Heyman: Yanks have called Angels about Howie Kendrick

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are among the teams that have called the Angels to ask about second baseman Howie Kendrick. The Halos aren’t necessarily shopping him, but they are open to offers and will consider moving him if they can get the right (i.e. young and cheap) pitcher in return. They open to moving third baseman David Freese as well.

The Angels are bumping up against the $189M luxury tax threshold and owner Arte Moreno has made it clear in recent years he does not intend to go over. Trading Kendrick and/or Freese would be as much about clearing payroll as it would be improving the pitching staff. Kendrick is owed $9.5M next year while Freese is projected to earn $6.3M through arbitration. Both will be free agents after the 2015 season. Here’s a piece of what I wrote about Kendrick in last week’s mailbag:

Trading for Kendrick would automatically add a win or two to the Yankees’ season total because he flat out destroys them whenever they play the Angels. At least it feels like it would. The 31-year-old Kendrick hit .293/.347/.397 (115 wRC+) with seven homers this past season and has hit .292/.336/.410 (111 wRC+) over the last three years. He’s also solidly above-average in the field and has been for years according to the various defensive stats. Kendrick isn’t the multi-time batting champ most expected him to become when he was in the minors (seriously, look at his MiLB stats) but he’s a damn good all-around second baseman.

The Yankees aren’t exactly in position to give away young pitching considering the injury concerns with their rotation, though that doesn’t automatically mean a trade for Kendrick is impossible. The Angels might like, say, David Phelps and/or Bryan Mitchell more than most, and it’s early enough in the offseason that New York could replace the pitching depth via free agency.

Kendrick is a very good player and would be an enormous upgrade at second base, perhaps along the lines of three or four wins over the current in-house options. (Martin Prado would be at third in this scenario.) It wouldn’t be a long-term commitment — Rob Refsnyder would still have a clear path to the long-term second base job — and it would take basically a total collapse in 2015 for the Yankees to not make Kendrick the qualifying offer next offseason. He’s an excellent fit for the roster and the team’s needs. I just don’t know if the Yankees and Angels match up well for a trade.

Mailbag: Kemp, McCann, Morrow, Betances, Expansion

Got nine questions for you in this week’s mailbag, so the answers are kinda short. In case you haven’t noticed, the new design eliminated the Submit A Tip box. There’s now an email button in the sidebar (right below the YES Network video widget) that you can use to email us mailbag questions each week. The email address is riveraveblues (at) gmail (dot) com. Nice and easy.

(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

James asks: Dodgers are reportedly shopping Matt Kemp hard, and willing to eat money depending on the return. His defense in CF is declining, so why not try him in the favorable RF dimensions of Yankee Stadium? Also, his power came back a touch last season. Is he a fit?

Kemp moved from center to right field midway through last season and looked okay there, based on what I saw. (I probably watched more Dodgers games last season than any other non-Yankees team. I enjoy Vin Scully. So sue me.) He was still below-average in right, though that could have due to inexperience. Even if Kemp is a below-average defender in right, it won’t matter if he hits 25 homers with a 140 wRC+ again. That guy would be a fit for just about any team including the Yankees. The Dodgers are reportedly trying to trade him but I doubt Andrew Friedman will give him away. Kemp is a fit for the Yankees, no doubt about it, I just don’t know if the two sides can match up for a trade. I have no idea what Los Angeles is looking for in return. Friedman’s history suggests the best possible talent regardless of position.

Isaac asks: It seems the Dodgers had the worst offensive production from catchers last year. With Hanley possibly leaving, what are the chances that the Dodgers take Brian McCann‘s contract in exchange for one of their surplus outfielders like Joc Pederson or Kemp?

I see zero chance of this happening now that Friedman is calling the shots. Ned Colletti? Maybe they could pull it off. But I think Friedman is going to avoid those types of contracts — top of the market dollars for a players over 30 and in their decline phase — even now with a huge payroll. He’s too smart and the Dodgers already have enough of those contracts on the books anyway. Besides, McCann has a full no-trade clause and I don’t know if he’d be willing to accept it to go so far away from home (he’s from the Atlanta area) and back to the NL, where he won’t be able to DH as he ages.

