Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, June 09, 2014

Red Sox Need More Than Stephen Drew to Fix Their Problems



Due to injuries and poor performance, the Red Sox roster and lineup have been in disarray this season.

Once Will Middlebrooks went on the disabled list due to a fractured right index finger, the left side of the Red Sox infield went into a state of flux.

Initially, the Sox turned to light-hitting utility man Jonathan Herrera to man third base, but that proved to be inadequate. Herrera has posted a slash line of .250/.328/.268/.596 this season.

Then the Sox signed free agent third baseman Ryan Roberts as a stopgap. But Roberts played in just eight games and, over 19 at-bats, posted a slash line of .105/.227/.105/.333. That wasn't sufficient for the Sox, who quickly designated the veteran after just 11 days.

The Red Sox eventually re-signed Stephen Drew, ostensibly, because their offense was weak and lackluster. But Drew is hardly the solution to that problem.

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. Drew has been consistently underwhelming for three straight seasons.

Will Middlebrooks, who will soon be activated from the DL, has more offensive upside than Drew.

Middlebrooks hit 32 homers over his first 615 major league at-bats, or roughly a full season's worth. That kind of power is hard to find in today's game.

In fact, right-handed power has become a lost commodity in the majors. Just 27 right-handed hitters drafted in 2000 or later have had as many as 30 homers in a single major league season.

The last right-handed hitter drafted and developed by the Red Sox who hit 30 homers in a season was Nomar Garciaparra, who launched 30 homers in 1997 and 35 in 1998.

So, the Sox haven't given up on Middlebrooks. They've seen enough to know that some genuine potential exists, assuming that Middlebrooks can simply stay healthy. To this point, that's been a struggle.

Yet, Stephen Drew was brought in to fill a void that he has no ability to fill.

The Red Sox real problems lie in the outfield, which has been dreadful this season. The team has gotten almost no production from its current group.

Here is the OPS for each member of the Sox' outfield, in descending order:

Gomes: .722
Victorino: .627
Sizemore: .624
Carp: .603
Bradley: .580
Nava: .513

None of the above numbers is worthy of a starting role in the Sox outfield. In fact, most aren't even worthy of being in the majors.

Cumulatively, the Sox outfield has a .612 OPS, the worst, by far, in the majors. But it goes beyond that.

This group of Red Sox outfielders is historically bad.

The Sox outfield's OPS is the second worst of any group since 1974, only marginally better than the 2011 Seattle Mariners (.608).

And the Sox outfield's batting average is the absolute worst; heading into Monday night it is a combined .214.

Jonny Gomes is currently the Red Sox most offensively productive outfielder, and that's not saying much.

Through 137 at-bats this season, Gomes has posted a .234/.335/.387/.722 slash line, to go along with 5 homers and 24 RBI. Hey, at least he has those "intangibles."

Jackie Bradley Jr. is batting .203/.286/.294/.580. In other words, his slugging percentage is what his batting average should be.

Grady Sizemore is batting .222 /.291/.333/.624. This is the same guy that used to be a super star. His health is just fine. But two missed seasons have turned him into terrible baseball player.

So far, the Red Sox solution to all this futility was to sign the weak-hitting Drew. Everyone should have expected that Drew would be rusty after not playing competitive baseball since last October, and he has certainly lived up to that expectation.

Through 14 at-bats, admittedly a very small sample size, Drew has one hit, two walks and five strikeouts. As of today, he has posted a slash line of .071/.188/.071/.259.

This is what the Red Sox are getting for a $10 million, pro-rated contract this season.

When the Sox re-signed Drew, it was clear that their problem was the lack of offensive production from their outfield, not from their shortstop.

Yes, third base has been a black hole, but the Sox still believe in Middlebrooks and they knew he would soon return from the DL.

Wouldn't you rather see Brock Holt at third every day, with Bogaerts still manning shortstop? Yeah, they probably would too.

The Sox still need to address their shortcomings in the outfield, but they now have 10 million fewer dollars to fill that pressing need. That's not a paltry sum, given that the Sox' opening day payroll was nearly $163 million, the fourth highest in baseball, according to the Associated Press.

However, the luxury tax threshold for this season is $189 million, leaving the Red Sox some room to maneuver, if they think this current team is worth investing in. Ultimately, the Sox have roughly $16 million to play with this summer, if they so choose.

Whether it's one of their own minor league prospects (Mookie Betts?), or a trade for a proven major league outfielder, somewhere down the line — likely sooner than later — a change is gonna come.

At the least, the fans and the ever-important NESN ratings demand it.

This team is tough to watch, and Stephen Drew won't fix that.

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