Scutaro the MVP of free-agent second basemen, too
Postseason star heads group that includes Sanchez, Keppinger, Izturis, Johnson
As teams scour the free-agent market for second basemen this offseason, they'll likely do so with the image of Marco Scutaro riding a Giants parade float in their minds.
Scutaro was a significant difference maker for the World Series champions, and he is among the top free-agent second basemen this offseason. Acquired from Colorado near the July 31 Trade Deadline, he hit .362 in 61 regular-season games for the Giants and was MVP of the National League Championship Series.
Now, Scutaro's services -- along with those of other talented second basemen like Giants teammate Freddy Sanchez and Kelly Johnson (Blue Jays) -- are on the open market.
The Giants figure to be in on negotiations with Scutaro and/or Sanchez, the latter a three-time All-Star who helped them to their World Series win in 2010. Both general manager Brian Sabean and Scutaro said that they'd like for Scutaro to stay with San Francisco.
"Sometimes there are decisions that you can't control," Scutaro said. "I don't know what they're thinking; I don't know what other teams are thinking. The only thing I can say is hopefully it works out because I want to come back here."
This year's group of free-agent second basemen is relatively thin, so teams in need -- the Rays and Orioles are two clubs that come to mind -- may pay a premium, depending on their level of need.
Looking to buy: As mentioned, the Giants, Rays and Orioles are teams with second base at or near the top of their priority lists. San Francisco is in an enviable position because it has existing relationships with Scutaro and Sanchez. Jeff Keppinger, who played some at second base for Tampa Bay this season, could be attractive to many teams. As for Baltimore, the O's have in-house possibilities in Brian Roberts, Robert Andino and Ryan Flaherty. None have been all too reliable lately, but it's a thin market that will make for plenty of difficult decisions for GMs.
Top dog: Again, in a relatively thin class, this honor likely goes to Scutaro, given his late-season and postseason performances. He was indispensable for the Giants in the playoffs, notching an NLCS-record 14 hits and batting .500 en route to the NLCS MVP. Scutaro is a strong defender and has proven to be a winner. He performed well during his time with the sputtering Rockies earlier in the season -- he finished the season with a .306 average, 74 RBIs and 87 runs overall -- and the move to San Francisco seemed to light a spark for him. Scutaro is 37 years old, but his dependability up the middle could make a number of teams very happy.
Best of the rest: Keppinger had a nice year last year, batting .325 in 115 games, but he is 32 and has never really been a full-time player. As mentioned, Sanchez is a three-time All-Star, but he missed the entire 2012 season because of back surgery. He hit .289 in 60 games in 2011 and has a career .297 average, and would likely fetch a higher value if he hadn't missed time because of injuries in each of the past four seasons.
Worth a shot: Maicer Izturis, coming off his eighth season with the Angels, has plenty of skills and can play more than second base if needed to fill a utility role. He can steal bases and is a career .273 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage. Izturis hit .256 this year and scored just 35 runs in 100 games but did swipe 17 bases in 19 tries. A team could take a chance with Johnson and hope to get a comeback, which the seven-year veteran has done before. He was disappointing this year, batting .225 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs, but if he can channel 2010, when he hit .284 with 26 homers for Arizona, he could turn out to be a steal.