Mark asks: Let’s say that the latest news on Alex Rodriguez gets him permanently banned from MLB. If this were to happen and you were the GM, how would your offseason wish list change?

I’m honestly not sure it would change much. I’m not expecting A-Rod to contribute anything next year, though getting banned would free up a roster spot and a ton of cash. Maybe make a bigger push for someone like Mike Morse? Maybe go all-in on Andrew Miller in addition to David Robertson? I wouldn’t do anything crazy, like suddenly go after Max Scherzer just because Alex is no longer around. In reality, losing him wouldn’t change much on the field. The extra money would definitely help if spent wisely, which is easier said than done. Pumping it into one huge contract only continues the cycle the team is in right now, trying to contend around a mess of bad contracts.

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

John asks: I have had an irresponsible man-crush on Brandon Morrow since his first season with Seattle, and have pondered the possibility of the Yankees acquiring him many times (and was subsequently disgusted when he was traded for Brandon League). Now that he is a FA, how much would you be willing to pay for a guy that could be, when healthy (big IF), a K Machine in the bullpen or back-end of the rotation?

I thought the Blue Jays were going to exercise their $10M option for Morrow after the season, but they walked away instead. That’s something of a red flag, no? He’s hurt all the time and they know him better than anyone, and they decided to let him go rather than pay a reasonable $10M salary. Morrow has huge stuff and I think it’s time to stick him in the bullpen because it’s obvious the rotation isn’t working out health-wise. Maybe a Betances-esque multi-inning setup role is in his future? That would be awesome. The FanGraphs crowdsourcing predicts a one-year deal worth $6M for Morrow and that seems like the kind of roll of the dice the Yankees can afford to take, especially if Robertson bolts.

Constantine asks: Now, before I ask this, I’d like to say that I’d much rather keep the status quo with Dellin Betances. Keep him as the 8th inning guy, or even move him to the closer role if D-Rob leaves. But just to play scenarios here, how do you think theoretically moving Dellin to the rotation thanks to his immensely dominant season?

I wouldn’t even think about it. He flat out failed as a starter in the minors. Betances couldn’t throw strikes and he got hurt a whole bunch. He’s said himself that being a reliever has helped him better repeat his delivery and I wouldn’t mess with that. Nothing in Dellin’s history suggests he can succeed as a starter long-term. It’s just way too risky to change his role. Stick Betances back in the rotation and you’re likely to get Daniel Cabrera in return. That was the comp way back in the day and I still think it’s true today.

William asks: It is readily apparent that the new free agent/draft pick/qualifying offer set up is not working. Not a single player has taken the deal, teams are losing good players and getting little to nothing in return, and players are getting screwed over with the increased love of prospects. The issue is where do we go from here? Could the change be to make the qualifying offer a multi-year deal which a player like D-Rob might take at $13M a year? Maybe make the team automatically get a sandwich pick by merely offering the deal and getting a second if a team picks up the free agent?

I think there will be a big push to completely sever ties between free agency and the draft in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. That would make big trades more common, at least in theory, which would be fun and create headlines for the league. Maybe the solution is giving the player’s former team a draft pick without forcing his new team to forfeit him? I don’t remember where I read this, but someone suggested making the qualifying offer a standing offer all offseason, and I like that idea. Teams will be more hesitant to make the offer because that’s a big chunk of money they have to be prepared to absorb at any time in the winter. There would be fewer qualifying offers in that case. Again, in theory. Either way, the system is still broken and I have little reason to think MLB and the MLBPA will find a solution that actually makes sense. They’ve shown they are pretty damn good at implemented solutions with unintended consequences.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Shaya asks: Will the pickup of Justin Wilson have any effect on Jacob Lindgren and/or Tyler Webb? Since Lindgren and Wilson both seem to not have platoon splits will they bring both of them to NY? Do they have room for both of them?

