubtedly be looking for a two-year deal or more.
The Blue Jays have stated publically that they're interested in bringing him back, and that makes sense, but they should set a value on Scutaro and stick to it.
In other words, the Blue Jays need to tread carefully before they offer a contract to a 34-year old player who is coming off what author Malcolm Gladwell would classify as an 'outlier' season - formally known as a career-year.
Some recent examples of teams getting trapped include the Seattle Mariners, who signed third baseman Adrian Beltre to a $64 million, four-year deal in 2004, who got his big money deal coming off a 48-homerun performance.
Beltre has never reached those lofty offensive plateaus again, and he's since returned to being the player he was before his 'outlier', a good fielding 20+ home run hitter with a .270 batting average.
Another example is Gary Matthews Jr. who parlayed a great season in 2006 to a five-year, $50 million deal with the Angels. He also returned to his former levels after his breakout year.
To make an example that is recently relevant to the Blue Jays would easily be the signing of Frank Thomas.
Let's be clear, I'm not comparing Thomas to Scutaro as players, but rather their circumstances.
When the Jays inked Thomas to his two-year, $18 million contract in 2006, he was coming off a rather unexpectedly good season that saw him hit 39 home runs after the Oakland A's picked him up off the scrap heap following a nasty parting of ways with the White Sox.
We all know how that story ended in April of 2008, with the Jays releasing the 'Big Hurt' and paying him for the rest of that season.
Scutaro posted career highs in all major offensive categories: runs, hits, home runs, stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. As great as that production was, his past as a hitter should not be ignored when it comes to talking about the 2010 season and beyond.
I know that the Jays don't really have a good internal option to replace Scutaro with, but with general manager Alex Anthopoulos coming out and saying that the Jays were going to be built through the draft and player development, I don't understand why they wouldn't just collect the two high picks that they would get from Scutaro as a Type A free agent.
The Jays can no longer afford to have players past their prime/production with regards to their contract - see Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, and B.J. Ryan, and if they re-sign Scutaro, they could find themselves in a situation like that again.
If Scutaro was the difference between the playoffs and not, I would say sign him at all costs, but we know that isn't the case.
At the end of the day, I understand why it might make baseball sense for the Jays to bring back Scutaro, but from a business side, they have to watch their dollars and cents.
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