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Ever since the MLB Winter Meetings ended, free agent signings have pretty much come to a screeching halt. Aside from Shin-Soo Choo joining the Rangers in late December, offseason movement has been slow. That second wind may come soon, though, once Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka signs. That will open the market for all other starting pitchers.
As for hitters, most of the top free agents have already found homes. But shortstop Stephen Drew is finding that interest is hard to come by. Even super agent Scott Boras is having trouble drumming up any action for him.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, there aren’t too many teams in need of a shortstop at the moment. One of his biggest potential suitors, the Cardinals, signed Jhonny Peralta earlier in the offseason, taking care of their need there. Secondly, no one seems willing to go near the four-year deal Boras is asking for.
The biggest hindrance, though, is the draft pick compensation attached to him. Because the Red Sox extended him a qualifying offer, whichever team does sign him will have to give up its first round pick. Though Drew is one of the more well-rounded at the position in the game, does signing him warrant giving up a high draft pick?
He owns a career .264/.329/.435 line, and last year posted a .253/.333/.443. He finished in the top-10 among all shortstops in doubles, triples, home runs, and RBI, and that was while playing in just 124 games. Defensively, he was excellent for the Red Sox. His .984 fielding percentage was third-best in baseball.
Looking deeper at the numbers, though, makes him look a bit less appealing. As XN Sports’ Felipe Melecio previously detailed, averages and advanced metrics show Drew’s performance may be slipping. His contact percentage, which was already below average, has gone down, his pop up rate was the highest of his career, and his poor strikeout frequency got even worse. For a soon-to-be 31-year-old, those things are worth looking at.
All of these factors combined have led to what is a very tough market for the best available shortstop. Still, though, someone will sign him. It’s just a matter of who.
The Mets were considered one of the favorites heading into the offseason because of their clear need at the position. But there have been several reports that they don’t want to go beyond a one-year deal with him, and they are turned off by the draft pick compensation. On top of that, the New York Daily News has reported that the team has some concerns with his medicals.
The only other team known to be talking with Drew are the Red Sox, and the longer he remains a free agent, the more likely it is that he could end back up in Boston. The Red Sox really don’t need Drew back with Xander Bogaerts having proved in October he’s ready to inherit the throne at the position, and Will Middlebrooks looking to reclaim third base.
But the Red Sox would still welcome him back on their terms. With a one- or two-year agreement, Drew could return to shortstop at Fenway, Bogaerts could play third, and Middlebrooks could be a bench contributor or spend some more time developing in Triple-A. It’s not the worst situation to have.
With Spring Training now just a month away, Boras is going to have to find his client a job soon, and the four-year pact he has been wanting may be an impossibility at this point. He may have to accept a short-term deal and hope the next time Drew hits free agency there is a bigger market for shortstops and he isn’t given a qualifying offer.
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