Jose Iglesias has been an intriguing prospect for some time now and with good reason. Iglesias, in spite of his relative inexperience, might not just be the best defensive SS in the Minors; he might be the best defensive SS in the world. While he excels in the field, he struggles just as much at the dish. In fact, he’s a terrible hitter. He hasn’t hit at AAA. He hasn’t hit at the ML level. We’re not talking in a ‘we’ll get ‘em next time’ tone, either. He’s simply an ‘atrocious’ hitter.
The alternative is Pedro Ciriaco who’s bounced around to several organizations over the years but finally ended up in Boston towards the end of last year. He made the best of his time here, impressing management enough to consider him at least a viable backup player at the ML level. However, based on the way his stats fell off as his time in the Majors wore on, it’s probably safe to say he’s not an everyday player.
Long story, short – the Red Sox are the proud owners of a SS with a lot of question marks and another who’s just not good enough to start. The Red Sox will need an upgrade.
Over the past two weeks, the two names that’ve come up the most are Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera. Both are intriguing fits and bring a wide range of skills to the table for the Red Sox to consider. This week, I’ll take a look at these two, break down their strengths and weakness and do what I do better than anyone else- judge the crap out of people.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s bat vs. Asdrubal Cabrera’s glove… or whatever it is he wears on his hand.
Cabrera, 27, is an interesting fit. There’s no question he’s one of the top offensive SS in the game, posting a nice, neat .333 wOBA over the course of his career. A quick glance at his BIP chart shows him losing HR’s in RF and picking them right back up in LF. He is mostly a spray hitter and would do well hitting into the power alleys, although it’s hard to tell how well he’d use the monster. He’s a decent enough contact hitter and while he’s no On-Base machine, his career .342 mark is nothing to sneeze at. At the end of the day, he’d give the Red Sox an extremely useful switch hitter who could be used virtually anywhere in the lineup.
While he’s quite the find offensively, there are major issues with Cabrera’s near-total lack defensive prowess. Since 2009, He’s compiled a career FLD of -35.8 that places him as the second worst defensive SS in all of Major League Baseball over that period. To give you a sense of just how bad he’s been; Derek Jeter was a full 16 runs better defensively. Yes. Old Derek Jeter.
Given the fact that he’s only 27 and it has to set off some red flags. Even as he enters his prime, he’s probably not good enough to be playing his position. Moving him to 3B would make him a poor player and there’s really no guarantee how he plays well there once he’s inevitably forced to. Because his defensive skills are so minimal, he’s a prime candidate to lose a ton of trade value and lose it soon.
Make no mistake about it – this won’t be like bringing an Elvis Andrus in where you can hold onto him for 2-3 years and deal him for an substantial return. While Cabrera’s bat may continue to surge, its highly unlikely his glove does anything but head south. That’s not good news.
The flip side to that argument is that his incredibly bad defense might be bearable enough if he can continue to bring the goods with his bat. The Red Sox DO have two very capable defensive shortstops in both Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco. The Red Sox may decide that Cabrera’s lack of defensive competence is something they can look past.
Jack of all trades Stephen Drew and his coat of many questions
Stephen Drew is an interesting alternative to Cabrera, largely because he brings a more varied skill set. From 2008-2010, Drew was among the best SS bats in baseball, but with injuries settling in in 2011 and 2012, his performance at the plate has waned.
Defensively, Drew is slightly above average, posting a 10.7 FLD since 2009, placing him 17th amongst all MLB SS during that period. With a pitching staff that could use all the defensive help it can get, having a nice glove up the middle the entire season (backups included) would be valuable.
The issue with Drew is how well he’ll be able to play on the heels (literally) of ankle surgery that needed to be re-attended to in 2012. Drew never seemed comfortable last year, posting a whole swath of career-lows at the plate and struggling mightily in the field. Not even a change of scenery to Oakland seemed to help, as the A’s recently declined his $10 million team option for next season.
In his defense, a full season to get healthy and prepare for the coming season could make him a very strong bounce-back, buy-low candidate for next year. The drop off in power and surge in K% in 2011 and 2012 could likely be tied to the injury, as would his awful fielding. While Drew certainly isn’t the 5.1 fWAR player he was in 2010, there’s a good chance he could provide someone with a lot of value heading forward.
Who’s the better bet?
To me – this is a pretty clear win for Stephen Drew. In a nutshell, the Red Sox are looking to bridge to Xander Bogaerts in the next year or two. I would target a player who could potentially turn into a tradable asset. While I love what Cabrera’s bat brings to the table, he’s an obvious defensive liability. If you change his position, his offensive value changes significantly. The likelihood the Red Sox get a better return than what they’d have to give up to acquire him is very low.
With Drew, that’s simply not the case. His bat won’t kill you. His glove is solid. He’s also been beset by injuries, changes in scenery, etc. With a full offseason to get ready for 2013, there’s a lot of room for optimism that he can bounce back to form, even if it’s not quite what it was in 2010.
The question to answer becomes suddenly simple: If you were to bridge to Xander Bogaerts, would you cough prospects and money for an asset that’s likely to lose value, or plunk cash for one that will most likely provide a decent return on your investment? In that framework, the answer is easy. A short term, short money deal for Drew is probably the better decision.