The Red Sox have a lot to think about for the future of the left side of the infield. With Stephen Drew’s contract expiring, the team currently has Will Middlebrooks at third and Xander Bogaerts at short to start next season. Both of those players are very young and the jury is still out on whether they can be effective big league players in an everyday role. Therefore, the Red Sox have to decide whether to sign Drew, or trust Bogaerts and Middlebrooks as starters on a championship team.
Why the Red Sox would sign Drew:
Last season, Stephen Drew was one of the best shortstops in the league. He is a very patient hitter who found a way to get on base an average of one out of every three at bats. He ranked sixth among shortstops in OBP, fifth in slugging, and tenth in OWAR at 3.1. He was a very solid offensive player.
Stephen Drew was at his best in the field. He had less then 10 errors in 124 games and had a DWAR of .6. He made every play he was supposed to, while showing exceptional range and leadership ability on the field.
If the Red Sox were to not sign Drew, they would be losing a leader who always did his job. He did what was expected from him at the plate and in the field, while making a big play when needed.
Also, if the Red Sox decided not to sign Drew, their replacement would either be not as talented, or somebody who is not seasoned. With Drew, the Red Sox could put him at short and make Bogaerts and Middlebrooks a tandem at third, so if one were struggling the other would play. If Drew left, the Red Sox would likely start Middlebrooks at third and Bogaerts at shortstop. Both players have shown flashes of greatness, but Middlebrooks gets into too many slumps and struggles with outside pitching and Bogaerts is just 20 years old. Both players may be effective in the future, but nobody truly knows if both players are ready to handle a 162 game season.
Why the Red Sox wouldn’t sign Drew:
Currently Xander Boegarts is Baseball America’s eighth ranked prospect. He has a great bat, fantastic power and good speed. Baseball America projected him to be in the majors by 2014, and at this rate, he is showing he deserves it. He played in 12 games this post season. While in those games, he hit .296 and had and OBP of .412—facing the best pitching. Bogaerts is ready to play at the major league level and has potential to be far better than Drew offensively.
Will Middlebrooks, despite some struggles this past season, is still young and has proven he can turn it around. In his career, he has posted a .254 batting average with 32 homeruns in 169 games. He definitely has some strong power. He still needs to work on plate discipline, as his career OBP is under .300, but as he gets more comfortable in the major leagues, the comfort should come. I am not ready to give up on Middlebrooks at this point—who has dominated at stretches in his career. All he needs to do is put it together, and during a 162 game season, he might have time to.
Stephen Drew also would cost a lot of money. He turned down a one-year 14.1 million dollar qualifying offer, expecting to get more years or money on the open market. For what the Red Sox have in Middlebrooks and Bogaerts, it probably would not be worth the extra money to go out and spend on Drew.
If the Red Sox do not feel completely confident in Bogaerts and Middlebrooks, they could sign another free agent. However, there is nobody in the free agent market the Sox could pick up on an easy one year deal like they got in Stephen Drew last year. They could sign a backup to add extra depth like Punto, Izturis or MacDonald, but they could never be expected to start. Their best bet would be to try out the Middlebrooks and Bogaerts at the beginning of the season, and if that doesn’t work, exercise a possible trade.
At Drew’s asking price, I would not try and pursue him. After turning down his qualifying offer, he would most likely need a multi-year deal to stay. Although Drew played terrific defense this year, his offense was inconsistent throughout the season. He started and ended the season poorly. Bogaerts and Middlebrooks should be able to handle the big leagues next season. The Red Sox should just save the money and spend it on another big named free agent or resigning.