There are two weeks until real baseball games start, yet Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew still don’t have jobs. While it would be tough to find a spot in this lineup for Morales, Drew fits the Yankees’ needs well, and this point has been pretty well established by the Yankee fanbase. It’s the Yankees management that’s been less than sold on Drew, and every other team in baseball seems to agree that he just isn’t worth the asking price or draft pick.
Many thought that after the Jose Iglesias injury in Detroit, the Tigers would bite on Drew, but even GM Dave Dombrowski stated that the organization has no interest in signing the veteran shortstop. Other teams that could use a shortstop, like the Mets, have also decided to go in a cheaper direction. The Red Sox also look primed to use prospect Xander Bogaerts to replace Drew.
Though they’ve looked healthy and useful this March, Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts are both injury and aging risks in the middle infield. Drew’s agent Scott Boras is holding out for some middle infielder to get injured somewhere so that he can offer the talents of Drew, but that just hasn’t happened yet. It’s possible that the Yankees won’t ever see the regression or health issues they saw in 2013, but when dealing with so many lottery tickets like Jeter and Roberts, Drew solves many of the question marks the team is wondering about.
The match between Drew and the Yankees is fairly obvious, and the problem between a union is the Yankees’ front office unwilling to meet Drew and Boras’ demands. With Opening Day coming quickly, Drew’s asking price is undoubtedly dropping. Though they’re probably still holding out for an injury, Iglesias’ recent setback proves that even if some shortstops fall apart this March, teams won’t necessarily come begging to Drew. Pretty soon it’ll be Drew begging to join a team.
I don’t see a scenario where Drew gets the career contract he’s been hoping for this offseason. Instead, like Boras has done in recent years with his late-signing free agents, Drew will probably settle for a one-year deal to rebuild his value for the 2014-2015 free agency. If Drew is looking to pad his stats and prove his value, the best place for him to play is in the Bronx. His left-handed swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium, and in the spotlight of New York, he can not only prove his offensive value, but also his versatility as he backs up Jeter and plays one of either second base or third base.
I’ve pointed this out before, but if Drew had played in Yankee Stadium last year, he would likely have been a 20+ home run shortstop. The chart above shows that he would have hit at least 11 home runs at home, with 3 more possibly going out. Only four shortstops hit 20 or more home runs in 2013, Ian Desmond, Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, and Troy Tulowitzki. Entering free agency with that kind of power production would make him a much desired infielder, even if the 2014-2015 offseason proves to be loaded with shortstops.
Once opening day comes, the Yankees could be primed to take Stephen Drew off the board for a bargain. No other team can offer Drew the ability to pad his stats like Yankee Stadium, as well as playing in the other AL East stadiums. The Yankees will end up playing about 120 games in in hitter-friendly parks in 2014, which is in heavy contrast to half the season he played in Fenway Park, a very unfriendly park to left-handed power. He’ll also be able to show his defensive versatility with the Yankees, and have his time and health managed with the depth that the Yankees have in the infield.
It’s Stephen Drew, not the Yankees, who should come begging for a contract in a couple of weeks. If he signs after Opening Day, he can avoid a qualifying offer at the end of 2014, which will only help increase his value on the free agent market. Most teams will be unwilling to give up a first round pick for him without having the ability to re-gain that at the end of the season, but the Yankees will only have a second round pick to lose. If his goal is to get big money, his best bet is to take a paycut with the Yankees in 2014, and pad his stats and his free agent value for 2015.