Adding Wilson doesn’t really change anything with Lindgren or Webb going forward. Maybe it means David Huff is more likely to be non-tendered, but that’s not a big deal. There is plenty of room in the bullpen for all three of Wilson, Lindgren, and Webb, if that’s what it comes to. All three guys have multiple minor league options remaining — Wilson has two left and the other guys have all three (they haven’t been added to the 40-man roster yet) — and that creates some competition, which I view as a plus. Make guys earn their spot and keep the best.

Christopher asks: Is the MLB fanbase over interleague games or do they still draw bigger crowds? If the league were to expand with one team each in the NL and AL, which cities would land teams?

I don’t know how to easily look up the attendance numbers, but I’m guessing interleague games draw better because MLB is still doing them year after year. Now they kinda have no choice because there’s an odd number of teams in each league. I do think expansion is on the horizon, within the next 10-15 years or so. Baseball is super healthy financially and there are no shortage of cities for new franchises. Portland and San Antonio are the two cities I’ve seen mentioned most often as potential landing spots. I definitely think the New York market could support a third team (Brooklyn?) but it’ll never happen because of territorial rights. Montreal and Monterrey are other options if MLB wants to expand outside the United States. The talent pool would be further diluted, sure, but as long as there is gobs of money to be made, it’ll happen.

Brian asks: Why aren’t the Yankees making keeping Hiroki Kuroda more a priority? He was unbelievably consistent the last three years and didn’t show any signs of slowing down the stretch last year. Every year injuries to pitchers crop up so I don’t see an issue in developing a lot of starting pitching depth.

Oh I think Kuroda is a priority, I just don’t think he’s decided whether he will pitch again next season. Earlier this week Brian Cashman said he has been in contact with Kuroda’s agent and seemed to indicate they’ll pursue him if he decides to pitch again. I wouldn’t mistake waiting for Kuroda to make a decision — he’s re-signed in late-November/early-December the last two winters — for the Yankees not wanting him back. I think they’ll take him back in a heartbeat if he doesn’t retire.

Thursday Night Open Thread

I was hoping to dig up a Francisco Cervelli highlight video for the open thread tonight, but apparently no such thing exists. Instead, here’s video of what I consider his most memorable moment as a Yankee, the solo homer in Atlanta back in 2009. The Yankees were struggling to score in a big way at the time — they scored 13 runs total in their previous seven games — and Brian Cashman flew down to meet the team and reportedly tore them a new one. Cervelli hit the homer, the Yankees went on to win that game and the next six games as well. Following the Cervelli homer game, the Yankees went 64-27 (.703) the rest of the season and won the World Series. Good times.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Thursday NFL game is the Bills and Dolphins, plus the (hockey) Rangers and Nets are also in action. Talk about those games, Cervelli’s homer, or whatever else is on your mind right here.

Mike Trout unanimously named AL MVP, Yankees shut out in voting

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

As expected, Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the AL MVP on Thursday night, the BBWAA announced. He won unanimously. Trout won his first MVP in what was the worst of his three full seasons as a big leaguer. Weird. Victor Martinez of the Tigers and Michael Brantley of the Indians finished a distant second and third, respectively.

Not a single Yankee received an MVP vote. Not even a token tenth place vote. That hasn’t happened since 1992. I thought maybe Dellin Betances or Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner would sneak a bottom of the ballot vote, but I guess not. The Yankees had at least one player finish in the top five of the voting every year from 2002-13, thanks mostly to Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. The full voting results are at the BBWAA’s site.

2014 Season Review: Cervelli & The Backups

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
I will miss using this photo. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Once again, the Yankees held a faux-competition in Spring Training, this time for the backup catcher’s job behind Brian McCann. Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy, and Austin Romine were competing for the job, though we all knew it was Cervelli’s barring something unexpected. All three seemed to play in every Grapefruit League game as the Yankees showcased them for possible trades, but instead they kept all three. Cervelli opened the year as McCann’s backup and both Murphy and Romine reported to Triple-A.

