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Besides Red Sox, Stephen Drew also a fit for Dodgers, Cardinals

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Stephen Drew may make the leap, but to where? (USATSI)
Stephen Drew may make the leap, but to where? (USATSI)

MORE: FA tracker: position players | FA tracker: pitchers

Shortstop Stephen Drew, who spent this past season with the champion Red Sox, was one of 13 pending free agents to receive a qualifying offer. On that front, here's the great Peter Gammons:

So to market for Drew? He's indeed a nice combo of plus fielding at a key defensive position and offensive upside. A sports hernia followed by a severe ankle injury cost him games and sapped his effectiveness in 2011 and 2012. Even considering that, however, Drew still owns a 98 OPS+ for his career, which means he's been a quality hitter by the standards of his position. In 2013, for instance, Drew authored a line of .253/.333/.443, while the average major-league shortstop batted .255/.308/.373.

There's nothing in his underlying numbers to suggest that 2013 level of production was fluke-ish, and at age 30 he's not likely to hit age-related decline right away. If he does turn down Boston's QO, then Drew will likely sign a contract that will extend into that decline phase, but 2014 probably won't bring about any kind of sharp downturn.

So who needs a plus-glove, plus-bat shortstop like Drew? Maybe not Boston, at least as much as you might think. They've got Xander Bogaerts in the hopper, so long as they decide he has the defensive chops to stick at shortstop in the near-term (he may eventually outgrow the position in physical terms). Bogaerts at third with Drew back at short is probably more optimal (I'm not a believer in Will Middlebrooks as a long-term regular at third). The important point when it comes to Drew's contractual future is that the Red Sox aren't certifiably desperate for his services.

Boston's World Series opponent, however, could very much use Drew. The Cardinals this season got basement-level production from their shortstops (meaning, mostly, Pete Kozma), as they ranked 27th in MLB when it came to OPS from the position. For a team that's very much in contending mode, that's a serious sinkhole in the lineup -- the bottom of the Cardinal order was one of the reasons they lost the World Series. Drew could definitely be a fit. While he would cost the Cardinals' their first-round draft pick as compensation, he wouldn't cost them any current prospects, as a trade for a shortstop of course would.

There are also the Dodgers. But in their case, they'd need to slide Hanley Ramirez over to third with, presumably, Ramirez's blessing. Incumbent third baseman Juan Uribe is a free agent, so they have a need on the left side of the infield. But will Ramirez warm to the idea after being moved to third in 2012 and then back to short after his trade to L.A.? That kind of arrangement would surely improve the team, but it's not always that simple.

Other than that you have ... the Yankees? It's a stretch, for sure, since Drew mans Derek Jeter's position. Jeter, though, is 39 and, as we're all aware, has a serious leg injury in his semi-recent past. His range at the position has always been lacking, and it's bound to be worse than ever headed into 2014. With a possible lengthy suspension for Alex Rodriguez looming, isn't it time for Jeter to move to, say, third base? If Cal Ripken Jr. can be moved off short without civilization being reduced to embers, then surely Jeter can.

Drew would indeed be an ideal replacement, as he'd provide a substantial defensive upgrade at the position, and it's entirely possible -- maybe even likely -- that he'll be a more productive hitter than The Captain in 2014. For the Yankees, there's also the added incentive of plucking Drew directly from their chief division rival. To be sure, Drew-to-the-Yankees depends upon two big and perhaps unlikely assumptions -- that A-Rod is going away for a long time and that Jeter would facilitate such a signing -- but it makes sense for the Yanks in a vacuum.

Otherwise, there aren't many options for Drew, insofar as 2014 contenders are concerned. The Mariners? They have Brad Miller ready to take over. No team got worse production from short than the Royals did, but they love Alcides Escobar's defense, and he's locked up through at least 2016. Drew's a likely upgrade over Zack Cozart, but would the Reds spend the money? Erick Aybar disappointed for the Angels last season, but he's under a long-term deal. Other teams at the bottom of the production-from-shortstop list -- like the Astros, Marlins, Cubs and Mets -- almost certainly aren't looking for a player who'll cost them a second-round pick in addition to the going rates.

As Gammons notes, Drew is a Scott Boras client, and Boras loves to play the market. But does the genuine market for Drew's services exist outside of the two World Series cities? Consider the Dodgers the wild card, which, given recent history, may be just wild enough for Boras's purposes.

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