Despite reports in November that the Red Sox were “moving on” from Stephen Drew, last year’s starter at shortstop remains on the market. So why would a deal to bring Drew back to Boston make sense?
The market that agent Scott Boras may have envisioned for Drew hasn’t developed. The Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a multi-year deal. The Yankees seem content to hope Derek Jeter will return to form, with Brendan Ryan an excellent defensive back-up. The qualifying offer that the Red Sox extended, which means any team that signs Drew would lose a draft pick, seems to be hampering interest.
With the market weak, the Sox could swoop in and sign Drew for a reasonable deal of say two years and $24 million. Drew gets a raise and increased money over the $14 million qualifying offer he turned down. The Red Sox get solid production on both offense and defense.
Xander Bogaerts looks to be a superstar in the making offensively, but there are still concerns on whether he can handle the shortstop position. Bringing back Drew would allow Bogaerts to get some starts at shortstop, without the pressure of the starting job.
It may be difficult for Bogaerts to switch between third base and shortstop, but he handled it well at the end of last season. The Red Sox have one of the best defensive coaches in the majors in Brian Butterfield to help Bogaerts make adjustments at both positions.
For his career, Drew hits .235/.291/.390 versus lefthanded pitching, and his numbers were worse than that in 2013. Bogaerts should start at shortstop against lefties, with Will Middlebrooks at third. Against righties, Drew would start at short, and John Farrell could play matchups or the hot hand between Bogaerts and Middlebrooks at third. Having all three players back would give the Sox enviable depth on the left side of the infield.
The other benefit to this depth is that either Drew or Middlebrooks could be used as trade chips if a need arose during the season. Signing Drew to a reasonable deal doesn’t eliminate trading him later. At that point the draft pick compensation would be gone.
A deal with Drew would likely force the Red Sox to deal either Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster for salary relief. With several teams (Mariners, Angels, Giants, Dodgers just to name a few) looking for pitching depth, the Sox should be able to find a willing trade partner.
The Sox roster looks settled at this point, so they may look for prospects in return for trading off pitching depth. The Sox could expand the deal with prospects like Alex Hassan, Bryce Brentz and Ryan Lavarnway who don’t seem to have a clear spot on the current roster.
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