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.
- 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.
- 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.