The Orioles and J.J. Hardy caused a bit of a stir before the start of the ALCS yesterday when they announced an agreement to a 3-year/$40 million contract extension with an option for a 4th year. This was bad news for the Yankees, who were surely interested in Hardy as the best defensive shortstop of the potential FA pool and a guy with AL East experience. It could also hurt them in the free agent long run. Hardy's new deal basically sets the market for what the rest of the top guys are going to want. with the exception of Hanley Ramirez. He'll get more. But the higher the numbers get for the Lowries and Cabreras of the world in years and millions, the less likely the Yankees are going to be to pull the trigger. Andrew Marchand of ESPN NY thinks he has it all figured out as to where the Yanks go now, and I'm inclined to agree with him.
"I think Stephen Drew is the favorite to be the club's next shortstop. The Yankees have liked Drew for a while. They finally acquired him at the deadline and he didn't hit. However, it is easy to imagine the Yankees telling themselves that Drew, after missing all of spring training as he waited for the right offer, was rusty."
Notice he said "favorite" and not "right guy for the job." That's the key here. The logic Marchand uses to describe the Yankees' hypothetical thought process is exactly how I think they're going to think. They have liked Drew for a while and they did try to sign him in the offseason. Their coach, GM, and owner have all publicly stated that they think their older, declining players who had bad years are going to bounce back in 2015 even though the evidence is strongly against that possibility. If Teix and Beltran were hindered by injuries this year, then of course Drew was hindered by missing all that time.
And Drew will come much cheaper than the rest of the top FA crop too after his disastrous year, and the Yankees have shown themselves to always be in the market for a good veteran bargain. This all fits too well with their current team-building model to not happen. I wouldn't be a fan of it, but I'm with Andrew on this one. I think Stephen Drew is going to be the starting shortstop next year.