The winner of the Stephen Drew free agent derby is… the Boston Red Sox?
As first reported by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Drew agreed to a one-year deal for $10 million. That’s the prorated amount of what the shortstop would have received from Boston had he accepted the $14.1 million qualifying offer the team extended to him last November. Drew declined the offer and became a free agent. Since he is signing after opening day, the Red Sox can’t make another qualifying offer to Drew following this season.
The prevailing sentiment throughout MLB was that Drew, 31, wouldn’t agree to any contract until after the MLB Draft on June 5. Because he received a qualifying offer from Boston, any club signing the shortstop would have to surrender a first-round draft pick. That, along with demands for an expensive multi-year contract, kept teams with obvious shortstop needs like the Mets and Tigers from meeting his terms.
The only club who didn’t have to give up a compensatory first-round selection for signing Drew was the Red Sox. Besides that, the team may have suddenly prioritized getting Drew before the MLB Draft, after which teams interested in him may have stepped up their pursuit with the first-round draft pick requirement no longer in place.
According to the Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo, Drew will be added to Boston’s major league roster on Wednesday. But he’ll spend seven to 10 days in the minors, presumably to get into even better baseball shape and regain his timing against live pitching.
Shortstop didn’t appear to be a concern going into the 2014 season. With top prospect Xander Bogaerts on hand (and coming off an impressive postseason last year, helping Boston to a World Series championship), the Red Sox didn’t feel the need to re-sign Drew. But Bogaerts hasn’t quite fulfilled expectations this year, batting .269 with a .748 OPS. Perhaps even more of a concern is that the 21-year-old hasn’t played great defense at shortstop, something that Drew specializes in.
However, the bigger concern for the Red Sox might be the production they’ve been getting at third base. Before he went on the disabled list this week with a fractured right index finger, Will Middlebrooks was batting .197 with a .629 OPS, two home runs and nine RBI. Brock Holt has a .676 OPS with only one extra-base hit in 35 plate appearances and isn’t providing very good defense. By signing Drew, Boston can slide Bogaerts over to third base, as the team did last postseason.
Last year, Drew batted .253 with a .777 OPS in 501 PAs. He was abysmal in the postseason, compiling a .111 average and .344 OPS, building a demand for putting Bogaerts at shortstop. While the Red Sox likely didn’t sign Drew to be a platoon player, it’s possible that they’ll try to overcome his weaknesses by sitting him versus left-handed pitching. Against lefties, Drew hit .196 with a .585 OPS. But against right-handers, he batted .284 with an .876 OPS, 21 doubles, seven triples, nine home runs and 48 RBI.
With Drew re-signing with the Red Sox, that makes one less player available for teams seeking a shortstop. The Tigers were viewed as a team that would make a run at Drew after the draft, but will now obviously have to look elsewhere. Drew also made sense for the Mets and Yankees.
Shortstops that could now draw renewed interest include Cliff Pennington of the D-Backs and the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera. Young prospects like Arizona’s Didi Gregorious and the Mariners’ Nick Franklin could be possibilities as well.