Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stephen Drew is Still a Free Agent, and No One Should Feel Bad For HIm

Stephen Drew, who last fall rejected the Red Sox qualifying offer — a one-year contract of $14.1 million — remains jobless even as spring training rolls on. Drew is still said to be looking for $14 million per season, the same amount that he previously declined.

But here's the reality, Mr. Drew: When you roll the dice, sometimes you lose.

Being attached to draft pick compensation has undoubtedly had an impact on Drew's market.

But Drew's offensive performance the last three seasons has likely played a role as well.

Here's Drew's slash line for each of the last three seasons:

2011: .252/.317/.396
2012: .250/.326/.382
2013: .253/.333/.443

Weak hitting. Weak on-base. Weak slugging. In my world, that's not a $14 million-per-year player.

Yet, Drew doesn't think the above statistics have anything to do with the lack of interest in him this offseason. Nor does he seem to recognize that perhaps he's simply asking for too much money given his three-year track record.

It's been reported that the Red Sox have offered Drew a two-year contract for an undisclosed sum, and the Mets have reportedly discussed a salary of around $9.5 million for Drew, which is what he earned last year with the Sox.

But that's just not enough for Drew, who seems to place a higher value on himself than anyone else. In Drew's estimation, he's not the problem. The problem, in his view, is the draft pick compensation system.

Here's what Drew told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman on Friday:

“You hate to say it, but it really messes up free agency for guys who worked hard. A lot of people don’t want to give up that first-round pick, and that’s what it boils down to. It’s unusual. I understand draft picks, but at the same time, you have a guy who’s proven as very good on defense and a top five shortstop if you look at it.”

“Our union has been really good. But I think we really have to look at this. Is this really good for free agency? Our players need to sit back and look at it and see what we need to do about it.”

Boo hoo. Life is tough. Again, Drew was offered a guaranteed salary of $14.1 million by the Red Sox for this season, and he turned it down because it wasn't enough. He thought he could get more on the open market. Other players did the same (such as Jacoby Ellsbury, for example), and some of them got paid.

But not everyone. Nelson Cruz turned down the $14.1 million qualifying offer made by the Rangers and last week ended up settling for $8 million from Baltimore. He rolled the dice and he lost. That's the name of the game when you gamble. Bets don't always go your way.

That's the bitter reality Stephen Drew hasn't come to grips with yet. But eventually he may have to. He has no leverage at this point, and the baseball clock is ticking.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Ryan Lavarnway Fighting To Keep His Baseball Career Alive in 2014

The 2014 season will be a critical one for Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway. The 26-year old is down to his last option and is a long shot to make the 25-man roster out of spring training.

An option allows a team to send a player back and forth from the minors to majors during a season. Every player has three option years.

In essence, a team can send a player down to the minors for just three seasons. After that, the player must stick on the 25-man roster, or his team risks losing him. After a player has made trips back to the minors in three different seasons, he must first be passed through waivers (where he can be claimed by another team) before again being reassigned to the minors.

That means Lavarnway has to show the Sox enough this season to stick with the big league club, or else 2014 will likely be his last with the organization.

The problem for Lavarnway is that he is currently blocked by two veteran catchers, A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross, at the big league level.

Beyond that, Lavarnway also sits behind minor league catchers Christian Vazquez (age 23) and Blake Swihart (age 21) on the depth chart. The Sox see the latter two as their catchers of the future.

Lavarnway was once viewed as a solid prospect with lots of power potential. After all, he stands 6'4" and weighs 240 pounds. With that kind of size, Lavarnway certainly profiles as a power hitter. And for a few years, he proved it in the minors.

In 2009, at Single-A Greenville, Lavarnway belted 21 homers along with 36 doubles, 87 RBI and a .540 slugging percentage. He followed that in 2010 by hitting a combined 22 homers and 27 doubles, to go along with 70 RBI and a .489 slugging, between Greenville and Double-A Portland.

The next season, 2011, was split between Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Lavarnway took a big step forward, smashing a combined 32 homers, along with 23 doubles, 93 RBI and a fantastic .563 slugging percentage.

Lavarnway appeared to be on his way to a productive big league career, and seemed poised to supplant Jason Varitek as the Red Sox' primary catcher.

But, beginning in 2012, Lavarnway took giant steps backward. His development didn't merely stop, but seemed to regress.

That season, the catcher had just 8 homers and a .439 slugging through 319 at-bats at Pawtucket.

Last year, Lavarnway performed even worse at Pawtucket, hitting .250/.346/.350 in 214 plate appearances. While the .346 OBP is respectable, his .350 slugging percentage was horrid. After all, there are guys who bat .350 each year. It is a clear sign that Lavarnway's power has simply vanished.

Lavarnway had stints with the Red Sox in each of the last three seasons, getting 43, 166 and 82 plate appearances, respectively. Though it's a relatively small sample size (totaling just 291 plate appearances), Lavarnway has shown little power, or anything else. In that span, the catcher has hit just 5 homers and posted a .208/.258/.327 line.

The last two seasons have lowered Lavarnway's stock and diminished the organization's once great hope for him. In fact, it has served to drop Lavarnway down the organizational depth chart and put him on the bubble.

The upcoming season could be a make or break one for Lavarnway. It's time to perform and show some value, or potentially face being released.

That's why GM Ben Cherington has confirmed that Lavarnway will get some time at first base this spring, and may also play some first base at Pawtucket this season.

The idea seems to have been embraced by Lavarnway, who says, "Any way I can find to make myself more valuable to the team as a player, I look at as a positive.”

It's not just that Lavarnway will be fighting for a job with the Red Sox this season, or even a spot in the minors. He'll be fighting to keep his baseball career alive at any level, with any club.

Baseball is all about seizing the moment and proving your value, and Lavarnway knows this.

“At the end of the day, how you play dictates everything in the game,” Lavarnway said. “Every opportunity that you earn, or that's afforded you, is a direct reflection of how the way that you've played. I need to continue to improve every day."