Earlier Wednesday, the Boston Red Sox sent Jed Lowrie to the Houston Astros in a trade, ridding themselves of one small white middle infielder. Later Wednesday, the Red Sox moved to fill the adorable little void. According to Jon Heyman, they've agreed to terms with free agent veteran utilityman Nick Punto.
When it's all said and done, it's apparently going to be a two-year contract worth about $3 million, with an additional $500,000 in possible incentives. With the Red Sox, Punto will be a versatile bench guy, along with Mike Aviles, who is also a versatile bench guy. Punto provides insurance at shortstop behind Marco Scutaro.
You look at Punto's raw statistics, and you're not impressed. He's Nick Punto. He's the butt of jokes. Sure, last year he hit .278 with an .809 OPS, but that was a clear fluke - for his career, he's come in at .249 and .652. He's a utility infielder. He's a 34-year-old utility infielder. "The Red Sox are just throwing money away!" you might think, if you're really emotionally invested in this.
But, hey, hold on. Let's play the comparison game, shall we? Punto is 34 years old. He has a career 76 OPS+. Over the last three seasons, he has a 79 OPS+. He is a utility player. He signed for two years and $3 million, with a shot at $3.5 million.
Willie Bloomquist is 34 years old. He has a career 76 OPS+. Over the last three seasons, he has a 79 OPS+. He is a utility player. He signed for two years and $3.8 million.
Right there, that tells you that the Red Sox got a better deal than the Diamondbacks did. But, okay, maybe the Diamondbacks got a bad deal, so the Red Sox just got a slightly less bad deal. There's something else I want to point out. Something that actually differentiates Nick Punto from Willie Bloomquist.
According to the numbers we have, Nick Punto is a very good defensive player at all of the positions he plays. According to the numbers we have, Willie Bloomquist is not a very good defensive player at any of the positions he plays. The numbers aren't perfect, so this isn't proof of anything, but it is suggestive of something. It suggests that Punto has real positive value, while Bloomquist really doesn't.
And that's why I think the Red Sox did pretty well here. Not outstanding - it's Nick Punto, and he'll man the bench - but as utility players go, Punto's a good get at the price, even given his age. It doesn't hurt that he switch-hits. He has a career .650 OPS as a righty, and a career .652 OPS as a lefty! Can't be exposed!
People think of Nick Punto and Willie Bloomquist as being different versions of the same player. That just isn't true, unless you consider Punto the superior version. His defense makes him underappreciated, and it should come as little surprise that the Red Sox scooped him up. The Red Sox are smart. Still!