Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks, Too

Ben explains why the Red Sox can have their Middlebrooks and eat Drew too.

If Stephen Drew’s market never truly develops like we thought it would, the Red Sox should resign him. And if they do so, they should retain Will Middlebrooks, too.

I know, I know, it’s a radical idea. We’ve become so used to the “Drew or Middlebrooks” logic that it seems almost a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox won’t roster both in 2014. If we resign Drew, it’s off to Gulag/Miami for Middlebrooks. If Boston doesn’t throw money at Drew, he’ll be starting for the Mets or Yankees.

But there is plenty of middle ground here, and a 2014 Red Sox roster with Drew and Middlebrooks would not only be exceptionally deep, but it would afford Boston said flexibility without mortgaging the future to the extent that many suggest.

Let’s take a look at what the Red Sox would look like with both on board for 2014.

The Pros

Production

It’s hard to argue that signing Drew wouldn’t make the Red Sox a better team when facing right-handed pitching. Drew hit .284/.377/.498 with 9 homers against righties last season, and when you couple a stat line like that with outstanding defense, it’s clear that Drew is one hell of a player.

His offense falls off the face of the earth when he faces southpaws, though, which is where Middlebrooks comes in handy. WMB is a career .285/.338/.838 hitter against southpaws, which makes him worth of hitting in the middle of the order against lefties.

The idea here, of course, is that Bogaerts would play every day, at third base when Drew starts and at shortstop when Middlebrooks starts. Let’s take a look at what Boston’s lineup could look like against righties and lefties:

Vs. RHP

Vs. LHP

Shane Victorino, RF Shane Victorino, RF
Danial Nava, LF Xander Bogaerts, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B Mike Napoli, 1B
Stephen Drew, SS Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Xander Bogaerts, 3B Jonny Gomes, LF
AJ Pierzynski, C David Ross, C
Jackie Bradley, CF Jackie Bradley, CF

It’s not a conventional lineup with its heavy use of platoons, and it’s not quite how I’d construct the batting order, but it would be potent nonetheless. With steps forward from Bogaerts and (hopefully) WMB, this offense could be nearly as good as it was in 2013, even without Ellsbury and with probable regression coming form Victorino.

It's also important to consider that Bogaerts, Middlebrooks and Drew would comprise the most handsome platoon in the league. Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net.

It’s also important to consider that Bogaerts, Middlebrooks and Drew would comprise the most handsome platoon in the league. Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net.

Protection

The 2013 Red Sox were pretty lucky when it came to health. Yes, Drew missed some time and Pedroia played with an injured thumb and Middlebrooks may have been recovering from a wrist injury. But on the whole, health was on their side.

Resigning Drew protects the Red Sox from a wide variety of outcomes. If the 38-year-old Ortiz misses time, the Red Sox could let Mike Carp and Middlebrooks DH. If Napoli is injured, Middlebrooks could see time at first base. If Middlebrooks doesn’t progress the Red Sox still have two viable starters in Drew and Bogaerts. And should the unthinkable happen and Bogaerts struggle in his first year, he could be sent back to the minors without necessitating everyday starts from Jonathan Herrera.

Essentially, resigning Drew protects Boston from every scenario other than a Dustin Pedroia injury. That’s incredible flexibility to have, and would make the Red Sox arguably the deepest team in baseball.

The Cons

Consistency

As one Patrick Sullivan pointed out to me on Twitter, there’s an argument to be made that Bogaerts’ development could be hurt by constantly switching him between third base and shortstop. I’m not entirely sure it’s an argument I’m ready to accept, but it’s certainly reasonable and the same logic applies to Middlebrooks: if the Red Sox shield him from RHP all year, they still won’t really know what they have in him moving forward.

There’s also the possibility that Drew puts up a stink if he becomes a platoon player, although you’d have to think he’s aware of the roster construction of the Red Sox and would know what resigning in Boston could mean for his playing time. Middlebrooks could also voice displeasure about playing part time, but he has no leverage.

