Scouting The Free Agent Market: Stephen Drew

Kernan: Yankees have renewed interest in Grant Balfour
Cotillo: Cubs claim Brett Marshall off waivers from Yankees

The Yankees came into the winter needing some middle infield depth, and that need became even greater when Robinson Cano bolted for the Mariners. They’ve already signed Brendan Ryan, Kelly Johnson, and Brian Roberts, but with Derek Jeter a question mark and Alex Rodriguez a complete unknown, adding more is not in any way a bad idea.

Over the weekend we heard free agent shortstop Stephen Drew is “awaiting some further Yankee clarity” before signing a new contract, which (to me) means he wants to see if New York will make a big offer should A-Rod be suspended (they’ve already shown interest this winter). Makes sense even if he only wants to create leverage against the Red Sox, who have interest in re-signing him. The Mets are also said to be kicking the tires. Does Drew fit what the Yankees need with Ryan, Johnson, and Roberts already on board? Let’s look.

The Pros

  • Drew, 30, rebounded from a terrible 2012 season to hit .253/.333/.443 (109 wRC+) with 13 homeruns this past summer. That includes a .284/.377/.498 (137 wRC+) line against righties.
  • As a pull-happy left-handed hitter who hits a lot of balls in the air (spray chart), Drew stands to benefit quite a bit from Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. He’s averaged 16 homers per 162 games in his career anyway.
  • Drew is a patient hitter who saw 4.09 pitches per plate appearance in 2013 (4.10 from 2011-2013) with a 10.8% walk rate (10.3% from 2011-2013). Lefty power and patience is the Yankees’ blueprint.
  • Although he won’t be confused for Jose Reyes, Drew is useful on the bases. He went a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts in 2013 (40-for-55 career), and he’s taken the extra-base about 36% of time the last three years, which is roughly league average.

The Cons

  • Drew will strike out quite a bit (24.8% in 2013 and 23.2% from 2011-2013) and he can’t hit lefties. He had a .196/.246/.340 (53 wRC+) against southpaws this past season and a 59 wRC+ against lefties over the last three years.
  • The various defensive stats say Drew has been below-average to average in the field these last three years: +3 UZR, -6 DRS, -9 FRAA, and -9 Total Zone. He has never played a position other than shortstop in his career, Majors or minors.
  • Injuries have been a problem in recent years. Most notably, Drew destroyed his right ankle (broken bones and torn ligaments) when he caught a spike sliding into home plate in 2011. He has also missed time with hamstring (2009 and 2013) and concussion (2013) issues.
  • Drew rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox, so whichever team signs him will have to forfeit a high draft pick.

The numbers say what the numbers say, but I don’t think the defensive stats match up with Drew’s glovework at short. The ankle injury, which sapped his speed and mobility for a while, could be the cause of that. I thought Drew was very good in the field this past season and particularly in the postseason. He’s not Brendan Ryan but he certainly stood out as above-average in my opinion.

It’s important to remember that Drew turned down more money from the Yankees to sign with the Red Sox last winter because of the uncertain playing time. He didn’t like the idea of bouncing between infield spots depending on who was healthy and who needed a day off. Those same questions exist now, maybe even moreso given the team’s other additions this winter. There is a clear path to being the team’s everyday shortstop relatively soon, however. Within a year I think.

The Yankees are reportedly seeking a right-handed hitting infielder and that makes sense. With Jeter a question mark following his self-proclaimed nightmare season, the team’s only reliable righty hitter is Alfonso Soriano. (Switch-hitter Mark Teixeira is still a question following wrist surgery and fellow switch-hitter Carlos Beltran has been just okay against lefties in recent years.) Drew is a really good player who would improve the team in both the short and long-term even though he’d make them even more left-handed in 2014. That can be a problem with guys like David Price, Matt Moore, Jon Lester, and Felix Doubront in the division.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    So we have now included Felix Durabont in the conversation as a “tough lefty”? This is all news to me.

    • Radiokev

      Yeah… that was a dubious inclusion.

  • Dr. TJ Eckleberg

    No interest. Especially if it means we sit out next winter’s SS market where there is a decent chance we can find a real gamer.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I don’t think he’d necessarily preclude that.

      I would question his signing to mostly play out of position, but he’s far and away the best available option to the team. They’re going to have be effective in the middle/late rounds of the draft any way this time around, so the pick doesn’t scare me as much as it would have a month or so ago.

      • dkidd

        do we know they’re asking him to move off ss? he’s never played third in his life

        my fear is signing drew means derek jeter gets more time at dh, which means less at-bats for soriano

        • mitch

          That’s pretty much the opposite of my fear. I’d be much more excited about a potential Drew signing if i knew it meant Jeter would move to DH.