Francisco Cervelli

This past season was a typical Cervelli season. He put up very good numbers and not just by backup catcher standards — he hit .301/.370/.432 (128 wRC+) with two homers in 162 plate appearances. Cervelli also got hurt, which has unfortunately become the norm for him. He suffered a Grade II hamstring strain running out a ground ball on April 14th and was not healthy enough to return until June 17th. A series of migraines — the Yankees confirmed it was not a concussion — kept Frankie on the bench for two weeks in September as well.

Cervelli threw out a below-average 25% of attempted base-stealers and other stats say he was better than average at blocking pitches in the dirt (+0.9 runs) and framing borderline pitches (+1.47 runs per game). Like I said, typical Cervelli season. He showed promise with the bat and glove but again suffered a significant injury that limited his playing time. Cervelli has played in parts of seven (seven!) seasons with the Yankees and we still don’t know who he really is. Can he sustain that level of offense and defense over a full season? It’s trendy to say Cervelli could start for half the teams in the league but health is a skill and he doesn’t have it.

The Yankees officially put an end to the Cervelli era yesterday by trading him to the Pirates for hard-throwing left-hander Justin Wilson. The move saves them a little cash, frees up the backup catcher’s spot for a younger player, and gives them another bullpen option. Pittsburgh has a tremendous training staff and excels at keeping players healthy as Ben Lindbergh explained this summer, and they’ll have their hands full with Cervelli. I’ll miss his goofiness more than anything. The Yankees can be a bit dull and uptight, but Frankie played with a lot of energy and made me laugh. That alone made him worth a roster spot in my book.

John Ryan Murphy

When Cervelli went down with the hamstring injury, the Yankees called up Murphy to serve as McCann’s backup for three months. He started out very well, going 11-for-27 (.407) with some pretty big knocks to drive in runs, but he cooled off after that and finished his limited tour of duty with a .284/.318/.370 (93 wRC+) batting line and one homer in 85 plate appearances.

Murphy. (Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Murphy started 21 games behind the plate and appeared in 30 overall. He threw out only two of 12 base-stealers (17%) and was below-average at blocking pitches in the dirt (-0.8 runs), but he only caught 201 innings. That’s not much at all. StatCorner says he saved +0.18 runs per game with his framing, same as framing god Yadier Molina. I think that says more about the sample size and imprecision of the stats than Murphy.

As far as 30-game looks go, Murphy was about as good as you could expect from a 23-year-old catcher in his first extended taste of the show. The Yankees rave about his defensive work and they aren’t the only ones. Most reports identify him as a big league caliber gloveman, if not now then soon. The Cervelli trade creates a clear path for Murphy to take over as McCann’s backup, though, as we all know, the Yankees like to hold fake Spring Training competitions to keep the pressure on.

Austin Romine

If Murphy getting the call over Romine when Cervelli got hurt didn’t convince you Romine had fallen on the organizational depth chart, the fact that he didn’t even get a September call-up should have. The Yankees declined to call Romine up on September 1st and only called him up later in the month when Cervelli missed time with his migraines. Romine did appear in seven games this past season, going 3-for-13 (.231) with a double and throwing out the only runner who tried to steal a base against him.

After spending last season as the team’s regular backup catcher, Romine was nothing more than an afterthought in 2014. The Yankees had him work out at first base in Triple-A as a way to improve his versatility — “Catching is my passion. But if they threw me at first, so be it. I can do it if it gets me in the lineup,” said Romine to Brendan Kuty in September — but that doesn’t figure to improve his standing in the organization all that much. Injuries and a lack of offensive development have stalled Romine’s career. Unfortunately for him, the Yankees have a lot of catching depth, even after the Cervelli trade.

Robertson Updates: “Papelbon Money,” Interested Teams

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Free agency has been open for a week and two days now, and during the GM Meetings this week, David Robertson‘s representatives have been meeting with interested teams to talk about a potential deal. Agents for every other big free agent are doing the same exact thing. Here’s the latest on the Yankees long-time setup man and 2014 closer, courtesy of Andrew Marchand, Joel Sherman, Brendan Kuty, and Mark Feinsand.

