Blue Jays acquire utilityman Scutaro
Toronto sends pair of pitching prospects to Oakland
TORONTO -- Anything to get an edge. With reports swirling on Sunday indicating that the Yankees were on the verge of re-signing closer Mariano Rivera, the Blue Jays swung a trade to pry super sub Marco Scutaro away from the Oakland A's.
Back in April, Scutaro sent an 0-2 offering from the Yankees' stopper sailing over the wall at McAfee Coliseum for a three-run homer in bottom of the ninth, giving Oakland a 5-4 walk-off victory. Now, after sending a pair of pitching prospects to the A's, the Jays are bringing Scutaro's heroics north of the border.
In reality, Toronto traded for the veteran Scutaro to fill one of its most pressing offseason needs. With him in the fold, the Jays can end their search for a versatile utilityman. Any game-winning hits he might collect against the Yankees next season will simply be a bonus.
"This is a guy we've always liked and think is a major upgrade from what we've had in the past," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "He's a guy who really helps us in a lot of different areas."
In order to acquire Scutaro, who is eligible for arbitration, Toronto sent 23-year-old right-handers Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell to Oakland. Knowing the A's were ready to hand the utility job to Donnie Murphy, the Jays could've waited to see if Scutaro was non-tendered by Oakland, which would've made him a free agent.
Ricciardi said he preferred to trade for Scutaro at this point and that the Jays would try to negotiate a new contract for the utility infielder before reaching arbitration. Scutaro, who is now under Toronto's control through the 2009 season, made $1.55 million last year and could make roughly $2 million in 2008.
"We really wanted the player, and we didn't want to wait until they maybe non-tendered him," Ricciardi said. "Everything being equal, it's a guy, financially, we can handle. We like the guy, and we've always liked the guy. We've seen what he's done."
Scutaro, 32, becomes the primary backup for the Jays at second base, shortstop and third base, and Ricciardi said outfield was also an option. Over the past few years, Scutaro has played all of those positions for the A's, filling in while Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis and Bobby Crosby battled injuries for Oakland.
In 2007, Scutaro hit .260 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 104 games with the A's, who claimed him off waivers in 2003. Over six big league seasons, Scutaro has appeared in 551 games in stints with the Mets and A's, hitting .259 with 92 doubles, 31 homers, 174 RBIs and a .320 on-base percentage.
"We couldn't have accomplished the things we have in recent years without Marco," A's assistant general manager David Forst said.
Last season, Godfrey -- picked up by the Jays in the 34th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft -- went 6-7 with a 3.98 ERA in 21 starts for Class A Lansing. He allowed 132 hits in 110 2/3 innings, striking out 74 and walking 36.
Bell, who was selected in the 11th round of the 2004 Draft, spent last season with Class A Dunedin. In 22 appearances, including 11 starts, he went 3-7 with a 5.33 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 28 walks over 77 2 /3 innings.
"We needed to upgrade our talent in the Minor Leagues, and this was an opportunity to do that," Forst said. "Hopefully, this works out well for 'Scoot,' too. I can't say enough about what he's done for us the past several years."
The addition of Scutaro likely brings an end to Toronto's search for help off its bench. Ricciardi said any other reserve players added to the Jays would probably be in-house solutions. Now, Toronto can turn its attention to finding a backup catcher and possibly adding some pitching depth.
Also on Sunday, the Jays sent infielder Hector Luna and Pedro Lopez outright to Triple-A Syrcause. Toronto also claimed outfielder Cody Haerther off waivers from St. Louis. Haerther, 24, spent most of '07 at Double-A, where he hit .289 with five homers and 28 RBIs in 37 games with Springfield.
"Our guys have liked his bat in the past, and [the move] just continues to give us Minor League depth," Ricciardi said about Haerther. "From a scouting standpoint, he was evaluated and liked, and from a depth situation, he could come up to the big leagues and help us."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.