Rockies acquire Marco Scutaro, Red Sox free up money to add a free agent pitcher

Mark Townsend
January 22, 2012

The trade was on.

Then it was off.

Now it's complete.

As Troy Renck of the Denver Post first reported in all three phases of the deal that took a little over 24 hours to complete, the Colorado Rockies have acquired Marco Scutaro from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen.

No money changed hands in the deal, which means the Rockies will be on the hook for the $6 million Scutaro is owed in 2012. That pushes their projected payroll to just under the $82 million they paid out last season, and could signal the end to their aggressive offseason.

It also means new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington — who was willing to settle for a minimal return in Mortensen, and will now roll with Mike Aviles and Nick Punto as his shortstop options — really needed that money to make serious push for a free agent starting pitcher.

To no one's surprise, we're already hearing reports that pitcher will be Roy Oswalt.

Assuming the Oswalt signing takes place, the trade will look like a win-win in the eyes of most. For now, though, it's a definite win for Colorado, because Scutaro immediately fills three needs on their major league roster.

First, it gives them an unquestioned starter at second base for the first time since Kaz Matsui in 2007. Before that you have to go back to Eric Young Sr. to find a steady two-bagger in Denver. Next, it gives Jim Tracy a legitimate number two hitter that can be safely penciled into his lineup six times a week. In 2011, eight different players attempted to fill that slot in the order. And maybe most importantly to general manager Dan O'Dowd, the addition of the 36-year-old infielder fits perfectly into his offseason veteran movement designed to bring more day-to-day consistency and leadership to Colorado after a very disappointing 2011 campaign.

Other veterans added by O'Dowd to carry out this movement include Michael Cuddyer, Ramon Hernandez, Casey Blake, Jamie Moyer, and he also extended the contract of 38-year-old closer Rafael Betancourt on Friday.

Yes, the days of Todd (Helton) and the Toddlers are now behind them. It was an interesting era to be sure. One that alternated between unexpected runs to the playoffs and overwhelming disappointments. But that illustrates exactly what O'Dowd is attempting to change. The core talent is in place. Now he needs to know the talent around Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki can be relied on and won't allow another of their prime seasons to be wasted.

Follow Mark on Twitter — @Townie813 — and engage the Stew on Facebook