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Marco Scutaro Too Expensive for Pittsburgh Pirates After Strong NLCS

Kelley L. Cox – US PRESSWIRE

Just last week, I discussed the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates had missed the boat on acquiring Marco Scutaro during the season when their offense was floundering, and that his resurgence with the San Francisco Giants only magnified their mistake.

Well, it appears I may have been too correct for the Pirates own good.

At the time, I also pointed out that the Pirates had a chance to amend their mistake with Scutaro’s impending free agency. But his National Leage Championship Series MVP performance may have just taken him out of the Pirates price range for next year.

The Pirates already have $5.5 million committed to current shortstop Clint Barmes for next season, and any deal for another shortstop would turn Barmes into an expensive bench player. Before the NLCS, there was at least a possibility of getting Scutaro for a similar contract, given that he made $6 million this season and is 36-years-old.

But clutch performances in the post-season lead to bigger contracts.

While it remains unlikely that any team will overextend themselves in terms of years for Scutaro, some team, especially one believing they are just a shortstop away from contending (the Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds come to mind), is now more likely to overpay him in terms of annual salary.

If the Pirates wanted to gain Scutaro’s interest this winter, it would’ve taken an offer in the neighborhood of two years/$14 million or three years/$20 million before his NLCS exploits. I don’t know if that would have been a good deal for the Pirates long-term, but it would solve a a short-term problem and bring with it limited long-term risk.

But Scutaro’s playoff performance will likely leave him looking for a more significant raise in what is certain to be his final multi-year contract.

The issue for the Pirates is that, if they want to upgrade from Barmes, they must factor in at least one season of expensive shortstop play. Even if they could get Scutaro to sign for his 2012 salary of $6 million, they’d essentially be paying $11.5 million for his performance (the combined salaries of Scutaro and Barmes).

Even that is getting pricey, but Scutaro has long been an undervalued, and underpaid player. The Pirates are in a position where they will likely have to overpay to attract free agents, especially for a player like Scutaro who has the on-base ability they lack. And the fact that he’s a shortstop is just a bonus.

But Scutaro may now be just a pipe dream for the Pirates. Combined with the salary of Barmes, any free agent shortstop was going to be a pricey option, but the emergence of Scutaro on a weak free agent market has likely put him out of the Pirates price range.

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