Saturday, January 4, 2014

Drew Plays Waiting Game

Drew was great in 2013. So why can't he find a home? (Boston Herald)
Somehow Stephen Drew, one of the best remaining free agents, still hasn't found a home for 2014. A strong defensive shortstop who can also hit pretty well shouldn't still be searching for a job. Drew was the league's fourth-best shortstop last year per fWAR, and a top-ten one overall. You can't tell me that none of the 30 teams out there have a want or need for an asset like that.

So what could be dissuading teams from signing J.D. Drew's kid brother? Could it be age? He'll be 31 on Opening Day, which might be scaring teams away from offering him a multi-year deal. But that shouldn't be an issue, really, considering how good Drew was at age 30.

Is it his injury history then? Drew did miss an entire season's worth of games with a fractured ankle in 2011 and '12, plus 38 more in 2013 as he suffered a concussion and strained thigh. Still, he rebounded with a (mostly) healthy and productive 2013. Adjusted for league and park, Drew was approximately ten percent better than average with the stick which, combined with his stellar defense, made him worth more than three wins.

Perhaps teams were discouraged by his dismal postseason, one in which he collected just six hits in 54 at-bats (a run of futility that spawned the creation of this awesome Twitter account). Drew was dreadful in October, but it's important to remember that 54 at-bats is an awfully small sample size and shouldn't be given too much weight, especially since most of those ABs came against elite hurlers such as David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Adam Wainwright.

It seems the biggest factor keeping teams away is that Drew will cost whoever signs him a compensatory draft pick because he declined Boston's one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason. He and his agent, Scott Boras, had a more lucrative multi-year deal in mind, which was perfectly reasonable given that Jhonny Peralta procured $52 million over four years from the St. Louis Cardinals. Money was flying like crazy, and Drew seemed due for a windfall.

But six weeks has passed since then, and in that time it appears the interest in Drew has gone down. His asking price isn't out of the question, but nobody wants to give away young talent. Still, losing a draft pick that probably won't pan out anyways shouldn't be the end-all, be-all. Drew, an established shortstop with a couple of All-Star caliber seasons under his belt, is absolutely worth it.

So with the Mets and Yankees pursuing other options (Ruben Tejada and a Derek Jeter/Brendan Ryan combo, respectively) for now, Drew could very well end up returning to Boston. If he does, that would likely move Xander Bogaerts to third base and put Will Middlebrooks out of a job. But playing on a reduced deal for the Red Sox seems like a last resort for Drew, who still has another six weeks to go before Spring Training begins. As he showed with Prince Fielder in 2012 and Kyle Lohse in 2013, Boras has the patience to wait out the market and ultimately get his client the money he deserves.

So don't expect Drew to settle for a one-year deal anytime soon. He's worth more than that, and Boras knows it. It's only a matter of time before he convinces a GM (probably not Ben Cherington) to open his wallet and give Drew the dollars and years he deserves.

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