Yesterday, we heard rumblings that the Yankees were ‘considering a run‘ at free agent shortstop, Stephen Drew. Drew, who turns 31-years-old in March, was the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. In 124 games, Drew hit 13 HRs, drove in 67 runs, and put up a .253/.333/.443 slash. Defensively, Drew finished second among American League shortstops with a .984 fielding percentage. Drew finished the year with a 3.4 WAR, sixth best among shortstops. After making $9.5 million last season, Drew turned down Boston’s qualifying offer of one-year, $14.1 million, in hopes of securing a multi-year deal. Despite grading out as one of the better shortstops, Drew is having a tough time find suitors. Could the lack of demand for Drew create a market inefficiency that the Yankees can exploit?
In an effort to draw interest, Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, is telling teams that Drew is willing to change positions. Drew has exclusively played shortstop, but his above average fielding ability makes a transition to second or third base possible. The Yankees current infield options aren’t exactly too enticing. The Yankees signed injury-prone Brian Roberts to play second base and super utility man, Kelly Johnson to play third base. In addition, the Yankees brought back defensive whiz, shortstop Brendan Ryan and utility infielder Eduardo Nunez as bench depth. Throw in a 40-year-old Derek Jeter’s rehab and it’s safe to say the Yankees have obvious question marks in their infield.
Despite the need for better infielders, Drew does not come unblemished. One of the obvious concerns regarding Drew is his injury history. Drew has not topped 150 games played in a single season since 2010. During 2011, Drew suffered a nasty broke right ankle and torn ligaments when his spike caught under him during a slide into home plate. The rehabilitation progress lasted into 2012 and Drew only appeared in 79 games for the Diamondbacks and Red Sox. Last season, Drew dealt with hamstring and knee issues that forced him out of action for a few weeks. On a team where several players have obvious injury concerns, adding Drew doesn’t make a ton of sense.
Outside of his injury history, Drew is regarded as a below-average hitter with no speed and an increasing strikeout rate. Since 2009, Drew’s strikeout rate has steadily increased each season. Last season, Drew struck out in 25 percent of his plate appearances. Drew’s walk rate always hovers around ten percent and his batted balls in play (BABIP) was .320 last season, indicating that he was a little more lucky.
When it comes to determining value, Steamer projects a 2.0 WAR for 2014. We determined that wins for position players are valued at approximately $6.0 million, thus valuing Drew at $12.0 million for this season. Drew already turned down a one-year, $14.1 million deal from Boston, so he’ll want to secure at least one additional year. If we assume five percent inflation and a slight regression in performance, our valuation model indicates that a two-year, $21 million deal is fair. However, there are still a few issues. Our valuation is based on Drew’s performance as an everyday shortstop, not as a second or third baseman. Plus, we don’t know how well he’ll transition to another position and I don’t think he’s going to hold a showcase. Finally, since Drew rejected Boston’s qualifying offer, his next team will forfeit a draft pick for his services. The Yankees have already surrendered three draft picks this off-season, making the opportunity cost even steeper.
Overall, there’s no denying Drew is a solid baseball player. He’s pretty good with the glove and won’t kill teams with his bat. However, most teams already have capable shortstops and Drew simply isn’t worth the dollars or draft pick a team needs to surrender to secure his services. Couple the positional uncertainty with the price tag and Drew has become a glorified utility infielder that wants $10 million per season. The Yankees current infield options aren’t great, but projections for Roberts (0.7 WAR) and Johnson (1.4 WAR) relative to Drew (2.0 WAR) aren’t sizable enough to sink in another $10 million per year. It’s safe to say that the Yankees are currently a playoff caliber team and every win for teams in this grouping is vital. However, I think the opportunity cost is too large relative to the small increase in value Drew presents. Therefore, the Yankees should pass on Drew at his current price.