Jed Lowrie could push Marco Scutaro for playing time at shortstop

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During an appearance at the “Hot Stove Cool Music” panel discussion at Fenway Park last night, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein expressed confidence in Marco Scutaro as the starting shortstop, but suggested that Jed Lowrie could push him for playing time this season (via Brian McPherson of the Providence Journal).

“We have two really talented shortstops on the roster at different phases of their career, and they’ll both end up helping this club win,” Epstein said. “How it shakes out in terms of playing time will be up to Tito (Francona) — and, ultimately, the players will determine their own roles.

“If we’re a better team with one guy playing two-thirds of the time and the other guy playing one-third of the time and moving around, that’s what we’ll be. If it looks like we’ll be a better team with a more traditional arrangement or a time share, that’s what we’ll do. Players, ultimately, make those decisions for you.”

It looked like 2010 was going to be another lost year for Lowrie, but he was fantastic in a small sample after returning from a bout with mononucleosis, batting .287/.381/.526 with nine homers, 24 RBI, a 907 OPS and 25/25 K/BB ratio over 197 plate appearances. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Scutaro battled injuries for most of the season, batting .275/.333/.388 with 11 home runs, 56 RBI and a 721 OPS. He was also below average defensively at shortstop for a second straight season, according to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) on FanGraphs.

Scutaro probably deserves a chance to open the season as the shortstop, but if the switch-hitting Lowrie can repeat his production, particularly against right-handed pitching, it will be very difficult to sit him down.

Scooter Gennett wins arbitration case against Reds

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The Reds lost their first arbitration case of the offseason, per a report from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Second baseman Scooter Gennett was awarded the $5.7 million salary figure he was seeking from the team, a $600,000 bump over the $5.1 million they countered with last month.

Gennett, 27, is coming off of a career-best performance in 2017. After getting claimed off of waivers by the Reds last March, he broke out with an impressive .295/.342/.531 batting line, 27 home runs and 2.4 fWAR in 497 plate appearances. By season’s end, he ranked among the top five most productive second basemen in the National League (and 12th overall). He’s currently set to remain under team control through 2019.

Gennett was only the second Reds player to go to an arbitration hearing this winter. Fellow infielder Eugenio Suarez was defeated in arbitration last week and stands to make just $3.75 million compared to the $4.2 million he filed for in January. All 22 arbitration cases have now been resolved. Twelve were decided in favor of the players.