Red Sox make the sensible move in bringing back Drew

Red Sox make the sensible move in bringing back Drew
May 20, 2014, 7:45 pm
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BOSTON -- For a team underperforming and in the middle of a season-long four-game losing streak, the Red Sox understood they had to do something.

Signing Stephen Drew for the rest of 2014 was a move that made more sense than any other in front of them.

Agreeing to give Drew the pro-rated value of the $14.1 million qualifying offer Drew passed on back in December -- translating into approximately $10.2 million -- may be something of a salary overpay, but the move cost the Red Sox nothing from their prospect inventory.

And the Sox knew that making a deal in the third week would be highly challenging, given that most teams are currently focused on the draft and unwilling to part with core players with better than four months remaining and with an expanded playoff format giving all but three or four teams the hope of reaching the postseason.

"We've added a very good player to improve this team,'' said manager John Farrell. "I think that's the one thing that [general manager Ben Cherington] and ownership have repeatedly shown that when a need exists, they'll do whatever is available at a given time to help the team. Stephen's return to us could very well do that.

"It'll add stability to the left side of the infield. We're looking for ways to improve this team. Without having to give up talent to acquire a good player like Stephen, we were able to sign him as a free agent . . . We're still about winning every day and this improves our team once Stephen comes back to us.''

Timing was a factor, too. The broken finger suffered by third baseman Will Middlebrooks further thinned the team's depth on the left side. And the Sox knew that if they waited until after the draft in 2 1/2 weeks, the market for Drew would greatly improve since he would no longer be tied to draft pick compensation.

According to a baseball source, the Pittsburgh Pirates and perhaps both New York teams -- the Yankees and Mets -- would have shown interest in Drew once the draft passed. The Yankees might have offered a multiyear deal with an eye toward having Drew replace Derek Jeter in 2015 after Jeter retires.

"I can't say that there was a greater push because of Will's injury,'' said Farrell, "or how things have transpired over the first 43 games. We had a need and [Cherington] went out and filled it.''

Since spring training, a number of Red Sox veterans had been lobbying for the return of Drew. But the Sox first wanted to take a look at Xander Bogaerts at short, and held out the hope that they could still get reel in a draft pick if Drew signed elsewhere.

But Bogaerts displayed growing pains at short, and while he exhibited some plate discipline, had driven in just seven runs in the team's first 43 games.

"It's been known what his teamamtes have always thought of him,'' said Farrell. "This was about Ben having a full understanding of our needs and how do we improve.''

Once Drew is deemed ready, which the Sox expect could be done in about 10 days, the plan is for Bogaerts to move to third, while occasionally getting some starts at short against left-handed pitching.

(Drew was a monster against righties a year ago, with a .876 OPS, but struggled against lefties with an OPS of just .585).

"We still see Xander as a shortstop,'' said Farrell, "and that was explained very clearly to Xander. This shouldn't take away, in his mind, what our long-term view of him is. Xander's still a very good looking young player and a very good shortstop.''

Bogaerts will begin working early at third to get comfortable at the position again.

"There are different angles and hops on certain plays,'' said Farrell, "but we feel he's going to be able to handle that.''

Once Drew is optioned to the minor leagues to begin preparing for his return, the Sox could move Bogaerts to third and have him begin his transition early, with Jonathan Herrera holding down short in the interim.

Or, they could keep Bogaerts at short for the time being and call up Garin Cecchini, who's already on the 40-man roster, to play third until Drew is ready.