          • dkidd

            jeter is going to get at-bats

            statue jeter at ss + soriano/beltran dh >>>>>>>>> drew at ss + punchless jeter at dh

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              Yeah. Pretty much.

              My concern, to be clear, is about Drew at 2B/3B.

            • mitch

              In my perfect world, Jeter at DH would be more like DH/bench and most of his ABs would come against LHP. He wouldn’t be taking away ABs from an outfielder.

        • Laz

          I don’t think he would go for that though. His value is solely because he plays short. His bat is nothing that good at 3b. His agents won’t want him to be 3b, they want the big contract as him viewed as a ss.

  • radnom

    But if you just compare their WARez, Brendan Ryan is a better player!!1!

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      A stellar defensive, consistently healthy Ryan over an injured, hobbled when healthy, platoon guy?

      WAR is cumulative. That’s not as crazy as your sarcastic exclamation points might want to believe.

      • radnom

        So you would agree with the conclusion that “analysis” provides, in that Brendan Ryan is a better player?

        • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

          First off, where do you see that? Using fWAR or bWAR, Ryan doesn’t have a higher career WAR, nor was he better in 2013.

          Second, you’re not necessarily reading the stat correctly. As Jim mentioned, WAR is cumulative. It doesn’t necessarily show who is “better”, but who has produced more.

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            Also this. Ryan didn’t have a higher WAR.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          WAR is cumulative.

          If a guy has 40 HR and another has 20, but the second guy played in 100 fewer games, would I think that 40 HR guy were better?

          You’re very good at building up strawmen.

          • Mikhel

            In terms of total production, the 40 HR guy who played in 100 more games produced more, in terms of ratios, the 20 HR guy produced more.

            I would rather have a full season of a Frank-Thomas-like player over a full month of a Shane-Spencer-like player.

            As with any statistical analysis you need context, numbers by itself can’t tell the whole story.

            Cheers and good holidays/merry christmas/etcetera.

            • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

              Well that’s my point, thank you for illustrating it more clearly.

      • http://rab.com Michael Cutler

        I agree, and not trying to hate. . but Stephen Drew I would argue overachieved last season, and whatever team signs him would be extremely lucky if he could mirror last season or come real close. . He is an oft-injured, average short stop who cant hit lefties. I feel like with the 10 or 12 million it’d take to sign him, you could put towards a reliever or towards a Tanaka contract offer. . not to mention the draft pick. . It blows my mind that he declined the qualifying contract, that’s atleast twice what I would pay Stephen Drew for a year. . Give me Brendan Ryan at short spelling Jeter and the salary to use on our PITCHING, where to be honest I don’t remember having only 6 guys out of the 11 or 12 spots who we know for sure. . I don’t want to sound like the naive fan wishing for them to just go give out contracts desperately. . but what if we don’t get Tanaka, what’s plan B? . . Pineda and Phelps? . .I aactually like them both. . but what if they one gets hurt. . then we’re looking at Nuno and Warren. . Plus Mike made a good point, he turned down more money because he didn’t want to play second fiddle. .his right i guess, sounds like a pre-madonna to me, but hey who the fudge am I right??????

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Like Debbie Harry?

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

    Signing Drew would force Boston to go with Middlebrooks at 3rd and Bogaerts at SS, not what they wanted to do last year. If Jeter wasn’t Jeter, NY would have already signed Drew and let Derek walk instead of giving him that 12 mil. retirement gift. BTW, signing Jacoby is forcing the Red Sox to run Jackie Bradley Jr. out there as well. Maybe those young guys step up, maybe they don’t.

    • Rick

      Da Red Sox has da best farm ever…. Dey will be superstarz!

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Yup.

      We accept too often as a foregone conclusion that other teams’ prospects are never going to fail.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Oh, I missed the letting Jeter walk part. No chance on God’s green earth that happens, on top of what radnom correctly points out below.

    • radnom

      Derek had an contractual option, letting him walk wasn’t a possibility. (Not that they had to give him a raise….)

      • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

        I thought that was a team option, not a player. Mea culpa.

      • Cliff

        Yeah, an option he OPTED OUT OF. At that point, cut bait. He can only blame himself for his greed.

        • Dave Guarnieri

          JETER opted out because the AAV in the previous contract would have been a bigger hit against the Luxury Tax. He and the Yanks agreed to a $12.5Million one year deal. The average salary on the existing 4 year deal would have been close to $17Million even though his option for 2014 (and it was HIS option, not the team) was $9.5million. This was all done because of the money counting against Plan 189, which is now moot anyway.