Essentially, it’s important to remember that these players are people, and that inconsistent playing time could impact their performances and their production. It’s not an easy argument to quantify, but that doesn’t mean we can dismiss it out of hand.

Cost

This is perhaps the most popular argument against Drew: he costs money. There’s no exact figure yet, of course, but odds are Drew would command between $13-15 million in a one-year deal. That might mean the Red Sox would be forced to give something away with Ryan Dempster to free up some money, or perhaps trade Jake Peavy in order to clear some space.

Of course, this is also a team that hasn’t gone over the luxury tax in several seasons and can afford to push the envelope a bit this year. A one-year, $14 million contract is not going to do any sort of meaningful harm to this organization, even if Drew gets hit by a beer truck on April 4th.

There’s also the notion that the Red Sox would be giving up a draft pick if they re-signed Drew, which isn’t exactly fair. They don’t have a draft pick until Drew signs elsewhere, so I don’t know that we can say they lose one. It’s a bit semantic, since the draft pick needs to be included in the valuation, but I digress …

I recognize the importance of a strong farm system and I know that a first round draft pick can be hugely valuable. Some supplemental picks the Red Sox have used in the past have turned into the likes of Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie and Anthony Ranaudo. They’ve also turned into Michael Bowden, Caleb Clay, Ryan Dent … you get the picture. There’s certainly an argument to be made against this line of thinking, but I believe a starting shortstop that can be acquired during a time when the team is a legitimate World Series contender is worth a supplemental draft pick. You don’t have to agree, but let’s not pretend that my premise is ridiculous.

Conclusion

I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that the Red Sox are better off saving money, banking a supplemental draft pick and hoping that Bogaerts and Middlebrooks produce on the left side of the infield. I don’t think you can argue against stating that Drew makes the 2014 Red Sox better, though, and if he can be had at a relatively low-cost deal like the one I arbitrarily invented above, the Red Sox would be sacrificing their present to marginally improve their future. That’s a good strategy and it’s partially why Boston is in the position it’s in now, but it has its limits.

I’m also not trying to suggest that Boston should get into a bidding war for Drew. If the Mets or Yankees or Twins or someone else want to offer him a three-year deal, I’m all for letting him walk. But if we’re talking about a one- or two-year deal, unlikely but not impossible, I think the Red Sox should make a strong play.

Either way, the main point I’m trying to make is that it doesn’t have to be Drew or Middlebrooks. There’s plenty of room for the 2013 Red Sox to roster both players, and if they do they’re going to be a damn fine team.

If not, they’ll still be plenty good, but we’ll need to pray that we saw the real Middlebrooks in 2012 and not 2013.

Categories: 2014 Red Sox offseason Jonathan Herrera Stephen Drew Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogaerts

Ben is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in journalism and a love of all things Red Sox and minor league baseball. He has experience writing for Baseball Prospectus, NESN, RotoExperts, BU Today and other sites, and typically serves as an in-house MiLB writer. An editor for a business website by day, Ben likes to grill, sample IPAs and re-read Faulkner novels by night. He is an unabashed J.D. Drew apologist with a deep-seated fear of middle relievers. Follow Ben on Twitter here.

14 Responses to “Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks, Too” Subscribe

  1. KentHathaway December 31, 2013 at 8:52 AM #

    After reading all this stuff about Drew, about the only positive I gather from all this, is that theoretically the Red Sox become a better hitting team against right handlers with Drew in the lineup.. And this assumes that Drew stays healthy and that he will hit better against a rightie than Middlebrooks.. The negatives are: we keep Bogaerts from playing his natural position at shortstop, we turn Middlebrooks into a part time player, which obviously is going to hurt his development, we spend $12 million or so for a year or more, which is money we really don’t have available to spend, which probably forces us to trade a starting pitcher in order to recoup the money we didn’t have to spend in the first place, and we lose a draft pick.. I may not be smarter than a fifth grader but this looks like to me about as easy a no brainier decision as there possibly could be..

