Contemplating why the Yankees won’t sign Stephen Drew

378px-Stephen_Drew_on_June_16,_2013It’s been two weeks since Brian Cashman said that he won’t sign Stephen Drew, yet the market for the shortstop remains lukewarm. Considering the state of the Yankees’ infield, Drew seems to be a logical fit. Alex Rodriguez is gone for the season, Derek Jeter is a big question mark, and the group of Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Brian Roberts, Brendan Ryan are slightly above average at best. Although Drew has never played third base in his career, he would certainly have the opportunity to man the hot corner as a Yankee, and probably would get a significant chunk of time at shortstop too. Signs point to him being a sensible target, but why won’t the Yankees engage?

  1. Tax implications: The Yankees pay a fifty percent tariff on every dollar above the competitive balance tax threshold, and bringing in Drew would easily push the Yankees over the limit even if Masahiro Tanaka isn’t signed. If the Yankees pay $11M annually to Drew, which is what the Fangraphs crowd forecasts, the Yankees will take a $5.5M tax hit. Drew’s real cost for 2014 would be $16.5M, and that simply may be too much.
  2. He’s not as good as his 2013 says: Drew was worth 3.4 fWAR last season, thanks to stellar defense and his strength against right-hand pitching (.378 wOBA). However, ZiPS is pretty down on Drew for 2014, foreseeing a .309 wOBA, slightly below average defense, and 1.6 WAR. Part of the pessimism stems from his poor 2011 and 2012, but it’s likely safe to assume that he won’t approach his 2013 performance. For an after-tax cost of $16.5M, that projected output would be an overpay.
  3. Won’t commit long-term: Scott Boras won’t easily settle for one year with his client, which is probably what the Yankees would seek. He’s been trying to create a market for Drew with the Mets, but to no avail. It appears the Red Sox would prefer to retain Drew only on a one-year pact. Perhaps the Yankees are simply waiting to see if Boras will back down on multi-year demands.
  4. Negotiating tactic: Building off the previous point, perhaps Cashman disclosing his lack of interest is a strategy to bring Drew’s price down.
  5. Loss of draft pick: The Yankees are already out of the first and compensation rounds for the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran, and would have to forfeit a second-round pick if Drew is added.

Those issues make it a little easier to understand the absence of any rumors linking the two parties over the past few weeks. There are some obvious drawbacks, but there’s no denying Drew fills a major need. As presently constituted, the left side of the infield is a major liability entering 2014, yet doesn’t appear to be something the club is urgently looking to address. Perhaps the Yankees will eventually concede, but for now, it’s clear the organization believes the cons outweigh the benefits.

This was originally written for Pinstripe Alley.

Photo by Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Stephen Drew”) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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