  • dkidd

    yuck

    ops’d 687 away from fenway, costs a pick, his last name is drew

    spend the money on baker

    • King George wasn’t cheap

      Yeah, Baker – he of the career .238/.288/.358 line against RHP.

      If Baker is the answer, you are asking the wrong question.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

    Considering how Baker mashes lefties, I’m wondering why there isn’t more interest in that guy.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Guess someone could swoop on him, but probably the kind of guy who signs late rather than early.

    • King George wasn’t cheap

      Because lefties appear less than 25% of the time and he sucks the other 75%?

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        And for the price, Baker would probably face those 25% of pitchers 85-90% of the time.

        He wouldn’t be playing 162 games.

  • cashjr

    too much money, too many years, too many draft picks (1 is even too many) and too much mediocracy. He’s a little above average all things considered in my book and just not worth the money, pick and years required.

  • UncleArgyle

    A-Rod gets 211 games, Jeter voluntarily and enthusiastically volunteers to move to 3rd. Drew is signed to play short. -please Santa? I’ve been very Nice this year!!!!

    • King George wasn’t cheap

      Jeter doesn’t have the skills for 3B – arm strength most especially.

      • UncleArgyle

        I disagree. I think Jeter’s arm strength is certainly strong enough to play a passable third. I really don’t see that being an issue.

  • FLYER7

    I have always felt Jeter to 3B was a possible outcome & that there would be no announcement until Arod was suspended for the year. Jeter already trumped him and stayed at SS forcing Arod to 3B. Imagine the conspiracy theorists from Alex’s camp if the Yankees announced a DJ position change prior to the Arod announcement. Jeter and Reynolds (3B/1B), Drew and Ryan at SS and Johnson/Roberts at 2B with Johnson also playing some other spots and OF works well for me.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      A lot of silly talk. He’s not moving to third. No way.

      • King George wasn’t cheap

        Besides, he never had the arm strength in his prime. That’s what people forget about the Amazing!!! Jump Throw. It’s because he doesn’t have the arm strength to convert that play normally.

        • Jonathan

          I am 100% certain you have never tried to do the jump throw. It requires a TON more arm strength than planting and throwing. It’s all arm. There isn’t the entire body backing it up. Plus, 3B doesn’t need much more arm strength than a SS. Go out and field a ball in the hole and plant and throw vs a jump throw and let me know how that goes.

          • hogsmog

            Also, 3B usually fields the ball moving towards where he’s going to throw it, while half the time SS is moving into the hole, away from 1st/2nd.

            • http://rab.com Michael Cutler

              haha ya i was waiting how many clowns were gonna go on with that . . 3rd base needs a stronger arm? Must have never played baseball. . . go stand where Jeter stands when he talks to the Umpires during the warm up pitches. . throws from third are simple you can just cock it and let it go, plus the ball’s on you faster so you have more time . . We got us some JT”S out here tonight !!!!some JIVE TURKEYS!!!

          • Dave Guarnieri

            Spot on. The Jump Throw is against his momentum in the hole and requires an extraordinary arm. He BELONGS at third because having to pivot is putting extra weight on his right ankle. It’s not a demotion and I am sure he understands that.

        • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

          So you’re sayin’ that all these years of people oohh’n and ahh’n over Jeter’s signature play but he did that just because he had a weak arm and a SS with a stronger arm could have stopped, planted, and thrown out the runner more often than Jeter was able to get them with the jump throw on that ground ball deep in the hole? Hmmmm….

      • UncleArgyle

        Not following how Jeter playing Third Base at this point in his career is “a lot of silly talk” considering that moving an aging ShortStop to Thirdbase has been commonplace in MLB for the last 100 or so years.

        • Bubba

          What you’re saying makes sense if you exclude that he’s Derek Jeter. The Yankees would have a better shot of moving CC to third than Derek.

    • vicki

      he’s proved me wrong before, but i suspect what jeter will bring to the plate will be acceptable from a short stop only.

  • King George wasn’t cheap

    “Lefty power and patience is the Yankeesā€™ blueprint”

    LHB in 2013: .258/.322/.408

    Then again:

    RHB in 2013: .226/.291/.342

    The Blueprint!

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Using 1 year with a boatload of injuries at the tail end of a 17 year run to try to counter the point:

      You’re doing this all, completely, totally wrong.

      • King George wasn’t cheap

        Look at you with all your excuses! So cute!

        News at 11! Those lines ain’t getting much better in 2014. They lost the biggest contributor and are now spreading his offense around three “upgrade” positions.

