When the Rays signed Luke Scott to be their designated hitter it effectively ended the tenure of Johnny Damon as a member of the Rays. He reacted to the signing by criticizing the organization for their lack of commitment to their players and pointing a finger at the lack of offense from the catcher and shortstop position:
"Obviously, I love playing there, but for some reason they're looking for a DH and a first baseman,'' Damon told foxsportsflorida.com. "And I thought Kotchman and I were probably the two more consistent guys in the lineup last year. I know they want to upgrade the offense, but the offense is going to be fine as long as there's some production from the catching spot and shortstop. - quote via tampabay.com
In 2011 the shortstop duo of Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac combined to post a positional league worst OPS of .539 with a slash line of .193/.256/.282. Thus far in 2012 that has improved largely in thanks to the stability provided by Elliot Johnson (.270/.342/.391) to check in with the 8th best positional OPS of .672 with includes a slash line of .249/.306/.366.
There is some fear that Elliot Johnson is having his Sam Fuld type moment and that he eventually will become the utility type infielder that his career resume suggest he is. The injury to Evan Longoria has displaced Sean Rodriguez from a primary shortstop role to a roving infielder and he has been a disappointment with the bat posting an overall slash line of .214/.264/.330. Most alarming he only has a .627 OPS vs LHP with a slash line of .239/.345/.282.
The shortstop position is one area that the team could upgrade in order to hedge against a return to norm by Elliot Johnson and a continued slump of Sean Rodriguez. One upgrade to the position that should be available at the trade deadline is Marco Scutaro.
He is currently playing for the 29-46 Colorado Rockies and will be a free agent at the end of the season. In his 11 year career he has played for five different organizations, the Mets, Athletics, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Rockies and has spent the majority of his career playing shortstop (683 games) and second base (373 games) but has also played 3b (98 games), and the OF (18 games).
He is not a defensive stalwart by any stretch but he isn't a huge liability with the glove. Due to the injury to Troy Tulowiski the Rockies have bounced him between second base (44 games) and shortstop (29 games). At second base he has a fielding percentage of .983 (4 errors in 232 chances) and a UZR/150 of 1.4 while at shortstop he has a fielding percentage of .975 (3 errors in 120 chances) and a UZR/150 of -5.2.
He owns a career slash line of .271/.338/.386 and has pretty neutral splits facing RHP (.264/.341/.397 wOBA of .327) and LHP (.274/.336/.386 wOBA of .320). Thus far in 2012 he is hitting .279/.329/.386 with a wOBA of .315. Of course, when looking at any player on the Rockies it is important to check their home and road splits and he has certainly benefited from Coors Field hitting .304/.362/.446 with a .360 wOBA while a not so sparkling .250/.291/.318 with a wOBA of .264 on the road.
One skill that Scutaro has had throughout his career and one that may save a few remote controls from hitting the wall is his ability to make contact and put the ball in play. In his career he has a K rate of 11.2% and in 2012 he is the 3rd toughest hitter in major league baseball to strike out in 2012 with a K rate of only 8.5%.
With Scutaro on the roster the Rays would improve with their versatility against LHP. Jeff Keppinger can replace Carlos Pena at 1b or Luke Scott at DH while he mans second base and Ben Zobrist can play RF replacing Matt Joyce. Although there is some concern about his offense this year outside of Coors Field he has proven to be a capable hitter throughout his career and his ability to make contact would play well in balancing out the Rays strikeout heavy lineup.
The cost to acquire Scutaro could vary from a low level Rays prospect to a deal that includes other Rockies prospects in exchange for Sean Rodriguez and Rays prospects.