  • To the surprise of no one, Robertson is asking for “Papelbon money” during his initial meetings with teams. That means a four-year deal worth $50M (plus a vesting option!). Robertson’s last three years (2.59 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 4.23 K/BB) are actually better than Jonathan Papelbon’s three years prior to free agency (2.89 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 3.85 K/BB), but Papelbon was a long-time closer who closed out a World Series, and teams seem to value that.
  • Brian Cashman confirmed he met with Robertson’s representatives earlier this week. “Clearly, as a free agent, he is going to maximize his value, period. Whatever that turns out to be,” said the GM. “I wouldn’t characterize it other than the fact to say he is helluva pitcher that did it in the toughest environment after the greatest player of all-time and he did it with ease. I would suspect that would command top dollar.”
  • At least half a dozen teams have already expressed interest in Robertson, including one team with a protected first round pick. Check out our 2015 Draft Order Tracker to find out who those teams are. The Yankees get the same supplemental first round pick should Robertson sign elsewhere no matter what. It doesn’t matter whether his new team has a protected pick.
  • The Tigers are not planning to spend big on a late-game reliever despite their perpetual bullpen problems. GM Dave Dombrowski said they picked up their $7M option for Joakim Soria so he could set up Joe Nathan next year. They also have hard-throwing youngster Bruce Rondon returning from Tommy John surgery.
  • The Cubs are another team not planning to spending big money on the bullpen this winter. They’re focused on top of the rotation help and will apparently employ the popular “stockpile a bunch of cheap guys with good arms and figure out the bullpen during the season” strategy.
  • The Rockies won’t pursue Robertson either. I didn’t expect them too, but who really knows with that franchise. They do weird stuff all the time. New GM Jeff Bridich said they will have a “healthy competition” in Spring Training to determine their closer.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Stephen Drew

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

The Yankees have a bunch of needs this offseason like every other team, yet because they need to replace the iconic Derek Jeter, I think the hole at shortstop will be discussed more than anything. Don’t get me wrong, needing a shortstop is a big deal, but the club also needs help at either second or third base and on the mound. I just think the search for a shortstop is going to get a ton of attention. A ton.

As Brian Cashman said earlier this week, the trade market for shortstops is limited right at the moment. The free agent market offers a bunch of imperfect solutions now that J.J. Hardy has re-upped with the Orioles, as Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera all belong at other positions. The only true shortstop left in free agency is a player who spent the last two months of 2014 playing second base for the Yankees: Stephen Drew.

Cashman acknowledged he will “have a conversation with” Drew’s agent Scott Boras this offseason and they’re planning to “stay in touch and see where it takes us.” Drew had a miserable 2014 season, first getting hung out to dry by the qualifying offer system then not hitting a lick once he did finally land a job in late-May. There is some thought that a regular Spring Training would help him next year, but who really knows? Does bringing Drew back make sense anyway? Let’s try to find out.

The Injury History

I think we have to start with Drew’s recent injury history. His problems all started in July 2011, when he destroyed his ankle sliding into home plate. It was ugly. He caught a spike sliding into the plate and his foot basically turned the opposite way. Drew shattered his ankle and tore a ton of ligaments. He had surgery and it kept him out almost an entire season — Drew didn’t return to the field until June 2012.

Then in Spring Training last year, Drew was hit in the head by a pitch and suffered a concussion. It kept him out for a bit more than a full month and forced him to start the season on the disabled list. Drew missed three weeks with a hamstring strain last summer and missed two weeks with a hamstring strain back in 2009, but that’s nothing, really. It happens. His two most severe injuries, the ankle and the concussion, were fluke injuries and not some kind of chronic problem. That doesn’t mean they haven’t affected his game though. Drew hasn’t really been the same player since the ankle injury, coincidence or not.

The Sagging Offense

Once upon a time, Drew was one of the better hitting shortstop in the game. He put up a .278/.352/.458 (113 wRC+) line with 15 homers in 2010 — remember the days when a batting line like that was only 13% better than league average? I miss offense — but was hitting only .252/.317/.396 (92 wRC+) with five homers in 354 plate appearances when he hurt his ankle in 2011. After returning in 2012, Drew hit only .223/.309/.348 (80 wRC) with seven homers in 327 plate appearances. He wasn’t particularly good before or after the ankle injury.

