In what I would call a very surprising report, we learned yesterday from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports
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that the Chicago Cubs are among the teams interested in veteran free agent shortstop Stephen Drew.
That’s right – the same Stephen Drew who batted just .162/.237/.299 in half a season split between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The same Stephen Drew who, prior to last season with the Yankees, had never played second base at the big league level. Yet, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, this is the very role several teams – including Chicago – envisions for Drew should they choose to add him to the roster.
"Drew has several teams interested in him as a primary second baseman (a position he had not played until traded last July to the Yankees) and as shortstop insurance. Clubs such as the Blue Jays, A’s, Cubs, White Sox and Angels fall into this category."
Currently, the Cubs have the likes of Javier Baez and Starlin Castro up the middle. Last week, Castro was questioned regarding an incident in the Dominican Republic, but still, he appears to be the team’s starting shortstop moving forward. After a disappointing 2013 campaign, Castro bounced back in a big way last year, netting his third National League All-Star selection, batting .292/.339/.438, tying a career-high with 14 home runs – despite missing the season’s final month with a high ankle sprain he suffered when sliding into home plate.
The fact he earned his third All-Star nod in just his fifth professional season, coupled with an incredibly team-friendly deal that keeps his pay under $12 million every year through the end of the deal (with the exception of the $16 million team option in 2020) – makes him not only attractive, but incredibly valuable to the Cubs moving forward.
Lining up opposite him in the Chicago infield, Baez broke onto the scene mid-season last year, but struggled – despite showcasing the power that made him one of the most highly-touted prospects in all of Minor League Baseball in recent years. In 213 at-bats, he struck out a staggering 95 times, while launching nine home runs and driving in 20 runs. While many were quick to criticize his approach at the plate, which centered largely around a powerful, albeit at times, vicious swing, his struggles emulated the same ones he initially faced at nearly every level of the Minors during his ascent to Chicago.
Sure, Drew is overpriced and struggled last year. But he’s not far removed from a strong 2013 season with the Boston Red Sox.
It’s not so much Baez or Castro who are integral factors in the decision over whether or not to add Drew to the ranks; in fact, it is what lies behind these two in the team’s depth chart that appears set to be the make-or-break factor moving forward. According to the team’s depth chart, Arismendy Alcantara is the next-in-line at second, followed by Tommy La Stella, who was acquired early this offseason. Other names that could fill that void include Logan Watkins and Luis Valbuena, who is currently slated as the club’s Opening Day third baseman.
With Drew reportedly seeking somewhere in the range of $9 to $10 million per year, his price tag is noticeably higher than what I, personally, would pay for a backup infielder whose offensive production over the past two years has plummeted. Last season, his oWAR was -0.7 – and although he did not have the benefit of Spring Training due to the fact that his camp’s strategy of waiting for an offer last winter backfiring, concerns were raised by many around the league regarding his future.
After suffering some fairly significant injuries early on in his playing career, Drew has both ups and downs when considered as a backup infielder. Sure, he’s overpriced and is coming off one of the worst offensive seasons of his career. But he isn’t too far removed from a 2013 season with the Red Sox where he hit 13 home runs, drove in 67 runs and added 29 doubles – decent offensive production for a middle infielder.
That being said, to me, he’s not worth the inherent risk. I’d rather the team bring back Emilio Bonifacio than spend money on a lackluster offensive player coming off an atrocious 2014 campaign. Stephen Drew was once one of the better middle infield options available; but after last season, the challenges he could pose to both the payroll and the lineup just don’t make sense – especially with the Cubs moving out of rebuilding and into contention.