Monday, March 10, 2014

Why the Detroit Tigers should at least consider signing Stephen Drew

Stephen Drew is an expensive player. Just the fact he turned down a $14 million qualifying offer from Boston says it all about his salary expectations. His agent is Scott Boras, who has traditionally driven hard bargains for Drew and his brother, J.D., in the past.
Like power-hitting outfielder Nelson Cruz, who signed with Baltimore for much less than his qualifying offer, and first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales and starting pitcher Ervin Santana, who remain free agents, Drew has fallen through the cracks of the free agency system after turning down a solid one-year offer.
He would cost the Tigers a first-round draft pick as compensation, which pushes teams away as much as money.
But here is a dose of reality. The still-high pile of snow outside your window is misleading. The Tigers open the season in three weeks.

Stephen Drew: At what cost?
Shortstop Jose Iglesias has shin splints, isn't playing and might not be ready for opening day. Even if he is, will he be 100 percent? He is a player who relies primarily on his legs (a lot of infield hits and defensive range). With Andy Dirks out for three month, the Tigers have just Victor Martinez and Alex Avila as left-handed bats. There is a huge drop off with Rajai Davis, a right-handed hitter, between his effectiveness against left-handed and right-handed pitching.
Steve Lombardozzi is a switch hitter, and would fit in for Iglesias, but he was minus WAR player with the Washington Nationals. And where's the rest of their infield depth? It's thin. So is the left-handed hitting.
Drew is a very good fielder. He slumped in the postseason last year and strikes out too much, but does provide some left-handed pop with his bat.
The odds are still strong he will re-sign with Boston. The Red Sox have been using Xander Bogaerts at SS. The danger is simply creating a market for Drew by having interest. His 3.1 WAR last season was the second best of his career and suggests he is a reasonably effective player. At 31, he is in his prime.
Losing the draft pick might seem steep, but the Tigers should be in total "win now" mode. They still have Max Scherzer together with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander for another year, but there are no guarantees beyond this year. And both Cabrera and Verlander have reached 30. The window of having baseball's best hitter and starting pitching isn't going to stay open forever.


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