Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stephen Drew is Not the Solution to the Red Sox' Problems

According to multiple sources, shortstop Stephen Drew is back with the Red Sox on a one-year deal. The pro-rated contract will pay Drew based on the $14 million he would have received from the Sox if he had accepted the qualifying offer they made him last fall.

That means Drew will receive roughly $10 million for the remainder of this season.

Will Middlebrooks has been ineffective and injured this season. The third baseman is batting just .197, with a .305 OBP, .324 slugging, 2 homers and 9 RBI. Additionally, Middlebrooks has committed two errors in just 21 games.

It's easy to speculate that Drew will move into the shortstop position he occupied last year and that Xander Bogaerts will move back to third, where he supplanted Middlebrooks in the 2013 postseason.

However, Bogaerts has also been struggling at the plate this season, posting a 269 average, .369 OBP, .379 slugging, 2 homers and 7 RBI. He also leads the Sox with four errors in 41 games.

Drew played excellent defense at shortstop last season, and posted a .777 OPS, which ranked second in the AL at the position. But that really reflects just how little offense the typical shortstop now provides in the post-steroids era.

Let's break down Drew's numbers a bit.

Drew batted .253 last season, which is hardly exciting. In addition, he posted a .333 OBP, meaning he didn't walk much, or help his chances of getting on base. And he slugged just .443, which is not particularly inspiring.

To top it off, Drew was horrendous in the post-season, batting just .111.

So, it's hard to argue that Drew's absence has been the source of the Sox' offensive woes this season. He's simply not a powerful offensive force any more.

No reasonable person should assume that Drew, who hasn’t faced live pitching since October, will quickly find his timing in late May/early June. Expecting Drew to be an impact player for the Sox is unrealistic. It may even be fanciful.

As I wrote the other day, the Red Sox' offensive problems are not related to the guys who haven't been here in 2014, such as Drew or Jacoby Ellsbury. The trouble lies with the guys that are still here. They're just not getting it done.

With the exception of 38-year-old David Ortiz, virtually every batter in the Sox lineup has been underperforming. It's the exact opposite of last year.

Is Drew really the solution to these offensive troubles? I, for one, am quite skeptical.

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. And it's the reason that no one was willing to meet Drew's demands of a long term deal, with an average annual value of anything near $14 million. It wasn't simply about draft-pick compensation.

Drew's weak hitting isn't merely an aberration of the 2013 season; it's been three years in the making.

Drew could certainly help to shore up the Sox' defense on the left side of the infield. He was second among American League shortstops last season with a .984 fielding percentage.

But any regular observer of this team knows that defense isn't the reason the Sox have a losing record on May 20th.

The problem is offense, and the Sox still haven't found the solution for that.

Quite clearly, Stephen Drew is not the answer.

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