Then, with the Red Sox in 2013, Drew managed to hit .253/.333/.443 (109 wRC+) with 13 homers in 501 plate appearances. It was part of the whole “everything’s going right” thing that swept through Boston that summer (and most World Series winning teams each year). Drew then hit a very weak .162/.237/.299 (44 wRC+) with seven homers in exactly 300 plate appearances this past season between the Red Sox and Yankees. He didn’t have a normal Spring Training in 2012 (ankle), 2013 (concussion), or 2014 (qualifying offer mess), remember.

All together, we’re talking about a player who has hit .228/.305/.382 (85 wRC+) in a bit less than 1,500 plate appearances over the last four seasons. That’s broken down into .243/.326/.410 (100 wRC+) against righties and .192/.252/.313 (50 wRC+) against lefties, making him a pure platoon player. Drew’s one good year since 2011 came in hitter friendly Fenway Park —  he hit .283/.367/.491 (127 wRC+) at home and .222/.295/.392 (88 wRC+) on the road — which is a bit weird because Fenway usually doesn’t favor dead pull left-handed hitters. Or at least it doesn’t favor them as much as pull happy righties.

Now, that said, Drew is a dead pull left-handed hitter, which ostensibly makes him a good fit for Yankee Stadium. Drew didn’t hit in the Bronx last year (19 wRC+) and other pull happy lefties like Kelly Johnson and Travis Hafner didn’t tear the cover off the ball during their time in pinstripes, so the short porch does not guarantee success all by itself. More important than the ballpark situation is Drew’s continually increasing strikeout rate and propensity to hit fly balls:

PA K% BB% GB% FB% LD% O-Zwing% Z-Swing% Swing% Contact%
2010 633 17.1% 9.8% 40.2% 40.8% 19.0% 24.6% 60.7% 42.3% 82.6%
2011 354 20.9% 8.5% 38.9% 40.5% 20.6% 23.8% 61.0% 42.6% 79.3%
2012 327 23.2% 11.3% 32.2% 40.2% 27.6% 18.9% 56.6% 38.2% 79.5%
2013 501 24.8% 10.8% 33.2% 41.6% 25.2% 22.6% 57.1% 40.5% 77.7%
2014 300 25.0% 9.0% 31.3% 51.3% 17.4% 23.6% 61.3% 43.1% 78.8%

Drew’s plate discipline hasn’t changed all that much these last five years. For whatever reason he didn’t swing as much as usual in 2012, either at pitches in (Z-Swing%) or out (O-Swing%) of the zone, but otherwise his swing and contact rates have held steady the last few seasons. He’s drawing the same number of walks but his strikeout rate is climbing, faster than the ever-increasing league-wide strikeout rate. If Drew isn’t swinging at substantially more pitches out of the zone or making substantially less contact in general, it suggests that maybe selectivity is the problem. He’s taking too many hittable pitches. I dunno.

The fly ball stuff is a bigger problem than the increased strikeouts because fly balls will kill a player’s batting average, especially when the player’s average fly ball distance has gradually declined over the last few seasons like Drew’s (via Baseball Heat Maps):

Stephen Drew batted ball distance cropped

It’s not a huge decline, but it’s a decline nonetheless. Most 250-something-foot fly balls are caught for outs. Especially these days with teams focusing on defense more than ever. Drew’s batting average continues to sink and this explains why, at least somewhat. (Remember, batted ball data includes some scorer’s bias. One scorer’s fly ball is another’s line drive.) More strikeouts and more medium-depth fly balls has killed Drew’s offensive production these last few years, and not all of it can be blamed on the traumatic ankle injury either.

