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.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.