scutaro getty

Why did the Red Sox dump Marco Scutaro and his salary?

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I’m among the people confused by Boston’s move to dump Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary on the Rockies for a marginal minor leaguer in Clayton Mortensen, in part because Scutaro was hardly overpaid and in part because the Red Sox’s in-house options to replace him at shortstop are so underwhelming.

It still doesn’t make much sense to me, but Alex Speier of WEEI.com offers a few details that explain the situation somewhat.

For instance, Speier notes that because of the wording of Scutaro’s contract the Red Sox would have taken a sizable luxury tax hit if they’d simply declined his 2012 option, so instead they exercised the option and then dumped him on the Rockies (who have no such luxury tax concerns).

There’s been plenty of speculation that the Red Sox shed Scutaro’s salary in order to make a run at Roy Oswalt and in the meantime they sliced nearly $8 million in money as it’s counted against the luxury tax. Speier reports that the Rockies were the only team willing to take on Scutaro’s entire salary.

As for why they’d trade Scutaro without having a good shortstop replacement waiting in the wings–particularly after parting with Jed Lowrie earlier this offseason–Speier points to the fact that he’s 36 years old, somewhat injury prone, and perhaps declining defensively. And for now at least the Red Sox feel more comfortable than you might expect with a time share between Mike Aviles and Nick Punto.

Whether or not all that adds up to the Scutaro salary dump being a smart move by the Red Sox is another issue–I’d still vote no, certainly–but at least it makes a little more sense than it did at the time.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accident

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Horrible news: Miami Marlins ace starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash off of Miami Beach late last night.

No details have been released yet, apart from the fact that Fernandez was one of three people killed. The Marlins have issued a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, stating that the organization is devastated and that their thoughts and prayers were with Fernandez’s family. Today’s Marlins game against the Braves has been canceled.

Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In his four seasons he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.

His baseball exploits seem trivial now, however. His loss at such a young age, tragic. Our thoughts today are with Fernandez’s family, the Marlins organization and those who knew and loved him.

The Nationals are NL East champs once again

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after clinching the National League East Division Championship after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 at PNC Park on September 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another division title in the bag. The Nationals coasted to a 6-1 finish over the Pirates on Saturday evening; coupled with a Mets’ loss later that night, the NL East title was theirs for the third time since 2012.

The Nationals put up a three-spot in the first and fourth innings, scoring five of six runs on productive outs while Washington starter Joe Ross tossed 2  innings of one-run ball in his second start off the disabled list. Prior to the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to delegate a set number of pitches to the right-hander, opting instead to base Ross’s workload on his performance.

Washington’s bullpen carried the team the rest of the way, combining for 6 ⅓ scoreless frames to preserve their five-run lead. When Anthony Rendon snared a liner from Andrew McCutchen to end the game, all eyes turned to the clubhouse TVs:

Murphy had sufficient cause for worry: After trailing 10-0 through four innings, the Mets returned with an eight-run drive that culminated with Jay Bruce‘s solo shot in the ninth inning. Had Bruce hit the home run after Philadelphia closer Michael Mariot issued a pair of walks, and not before, the Mets would have edged out the Phillies, 11-10. Instead, their late-game rally ended on a fastball down the middle, and the Phillies’ 70th victory confirmed the Nats’ place atop the NL East.

While Max Scherzer donned his two-toned goggles and Bryce Harper braved the champagne showers in U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky’s swim cap, Baker was already thinking about Sunday’s start. Against the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, Baker announced his plans to start 24-year-old A.J. Cole, whose seven starts have yielded a 4.68 ERA and 0.2 fWAR in 32 ⅔ innings this year.

Cole hasn’t displayed the sharpest stuff in his sophomore season, touting a high 3.03 BB/9 and 1.93 HR/9, but with the division locked down and the Cubs in sole possession of home field advantage through the NLCS, the Nationals have bigger concerns as the playoffs draw near.