In a very unprecedented turn of events, the New York Yankees struck a deal with the rival Boston Red Sox today, agreeing to swap infielders Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson. This marked the first time the two teams agreed to a deal since 1997, when when the Bombers acquired Mike Stanley and Randy Brown for Jim Mecir and Tony Armas. Both Drew and Johnson are signed to one year deals, so this is essentially an exchange of rentals.
Drew will slot in at second base, which had previously been occupied by the corpse of Brian Roberts, who was DFA’d in accordance with today’s moves. Drew’s never played second before, but shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to the new position. He’s been more than adequate at shortstop the past few years and second base is easily the less challenging position. Offensively, Drew’s been pretty terrible of late. In 39 games this season, he’s hit just .176/.255/.328 (56 wRC+), and this comes on the heels of a .111/.140/.204 performance last October. Even so, he’s historically been close to league-average with the stick, and its probably safe to assume he’ll be closer to that player going forward.
While he hasn’t hit quite as poorly as Drew, Johnson’s also been a disappointment this year, and has only managed a .219/.304/.317 (88 wRC+) while splitting time between first and third. Both Drew and Johnson have struggled this year, but Drew’s defensive abilities likely make him the more valuable player. Neither guy can hit all that much, but Drew’s a good defensive shortstop, while Johnson’s a below-average corner infielder. That alone makes Drew a marginal upgrade.
In Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox already have their shortstop of the future on their roster, and Stephen Drew was just getting in the way. For them, flipping Drew was more about clearing a lane for Boegarts than trying to land Kelly Johnson. But the Yankees think replacing Brian Roberts with Drew gives them a slightly better shot at October baseball. And even if Drew rebounds just a little bit, they’re probably right.