        Those “injuries” *cough old cough* aren’t going away either.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          Holy shit, where’d the goalposts go?

          The Yankee blueprint existed for 17 years. Last year sucked. I have literally no idea what you’re yelling about. No where did I disagree that last year was bad. No where did I disagree that this year might be bad too.

          If you’re going to set up goalposts, don’t move them around and expect to not get called on it.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I’ve met Jim and, yes, he is cute.

  • King George wasn’t cheap

    With the position the Yankees find themselves, I don’t see how they let Drew pass without a fight. He’s likely their most valuable infielder in 2014. Jeter certainly isn’t coming close to 3 WAR. Teixeira might, but I’d sooner bet on Drew, especially since he’d be their best player at 2B, SS, and 3B.

    • Grit for Brains

      It makes so much sense when you put it like that….Makes me think there is no way that they do it.

  • RetroRob

    Also under the cons category: He was a complete creation of Fenway last year, triple slashing to a .222/.295/.392 line on the road last year.

    I don’t get too carried away with home/road splits when it’s a single season, but it’s something to consider.

    Last, his concern about playing time won’t matter much if he’s signed to a multi-year deal. It was a concern last year since he was signing a one-year deal and hoped to go back on the market again. He’s now at that point and will take the uncertainty of playing time if he gets a multi-year deal.

  • Cookiemilk

    Wow shut the fuck up about WAR already.

    It’s all about the tale of the game folks.

    The Yankees win a game 2-1. Kuroda throws seven scoreless innings, Thornton and Kelley pitch the eighth inning, and Robertson coughs up a run but closes out the game. Soriano hits a double, Ryan playing in place of Jeter drives in Soriano with a single, steals second, moves to third on a ground out, and is driven in by Ellsbury with a sac fly.

    WTF does “WAR” have to to with that game?

    • 101010

      Why is Hawk Harrelson posting on RAB?

      TWTW!

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Poor man’s Eddard.

      Get a new act.

    • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph

      That would be a small sample. I’m sure you know that WAR will play out over the long haul.

  • Mikhel

    “Drew, 30, rebounded from a terrible 2012 season”

    I have a hard time understanding your definition of “rebound”.

    His AVG / OBP / SLG / OPS / OPS+ / UZR / Range / etc. is either about average or below average, AND he costs a pick.

    Moves like those are what characterizes the NYY current state of affairs, signing up mediocre players, average at best players and one-dimensional players (does anybody remember a low AVG, low OBP, just SLG, bad defensive catcher that goes by the name Russell?), sure a homerun from time to time helps, but constant production is what is needed.

    Drew would be an upgrade over Nix… but not much more than that at 8-9 times Nix’s price.

    • vicki

      i’m with you on your stephen drew points. but the yankees did NOT sign a one-tool player in russell martin. his triple slash for five years before new york: 272/365/396. three years prior: 261/364/356. he was and remains a plus defender and framer.

  • Dave Guarnieri

    I can’t see AROD in pinstripes again, all that venom, too much has happened, unfortunately, too much has been said and done. It is going to cost that Yanks big bucks, but in my mind, once the arbitrator makes the decision, AFRAUD will be paid off and bid farewell…or not so well.

    Tex scares me. Roster room is tight. The Yanks can’t have one roster space for a guy that plays first base, and first base only, part-time. (aka Lyle Overbay). Maybe Kelley Johnson in a platoon since Tex can hit right handed even with the injury. Jeter to 3rd is pretty much a no brainer. Drew? I suppose. One alternative being Ryan. But I would not completely write off Nunez as an everyday SS. If he is assured he wont get bounced around, and seeing that his arm under control……. he did play well down the stretch when the Yanks made a run at a Wild-Card. The everydayg SS? He is more athletic than Drew and is already here. Surprising teams come up with guys out of nowhere (who heard of Koji Uehara this time last year?), maybe this is Nunez’s turn to shine. 2nd base is a mess–Roberts, Johnson, Ryan
    maybe Anna but the roster space gets tricky.

  • pft2

    Yankees will need a SS soon, maybe this year. Sign Drew to a 3 yr deal with a team option for a 4th year at league minimum should he miss significant time due to that ankle injury.

    His bat plays much better at YS3 than Fenway and while he can’t hit LHP’ers, most LH starters only go 6 IP nowadays and at the bottom of the order he won’t see the other teams LOOGY.

    His defense was very good last year from what I saw, and while he is no Brendan Ryan he is probably 20 runs better than Jeter defensively (whose UZR in 2012 was -15).