Now, that said, I don’t think Drew will be as bad as he was last year again. He almost can’t be that bad again, right? He is only 31 (32 in March) and he’s an athletic guy, so falling off from a 109 wRC+ in 2013 to a 44 wRC+ in 2014 and having that be his true talent level doesn’t seem possible to me. I’m not saying he’s a true talent 109 wRC+ guy either. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. I just don’t know know where. Drew’s last few seasons have been very weird. The scouting report will be a huge factor here. Forget the numbers; how do teams think he’s looked?

Glovework

The Yankees moved Drew to second base in deference to Jeter last year even though he had never played a position other than shortstop in his entire career, MLB or minors. He had some inexperience-related hiccups at first but settled in eventually, and I thought he actually looked quite good at second by the end of the season. That’s a testament to his athleticism and baseball instincts, I think.

Of course, the Yankees would be looking at Drew as their regular shortstop now, no questions asked. The defensive stats all agree he was a disaster at short earlier in his career, back around 2006-08, but the numbers have been all over the map these last five seasons. Here are the stats:

Innings at SS DRS UZR Total Zone FRAA
2010 1,259.1  0 8.9 -2 -2.3
2011 731.1 3 4.3 -1 -2.5
2012 658.2 -7 -7.0 -4 -4.2
2013 1,093.1 -2 5.3 -3 -4.6
2014 413.1 4 3.0 -2 -0.3
Total 4,156.0 -2 14.5 -12 -13.9

So we’ve got some differences of opinion, huh? Both Total Zone and FRAA have rated Drew as consistently below-average while UZR has him above-average with the exception of 2012, which makes sense because he was coming off the ankle injury. DRS is all over the place. I guess that means the consensus is he’s below-average in the field?

That goes against what my eyes tell me. I’ve always thought Drew was very good in the field. But my opinion could be skewed after watching hundreds and thousands of ground balls scoot by Jeter over the years. I’d like to think I watch enough non-Yankees baseball to know an above-average shortstop when I see one, but maybe my brain needs to be re-calibrated. For what it’s worth, Keith Law (subs. req’d) said he believes Drew “can play average defense at shortstop for 120 games or so” in 2015.

Contract Estimates

It’s obvious at this point Drew is going to wind up a one-year “prove yourself” contract. Maybe something with a low base salary and a ton of incentives based on plate appearances. That would be the best case scenario for the team, not so much Drew himself. Here are some contract estimates from around the world wide baseball web:

  • FanGraphs Crowdsourcing: One year at $7M.
  • Keith Law (subs. req’d): One year at $8M to $10M.
  • Jim Bowden (subs. req’d): One year at $8M. (He predicted the Victor Martinez contract exactly. Like I said, he’s so weirdly excellent at this.)

Sounds about right to me. Drew signed for the pro-rated qualifying offer last year and wound up taking home approximately $10.1M. A one-year deal at $8M would represent a pay cut strikes me as fair value. You’d be asking the guy to be your starting shortstop. That job doesn’t pay, like, $2M on the open market, even after the year Drew had.

In Conclusion

Drew might be the most complicated and difficult to analyze free agent on the market this winter. Between his awful but Spring Training-less season in 2014, his injuries from 2011-13, and his production in 2013, who knows who the real Stephen Drew is? The best case scenario seems to be the 2013 version and the worst case scenario (2014) was so bad I can’t possibly believe that’s the real him. It can’t be, right?

I think we can all agree Plan A for filling the shortstop hole this offseason would be acquiring a young player who could man the position not only in 2015, but for the next five or six years as well. I prefer Starlin Castro but maybe you prefer someone like Didi Gregorius or Jose Iglesias. That’s cool. We all have our own favorite flavors. But trading for that young shortstop might not be possible. Trading for an older shortstop like Alexei Ramirez or Jimmy Rollins might not be possible either.

If that is the case, the Yankees will have to decide between going short-term and rolling the dice with Drew on a one-year contract, or committing multiple years and many millions of dollars to another free agent like Hanley, Asdrubal, or Lowrie. Drew’s recent history is ugly and there are a lot of reasons not to sign him. But, if the Yankees opt for one of the other free agents, chances are they’ll have to move that guy to another position and find themselves looking for a shortstop again next winter, just like they will be if they sign Drew.