Red Sox sign Nick Punto

It didn't take long for the Boston Red Sox to replace Jed Lowrie as their utility infielder, as they signed free agent Nick Punto to a two-year, $3 million deal on Thursday.

The 34-year-old Punto is an 11-year veteran, playing 250 games or more at three infield positions: second base, third base and shortstop. He essentially replaces Lowrie, who was dealt earlier in the day to the Houston Astros. Punto spent last season with the world champion St. Louis Cardinals, hitting .278 with a .388 on-base percentage and one homer in 133 at bats.

"Nick's a guy we've had interest in the past but the timing never quite worked out to get him here," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Thursday. "He's a guy who plays really good defense. He's a smart baseball player and puts together a good at-bat and he's really good in the clubhouse. He understands his role on a winning team and he certainly showed that this year, down the stretch in October with St. Louis."

A better-than-average fielder, Punto has never been known for his prowess with a bat in his hand. Among active players with at least 2,500 plate appearances, only Cesar Izturis (.322) has a lower career slugging percentage than Punto (.327).

Punto began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2001. He was traded in 2003 to the Minnesota Twins, where he played for the next seven seasons before signing with the Cardinals last offseason.