BOSTON (CBS) — The defending world champions are strugg-a-ling. They’re three games under .500, sitting in fourth place in the AL East, and they’re without question missing that something to get them over the hump of mediocrity.
As a result, many are searching for answers … and many believe that answer comes in the form of Stephen Drew.
That would be the same Stephen Drew who was essentially left on a Duck Boat after the World Series parade and sent out to sea, never to return. He’s the same Stephen Drew whose presence at the plate inspired audible groans throughout Fenway Park for the entire month of October, when he probably wouldn’t have been able to get a hit even if MLB allowed coaches to pitch like they do in the lowest levels of Little League. And he’s the same Stephen Drew who was deemed less valuable than a simple first-round draft pick by every single team in baseball and therefore remains unemployed here on May 20.
That Stephen Drew is going to fly into Fenway and save the season? Please.
Look, it’s true that Drew’s regular season, by any measure, was fine. His dreadful postseason performance has definitely worked to cloud the collective memory of Drew’s 2013 season, when he played excellent defense at shortstop and posted a .777 OPS that ranked him second in the AL at the position. He was pretty good.
But was he this good?
“Drew would help in a number of areas,” wrote the Boston Herald’s John Tomase. “A sizable contingent of the organization would welcome back the man they call ‘Dirt,’ because the American League East is there for the taking, and Drew could help them snatch it. … If they’re serious about winning now, a man who can help them is currently sitting at home, waiting for a call.”
My pal Adam Kaufman wrote an article titled “Stephen Drew May Be Red Sox’ Best Chance to Win Now” for Boston.com, in which he wrote, “As it turns out, the problem-solver just might be Drew.”
The talk obviously spilled over into sports radio, as well. Tony Massarotti said on Monday’s Felger & Mazz program that a solution for the Sox, if they’re dead-set on keeping Xander Bogaerts at shortstop in order to allow him to develop, would be to sign Stephen Drew to play third base. Mazz said that move would never actually happen, but, “If there were a solution in which [Drew] could play third and it would work, fine. I would think about it. They need some sort of answer over there is the point.”
Later on The Baseball Reporters, he added, “Drew right now? Hell, he could help you at third base, because [Will] Middlebrooks has been giving you nothing there.”
The idea that Stephen Drew could help the Red Sox is not in and of itself a rotten concept. It’s just going a little overboard.
The push for the Red Sox to sign Drew tends to be more tied with the impending expiration date of his first-round price tag. As soon as the draft ends on June 7, teams are free to sign him without having to give up that first-rounder. The Red Sox are in the exclusive position of being able to sign Drew without giving up a pick, considering he’s their free agent to begin with, so there is a ticking clock of sorts with regard to Boston’s advantage in the race to sign Drew. That doesn’t mean they need to pull the trigger.
To be clear, Drew may very well be a help to the Red Sox. Bogaerts has simply not looked good defensively, and it’s becoming more and more questionable that he’s a major league shortstop. Shoring up the most important defensive position would help the Sox, no doubt. And hey, given how awful the rest of the AL East has been, it may truly help the Red Sox win the division and earn a playoff berth. I wouldn’t try to deny that — though I would question the ability of a guy to find his timing in late May/early June when he hasn’t faced live pitching since October. When he hit .111.
I’d also question what good it would be to win the division if you’re just going to swept in the ALDS anyway.
Really, the Sox’ real problems go much deeper than a lack of Stephen Drew. The pitching is decidedly average, with the starters’ 4.20 ERA ranking 11th in the American League, there is no power threat in the lineup aside from David Ortiz, the team is collectively hitting .240 with runners in scoring position, the catching situation with A.J. Pierzynski took a big step backward from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and everything that went right for the Sox last year appears to be going the other way this year. It’s baseball. That happens.
The Red Sox miss Jacoby Ellsbury. They miss a .300-hitting Daniel Nava. They’ve missed a full-strength Shane Victorino. They miss a more effective John Lackey and Felix Doubront, and they miss a lights-out Clay Buchholz. The list of things the Red Sox miss includes all of that, and then near the bottom of the list sits Drew.
So should the Sox sign him? Sure, I guess. Why not? But the addition of a sure-handed, light-hitting shortstop is not going to make a tremendous impact on the ultimate fate of the 2014 season. Any suggestion that he could be a real difference-maker would be much like the message agent Scott Boras gave to Drew prior to his turning down of the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer. It would be a tremendous oversell.
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