Free Agent Market: Stephen Drew

With Derek Jeter coming off of an injury and Alex Rodriguez’s struggles to stay on the field, the Yankees are reportedly looking for a utility infielder to serve as an upgrade over Jayson Nix/Eduardo Nunez. Given Jeter’s injury uncertainty and generally inability to play defense, any infielder they bring in would have to be able to hold his own at shortstop. Of the current free agents, there’s not many guys out there who fit that mold. Only Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew, and Alex Gonzalez have played any games at short in the past 2 years. Scutaro would definitely be a good fit given his versatility and contact skills. However, he’ll end up signing somewhere where he’ll play every day after his torrid stretch run with the Giants. It’s doubtful that Gonzalez would be an upgrade over Nix given his injury history. So that leaves us with Stephen Drew. Drew is a fairly established player and has always been a starter; so he may be looking for an opportunity to play every day. After his terrible 2012 though, it’s possible that he may not have that luxury.
After 4 years of mediocrity with the Diamondbacks, Drew had a mini-breakout in 2010 where he was worth 5.1 WAR. At that point, it looked like Drew had finally put it all together and had become one of baseball’s best shortstops. But things quickly began to fall apart. Drew did not hit nearly as well in 2011 (91 wRC+) and had his season cut short by a broken ankle in July. The injury took longer than expected to heal and kept him out of action for the first three months of 2012 as well. He looked completely lost at the plate with the Diamondbacks (59 wRC+), but recovered a bit with a 97 wRC+ after he was flipped to Oakland at the deadline. Overall, he hit .223/.309/.348 (79 wRC+) and graded out as replacement level.
So now what? Well, Bill James forecasts a .252/.325/.411 (.320 wOBA) for next season which is around league average. As far as defense goes, Drew’s defensive metrics have been all over the place for his career. Here’s his last 5 years:

Green is good. Red is bad.
The poor numbers from last season could be explained by his ankle injury; but, it’s really too small of a sample to draw any definitive conclusions about his defense. Overall, it’s probably safe to consider him to be about an average defender at short. So he’s a perfectly average player who happens to play a premium position. A player like that definitely has value. Over a full season, that would be worth about 2.5 WAR. However, a healthy 2013 from Drew is far from a slam-dunk. Another issue is that he’s never played anywhere other than SS. The Yankees would definitely need him to play some third base and even a little bit of second. Obviously, learning a new position is always a challenge; but, Drew should be able to play them adequately since these positions are below SS on the defensive spectrum.

Drew could definitely be of use to the Yanks and they wouldn’t have to give up any useful players or prospects to acquire him — just money. With other holes to fill, the Yanks may want to save what little trade chips they have for a pitcher or an outfielder. However, the Yankees are on a budget these days and are hesitant to give out any big contracts; so price could be an issue. Fangraphs Contract Crowdsourcing estimated he’d pull in $16 mil over 2 years which is probably a fair price for Drew. Assuming the they don’t give up on their 2014 austerity budget, a second year may not be doable. However, Drew would probably consider a one year “prove it” deal in order to re-establish his value for next offseason. Drew is probably hoping to land a starting gig this offseason and will likely consider those offers first. If that doesn’t end up materializing though, the Yankees could potentially offer him about 120 starts around the infield next season.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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