  2. BenCarsley22 January 1, 2014 at 2:09 AM #

    RedSox_Thoughts you missed last week when a commenter freaked out at me for saying some Red Sox were “expendable”

  3. RedSox_Thoughts January 1, 2014 at 2:09 AM #

    BenCarsley22 Well, ya. Stop being such a meanie on the internet

  4. BenCarsley22 January 1, 2014 at 2:11 AM #

    RedSox_Thoughts maybe in 2015

  5. cdgoldstein January 1, 2014 at 2:19 AM #

    BenCarsley22 RedSox_Thoughts “expandable”

  6. BenCarsley22 January 1, 2014 at 2:21 AM #

    cdgoldstein RedSox_Thoughts why don’t you expend on that joke creg

  7. cdgoldstein January 1, 2014 at 2:23 AM #

    BenCarsley22 RedSox_Thoughts what happened was in the act of whining about commenters, you fucked up the very word you put in quotes.

  8. 29sonski January 1, 2014 at 8:38 AM #

    Well written and cogent piece. If a single-year, seven-figure contract would get Drew back on the roster, there would be little debate. As it appears, we have a good chance at signing him, but I’d feel better if the Sox went in the direction of a Jeff Francoeur, a Gold-Glove OF who is accustomed to platooning. He’s 30 and coming off a $7.5 million contract. Adding him would give defensive security to RF if Bradley slumps and Victorino has to move to CF. Nava and Gomes could remain in LF.

  9. prophetofthesandlot January 1, 2014 at 9:52 AM #

    KentHathawayFirst, the Red Sox “have the money”.  Second, Drew’s defensive impact is substantial.  With Boegarts and Drew on the left side of the infield…that is outstanding defense when you consider who is holding down the right side. Third, I’m not so sure Boegart’s natural position will be SS.I three years…he might be your 3rd baseman as he fills into his body. Fourth, what if the Red Sox signed Drew and traded him in early June for something of value?  By the first week of June we should know more about Bradley and Boegarts, the starting pitching depth…the progress of our AAA players….a host of issues.  Signing Drew for a year does give the Sox a ton of flexibility and time to assess their options in multiple areas.

  10. TomGrahame January 1, 2014 at 12:22 PM #

    Excellent piece.  I’ve been arguing over at Over the Monster exactly this, that resigning Drew would be an excellent move, not with much success, because people either want to throw Middlebrooks into the fire 100%, sink or swim, or just want to get rid of him.  Bad ideas, in my book.  Flexibility and depth, as Ben points out, are great to have, especially with two young guys on the right side of the infield, should we not resign Drew.

    Drew will know what is going on if he resigns, so he won’t be upset if he starts only against righties, he’s still start 2/3rds of the games.

    Another advantage to resigning Drew: should Middlebrooks again start poorly, you can send him to Pawtucket to work on his plate approach, and you will still have an excellent right side of the infield.

  11. rob bear January 1, 2014 at 2:55 PM #

    patience is the word. yes, resign drew at Boston’s price, one to two years while Devin Marrero develops.
    now lets talk about position versatility. Middlebrooks should become a: third base/first base/ left fielder. Lets see what he develops into. Johnny gomes only has one more year on his contract( thank you very much Johnny) so 2015 will have it’s options.
    I have felt the same way about Ryan lavarnway, catcher/first/left field, right handed bats are valuable and with two 37 yr old catchers why not shave the season by 20 games or so.
    Mark Trumbo has shown us the market for himself and Middlebrooks type players, so what’s the rush.

  12. Gerry January 2, 2014 at 4:59 AM #

    Nope, fraked out because of the headline “the expendables”. Everyone is expendable. There is a big difference.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Daily Red Sox Links: Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, Jon Lester - My Website / Blog - January 2, 2014

    […] Ben Carsley explains why it’s possible to go into 2014 with both Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks on the roster. (Ben Carsley; Fire Brand of the AL) […]

  2. Daily Red Sox Links: Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, Jon Lester | Boston Red Sox Fan Shop - January 2, 2014

    […] Ben Carsley explains why it’s possible to go into 2014 with both Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks on the roster. (Ben Carsley; Fire Brand of the AL) […]