Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Stephen Drew Dilemma


Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox offseason has been quiet, which is the way it should be. The name that keeps coming up across Red Sox fan’s newsfeeds is shortstop Stephen Drew.

Will Drew re-sign? Is he going to play for the Mets? If he does re-sign, where is he going to play? The latest news states the Drew is now open to playing positions other than shortstop. Good for him….but that won’t happen in Boston unless the October version of Will Middlebrooks starts showing up in Middlebrook’s everyday life from now until spring training.

Let’s face facts. Drew was great for last year’s team with his steady defense up the middle and somewhat consistent left-handed bat against right-handed pitchers. I can get past his postseason struggles and was one of his biggest supporters during his rough go of it, especially in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

If you told me that the Sox needed an everyday shortstop then I would be all for keeping Drew. However, the potential that new starting shortstop Xander Bogaerts brings to the Sox lineup outweighs anything Drew is going to bring to next year’s group. And unless management plans to move Middlebrooks to another team, I don’t see the value in paying Drew seven to nine million dollars to get a maximum of 300 at-bats.

Drew has two major obstacles in his path to rejoining the Sox, Bogaerts and history. The expression “the sky’s the limit” is an under exaggeration of expectations for Bogaerts. After his impressive performance at the end of last season, Sox fans and baseball individuals believe we are looking at a player who can be the best shortstop in the league by 2015 or so. I am not saying I agree, but there is obviously a lot of talent here and to not give him at least 500 at-bats this season would be criminal. So Drew doesn’t appear to be getting his playing time anywhere up the middle with Xander and Dustin Pedroia taking up the real estate in Fenway.

 

Next is third base, where Middlebrooks has put together a season and a half of solid baseball. Though he is very inconsistent, the Sox can use his 20 plus home run power and he does bring very good defense to the hot corner. His playoff performance last year is a bit of a concern but he is still young and is set to make much less money than what Drew would be resigned for by the club. In addition, prospect Gary Cecchini is in line behind Middlebrooks and is only about a year away from seeing the show.

And then there is the history of Red Sox shortstop signings that should bother management. Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo were signed for way too much money and while Drew seems more reliable than both of those players and has shown the ability to perform in Boston, they are still cautionary tales to overpaying middling to proficient shortstops. Renteria left Boston and showed that he still had plenty of baseball left in him, while Lugo was on the lower end of middling for much of the remainder of his MLB career. I don’t think Drew is on the path of either of those players, but to give him two or three years at six to seven million a year would follow the trend of handing out cash to someone because they can play shortstop.

The Sox need what Drew is willing to become, a utility infielder that can offer the starters a bit of a spell. They also would prefer that guy to be a left-handed bat as well, another area where Drew fits the mold. The issue here is can the Red Sox find a player who fits that mold and will take a couple of million dollars less than Drew, and perhaps even a one-year contract? Also, in the meantime, why not see if they can get the compensation of draft picks they stand to get if Drew is signed by another team?

One the flip side, there are few left-handed options remaining out in free agency. Again, they can address this need via trade and sign a right-handed bat like Justin Turner or Ramon Santiago to serve as extra depth beyond an acquisition. While seeing they can get compensation for Drew would posit the idea that there is no rush, the Sox may have waited themselves out of the top left-handed hitting utility men on the free agent market. I do feel that their minor league depth, along with their load of pitching arms creates a viable trade partner for any team looking to move for pitching help, and as we all know, you can never have too much pitching.

I would love to see Drew back with the team as long as its for the right price. In today’s game, too many players get contracts that make me scratch my head and wonder, “Why didn’t I try and play professional baseball”? Then I remember that I did and I wasn’t nearly as talented as any of the guys riding the bench in the Rookie leagues. All I know is that I am enjoying my quiet Red Sox offseason and just hope that any upcoming Stephen Drew news doesn’t wake me from my winter slumber.

 

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Tags: Boston Red Sox Edgar Renteria Julio Lugo Stephen Drew Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogaerts