The Yankees, Stephen Drew, and the worst part of the hot stove season

RAB Live Chat
Sanchez and Williams crack's top 100 prospects list

When the Yankees agreed to sign Masahiro Tanaka to his massive seven-year contract, it eliminated any small remaining chance they would stay under the $189M luxury tax threshold this coming season. Their payroll currently sits around $204M and, based on their Opening Day payrolls over the last three years, it appears they have another $10M or so to spend. Once you’re over the threshold, might as well go way over, right? Fill out the rest of the roster as needed.

As Joe mentioned earlier, the Yankees were predictably connected to free agent shortstop Stephen Drew less than two days after the ink dried on the Tanaka contract. Jon Heyman had the news:

The Yankees are now considering free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, which could potentially put another dent in the rival Red Sox’s up-the-middle alignment only weeks after the Yankees signed Boston star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

There has been a thought the Yankees might be willing to keep spending after landing star Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. But while there doesn’t seem to be a push for another top starter or reliever, Drew is one free agent the Yankees are at least weighing, according to people familiar with their thinking … Although the Yankees apparently aren’t quite a bottomless pit of cash, a possible run at Drew “depends on the price” according to a person familiar with their thinking.

This makes sense, right? The Yankees have an obvious need for infield help and Drew is substantially better than any other free agent infielder left on the market. Agent Scott Boras has indicated Drew is willing to play somewhere other than his natural shortstop position according to Peter Gammons, which is good because Derek Jeter isn’t going to change positions. I know it, you know it, and the Yankees know it. It ain’t happening.

Now, just a little more than 14 hours after Heyman’s initial report, Buster Olney reported this:

Ken Rosenthal backed up Olney’s report, saying “sources say team essentially has reached spending limit” while noting a more likely move is a trade involving players with similar salaries, like Ichiro Suzuki for a reliever (J.J. Putz?).

The whole “sources say team has interest in a player, team then denies report and interest in a player” routine is so very common during the offseason. Both sides, the club and the player (and his agent), want to control information. Agents will float reports about teams being interested in their players even if they aren’t just to drum up some leverage. Teams will deny interest in a player even if they want him because they don’t want other clubs to get involved and potentially drive up the price.

We see this all the time and it’s possible (if not likely) that neither Heyman and Olney (and Rosenthal) is wrong. The Yankees could indeed have interest in Drew and be denying it at the same time. They may want to keep things quiet so the Red Sox stay out of the mix. It’s also possible Boras leaked a fake rumor as a way of creating the appearance of a bidding war in an effort to coax every last dollar out of Boston. This isn’t some kind of crazy conspiracy theory. This stuff happens all winter and especially with rivals like the Yankees and Red Sox.

Teams and agents manipulate the media in an effort to control information and, for the most part, fans eat this stuff up because we love talking about potential roster moves and playing GM. At the same time, all the conflicting reports are just awful. The 24-hour news cycle is really second-by-second, given me updates in real time news cycle nowadays, so every little blurb finds it’s way onto the web and in front of fans. It’s exhausting. It really is.

It makes perfect sense for the Yankees to have interest in Drew following the Tanaka signing. It also makes sense that Boras would try to use them as negotiating leverage against the Red Sox. I don’t know what to believe and this is the aspect part of the offseason.

RAB Live Chat
Sanchez and Williams crack's top 100 prospects list
  • b-rar

    He made $9.5mm last year. He’ll command a substantial raise on top of that, particularly given the Yankees obviously desperate infield situation. Is he worth $13-15mm/year over multiple years by any objective standard? Of course not.

    You know who’d have fit really well into this infield? Robinson Cano.

    • BC203

      The only real competition to signing him is Boston and they always look for their “hometown” discount — there is no way he is getting more then 10-12 mm/yr. The Mets have no leverage — who wants to play for a team that has ZERO chance of even making the playoffs in the next 4 years?

      Cano would have been a great signing at 170 – not 300…

      • b-rar

        The Yankees always find ways to outbid themselves.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting

          not always …. Cano

      • RabidPanda

        “Who wants to play for a team that has ZERO chance of even making the playoffs in the next four years?”

        I know this is a Yankees site, and it figures comments like this would come here. Regardless, this is a very dumb statement.

        • vicki

          met fans have a lot to look forward to in the next few years, actually.

    • RetroRob

      He’ll command what the market will pay him.

  • Batsman

    “Once you’re over the threshold, might as well go way over, right? ”

    No. You don’t have to. If the Yankees can’t get under the $189 threshold this season, than they can do so NEXT season. Stephen Drew would be worth going over the threshold if he can be signed to a one-year contract. In that way, his salary is off the books next season. Why commit to dollars and the years to a player who may be good defensively but mediocre offensively? Why tie-up the 2015 payroll for Stephen Drew?

    • Vincent Vega

      There’s no way the Yankees get under 189 in 2015 with Arod on the payroll.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        Exactly. There’s no way the Yankees get under the threshold in the current CBA.

    • lightSABR

      According to Spotrac (, the Yankees currently have 9 players under contract for the 2015 season (A-Rod, Sabathia, Teixeira, Tanaka, Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran, Thornton, and Ryan). The luxury tax hit from those 9 – ignoring any possible bonuses – is $155.25 million. Add $10 million for benefits, and we’re talking about $25 million left over to pay all the arbitration guys (Nova, Cervelli, Pineda, Shawn Kelly, Cabral, and Nunez, assuming they’re all still around), fill 10 more spots on the 25-man roster, and pay for people’s mid-season replacements when they get injured. It’s just not going to happen.

      Plan 189 is dead, at least until the next CBA.

    • qwerty

      Arod’s salary will be in play next season, and Robertson should see a substantial raise. Although Ichiro, Gardner, and Soriano should come off the books. Getting under 189 is fairly remote. They still need to replace players with someone decent.

  • Jake

    For the love of baseball, I hope the Yankee do not sign Drew. The Yankees have Kelly Johnson, Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore, any of them will do a decent job at 3B. WE DO NOT NEED BRAND NAME STARS FOR EVERY POSITION. He flat out is not a good player and at 10 million a year, big rip off. Anything more than 5 million for one year is disgusting. Brian and Hal, PLEASE STAY AWAY.

    • Yanks20

      Thank you! Finally someone talking some sense! Only thing tho…since when is Stephen Drew a Brand Name or a Star? Sorry, didn’t mean to nit-pick…excellent post.

    • BC203

      Forget the $$ for a moment since it really doesn’t matter what we pay him… Dean Anna, Scott Sizemore, Brian Roberts are bench players for most championship teams — not starters. No we don’t need a “star” at every position, but relying on Brian Roberts to stay healthy (and when he doesn’t, starting Dean Anna at 2B) is not a great plan for a team trying to get those last 3-4 wins to get us into the playoffs…

    • Farewell Mo

      Don’t know how you can say he’s “not a good player.”

      2010: 4.7 WAR and 10.1 UZR
      2011: 1.7 WAR and 8.4 UZR in in 86 games
      2013: 3.4 WAR and 6.7 UZR

      Half of 2011 and 2012 he was either injured or coming back from a major ankle injury so when he’s been healthy, he’s been a VERY good player.

      • Mr. Roth

        Yeah that’s great and all, but since when do we use facts to make evaluations here?

    • lightSABR

      Kelly Johnson will do a half-decent job, something like 1.5 WAR. Better than we had most of last year, but nothing to be proud of.

      Until proven otherwise, I think we have to expect Anna and Sizemore to be replacement level at best. And with the current roster, we have to expect that one of them (or somebody no better than they are) will start at least 50 games because of Roberts’ need for rest and high likelihood of injury.

      Steven Drew is no Troy Tulowitzki, and he he shouldn’t be paid like one. But there’s no question he’d be a big improvement, and if the price isn’t too exorbitant, we’d better get him if we want to make the playoffs.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Stephen Drew is a brand name player?

      Again, we’re talking about the best looking girl in the bar when the only other left has an eyepatch and really hairy arms.

      • RetroRob

        You say that as if an eye patch is not an attractive feature.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I love women who’ve been through severe welding accidents.

          • RetroRob

            I was watching Kill Bill when I wrote that response and Uma Thurman had an eye patch. It was coloring my thought process about women and eye patches.

  • UncleArgyle

    Bottom line. You can’t win a World Series with Stephen Drew as your starting shortstop.

    • BC203

      Valid — I’m mean the last time that happened was… oh yeah, last year…

      • UncleArgyle

        Huh. Well that certainly hurts the “Drew sucks” argument. Anyway, a .777 OPS with non-statuesque defense at Shortstop would certainly blow.

        • BC203

          And do you somehow think Jeter is going to put up a .777 OPS? He crested that mark in 2012 (barely — .791), but was well under in 2010 and 2011 (.710, .743). Certainly not crazy numbers, but better than what we are currently throwing out there. Jeter at 40 may put up the best numbers out of all INF (may Tex rebounds) which is a problem…

          • UncleArgyle

            I was being sarcastic. I like Jeter the hitter, I like Jeter the leader, but Jeter the Shortstop is baseball suicide at this point. Wave the white flag on opening day kinda stuff. Move him to third, and hope he doesn’t kill you that much. I’d be thrilled if they signed Drew, he’s not a star, but he’s solid at the bat and in the field.

  • KD

    Jeet won’t play anywhere but short? I’m not sure about that at all. He’s our Captain. If it was in the best interests of the team, why not play 3B? Is our Captain too egotistical or selfish? Is there any evidence of this?

    • BC203

      I agree — if he thought it would make the team better, he’d move. I think he’d swallow his pride and realize at 40 he’s not covering short like he used to — Jeter at 3B and Drew at SS is much improved…

    • botz

      He should have moved over in 04 then when Arod came over seeing how Arod was a much better defender at SS.

    • hogsmog

      Learning a whole new position, especially without getting hurt, isn’t trivial. Jeter hasn’t played a single inning of a single position besides shortstop… ever. Majors and minors; he probably hasn’t played anywhere else since high school. So even though its possible, it might not be feasible even if Jeter wants to.

  • BillyBall15

    Like I stated before on the last Drew tread, WE DO NOT NEED TO GIVE THIS GUY 2-3 YEARS!

    Let Sizemore battle it out with Johnson. There will be so many options as season unfolds and to strap ourselves to Stephen Drew and put him out on third where he will play avg Def and put up avg numbers that we can possibly get above avg def and slightly below avg offense from Sizemore I say forget it.

    I know most Yankee fans despise Nunez but for some reason the Yankee coaches do not. And being that they actually played major league baseball (Girardi) and have a fairly better sense of Nunez abilities, maybe it’s possible Nunez can break out and have a decent bat (275avg) 30 SB and hit 10-15 HR.

    When Gardner came up 75percent of the same people on here thought his bat was too weak and should be traded as he doesn’t steal enough, those same fans now want a boatload in return for him because of his value!

    Be patient Yankee fans and stop wanting and wanting. Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. This is truly one reason I despise talking with fellow Yankee fans, they are so spoiled and most of them have not been around to witness the 80’s Yankees struggle and realize it takes a good farm and rebuilding to build a dynasty which is the ultimate goal.

    • Farewell Mo

      Guess you didn’t read Mike’s article about the current state of the Yankees the other day where he states they are at a point where a couple of wins very likely could make the difference between making the playoffs or not.

      I’m not saying Drew is a must have but if the price is reasonable, it makes total sense and he easily can be expected to be a 3+ WAR SS which should easily place him in the top 10 SS’s and upgrade the position by a couple of wins.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      How do you know what the Yankees think of Nunez? Maybe Girardi just kept playing him because they had less than crap for alternative options.
      They were so happy with his performance, they went out and traded for and resigned Brendan Ryan.
      So convinced in his potential that they apparently aren’t even giving him any serious consideration for their 2B, SS, 3B openings.

      It will take some good farm contributions to build another dynasty.
      There is no evidence whatsoever that Nunez has anything to do with that.
      And it’s not like it’s only a question of Drew over Sizemore or Johnson.
      Drew will likely outperform any and all of the Yankees current SS, 2B, or 3B options.
      As for the many options as the season unfolds, did you not watch the 2013 season?
      If the viable options are so easy to come by, why did the Yankees field a parade of disasters at 3B and SS essentially all year long?

    • FLYER7

      Dont think the staff is in love with Noony except for Joe G

  • vicki

    please add my name to the list of people baffled by the Must Sign Drew crew.

    • UncleArgyle

      I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily in the “Must Sign Drew Crew”. I’m more in the “Can’t be competitive with a 40 year old one legged ShortStop Crew”.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I would sign up to see what an actual one-legged person could do at short.

      • vicki

        but jeter at short is immutable. drew would play out of position.

        • UncleArgyle

          Sadly you’re right. Mantle moved to first to end his career. Berra moved to Left. Bernie went and played right. But oh no, not Derek Jeter. Not the Team Captain. My Legacy first, My Teammates second. Jeter’s nearly as selfish as A-Rod in my opinion with his refusal to smell the coffee and move off Short.

          • vicki

            (a-rod, the best shortstop in the game, who moved to third to wear the pinstripes.)

            • UncleArgyle

              Good point. Even the lowly A-Rod switched positions for the good of the team.

              • RetroRob

                For the good of A-Rod. It had nothing to do with the team.

                • vicki

                  come on. he had a minimum four years left on his then huge contract. he waived his no-trade to come here, agreeing to play third out of deference to an inferior shortstop. you don’t think that took some humility?

          • Yanks20

            I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were in the room when Girardi asked him to move to 3B. There is a reason why he has not moved to 3B yet, no one has asked him! It’s amazing how a guy is hurt for 1 year and suddenly he can do nothing right.

            Remember last time people doubted DJ…2011 (see 2012). Unless someone else is brought in with more range that can hit; he is our best option at SS. If he wasn’t he would move to 3rd, but my predictions: he will bat 2nd, play SS and be back to 2012 form….what has he ever done to think otherwise.

            • UncleArgyle

              Jeter has made it crystal clear that “I AM A SHORTSTOP!!” Jeter has been widely considered amoung, if not THE, worst defensive SS in baseball going on 15 years now. I’m sure the team is afraid to ask him to move to third because Jeter has made it clear HE DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK what the team wants. Anyway, this is on Cashman/Girardi. They need to grow a pair and tell, not ask, him to start taking grounders at the hot corner.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      Not a must sign, but he’s a definite upgrade, and they are still likely short of a playoff team with relatively few realistic places to upgrade and find the extra few wins they are likely to need, which is why Drew would make some sense.

      • vicki

        glove-first, average (to below average) platoon hitter. fine at short; skimpy at third.

  • ruralbob

    “…because we love talking about potential roster moves and playing GM.” Certainly not on this site!


  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’m really disappointed Mike decided to rename the site to “River Avenue Drews” today.

  • rogue

    Drew will be a Yankee for 3 reasons:

    1.) The Yankees will offer him the best deal because they need him the most.
    2.) With the re-signing of Napoli at 1b, Middlebrooks slotted at 3b, and Bogearts a lock at SS, there’s no place for Drew in Boston.
    3.) When it comes to PT/money, the Yankees are the best fit. Jeter might not play beyond 2014 and the Yankees have 3b open right now.

  • Baked McBride

    T minus 66 days until McCann’s first Yankee brawl at home plate

  • bobmac

    Stephen Drew? No thanks.

  • EfromNY

    “A person familiar with their thinking” means what exactly? Who doesn’t love them some piss in the wind journalism, amirite?

  • blehmann

    The refrain “We don’t need an all star at every position” has nothing to do with the present situation. There are huge question marks at each infield position: three aging guys each of which have suffered recent major injuries on whom we may not be able to count, a guy who can’t hit and a super utility guy who might be exposed if he plays every day (but probably won’t). If we are just talking about third base, perhaps it would make sense to ride with what we have. But we are talking about first through third, the whole infield. Drew is the best thing out there at this time and the pickings are likely to get slimmer. The Yanks might sniff the post-season without him but likely will not. They likely have little chance of making it far into the post-season without him. It isn’t even close. Look at last year’s infield and the question marks surrounding this year’s infield and see if you can reach a different conclusion.

    • vicki

      i agree that “the refrain ‘we don’t need an all star at every position’ has nothing to do with” this conversation. because stephen drew is not an all-star.

  • Tom

    I posted something similar a while back, but the Yankees need 486 games in the field from 2nd. SS. 3rd

    Let’s say Jeter plays 86 games in the field. That leaves 400 games for the remaining 4 IF’rs, presumably: Johnson, Roberts, Ryan, TBD (Sizemore/Anna/Nunez/etc)

    Equally split that’s still 100 games each, if you keep Ryan as a true backup SS/defensive replacement it’s probably 120+ games each for the other three. The other factor is the question of Roberts holding up for 100+ games.

    I think a rotation of Johnson(2nd and 3rd)/Drew (3rd)/Roberts (2nd) would be ideal with Drew swinging over to SS on days Jeter needs off. With Jeter in the field, you can play the platoon game to selectively sit the right person.

    And Sizemore, unless he has a sensational spring, would presumably be a depth piece if (when?) Roberts gets hurt. Ryan would be a defensive replacement late for Jeter and maybe occasionally play against a tough lefty (Jeter DH, Drew day off)

  • Hardcore Yankee Fan

    I really don’t understand the widely held perspective that if you’re going to be over the luxury tax threshold, you might as well go way over. If fact, the opposite should be true. Every $1.00 you spend on a free agent at this point is $1.50 that you’re paying. So if you’re going to give Drew a $10M dollar a year contract, you’re really committing to $15M. Makes no sense to lay out that kind of money unless you REALLY want the player that badly. I don’t see any high dollar players on the market worth having for a 50% penalty.

    • KD

      Mike understands something we don’t. Maybe the Feds allow Hank and Hal to write off luxury tax payments. It is akin to charity, you know.

  • Pasqua

    Sorry, but Heyman’s source being someone “familiar with the Yankees thinking” could literally be anybody, which makes me think it’s a shameless attempt at generating story out of a non-story. Hell, considering that Heyman is a notorious Boras shill, the source could be Boras himself. I mean, as someone who has done deals with the Yanks in the past, he qualifies as “familiar” with their thinking, technically speaking. I can’t stand it when the hot stove turns into a bs-fest.