BOSTON – Although it won’t be official until Wednesday when he passes a physical, the Red Sox have brought shortstop Stephen Drew back into the fold.
After the end of the last season, the Sox made a $14.1 million qualifying offer to Drew, which he turned down, making him free to sign with any other team. But with a compensation pick attached to him, he remained on the open market. As the June 5 draft got closer it became clear he would not be signing with another team before then, meaning the Sox would not be getting a compensation pick.
Combined with third baseman Will Middlebrooks going to the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and the Sox’ struggles from the left side of the infield, with Middlebrooks and rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts, it made sense for the Sox to bring Drew back.
The deal, first reported by FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal, is for one year and $10 million, or the pro-rated portion of the qualifying offer.
“He still has to go through some things before it’s officially announced,” said manager John Farrell, who has not yet spoken to Drew about the signing. “We expect him to be here tomorrow to go through a complete physical and at that time is when it will be official. We feel like once all that’s complete the need for 25 at-bats or so would get him to where we feel is an acceptable level as far as game speed and enough repetition to get his legs underneath him for playing the position of shortstop and get him built out to a full nine innings.
“We have the ability provided all things work out is that we’ve added a very good player to improve this team and I think that’s the one thing that [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and ownership when a need exists they’ll do whatever’s capable and what’s available at a given time to improve the team. Stephen’s return to us could very well do that. It’ll add stability to the left side of the infield. Had a chance to sit and talk with Xander. I’m sure he’s aware of everything that’s been talked about and reported and just wanted to be a little bit ahead of things with what it might mean to his positioning as we go forward.
“We’re looking for ways to improve this team. Without having to give up talent to acquire a good player in Stephen, we were able to sign him as a free agent. And again once he gets back to us we’ll add a good player to this team.”
Once he passes his physical, Drew will go to the minor leagues. Farrell expects Drew to need a rehab assignment of about 10-12 games and 25 at-bats to be ready to join the major league team.
“Based on the amount of baseball activity he’s had over the last couple of months, this is different in our view than someone just coming in after a full winter down with no baseball activity and games played in spring training,” Farrell said. “So we feel like 25 at-bats gets him closer to that. So if that’s 10 or 12 days that’s kind of the general framework right now.”
Drew’s defense was exceptional last season. He was second in the American League with a .984 fielding percentage last season. Bogaerts leads the Sox with four errors in 41 games this season.
“One of the things that stood out was we had very good infield defense last year,” Farrell said. “And I think very good defense, overall. And I think Stephen was one of the main contributors to that. The position he plays, the talent that he is, and I think that will lend an element of improvement immediately. And that’s not to slight anyone else. That’s just to say how good of a defender he is. And he was a main cog in a core group of players here that loved to compete and go out and they achieved something extremely special.”
Several players have privately expressed their wish that Drew were back with the team. Asked if other players’ input affected the decision to bring Drew back, Farrell replied:
“I think it’s been known what his teammates have always thought of him and what we’ve thought of him. This was about Ben having a full understanding of where our needs exist and how do we improve upon it. And Stephen is a guy that’s available to do that. So I can’t say that there was a greater amount of push following Will’s injury or how things have transpired over the first 43 games. We had a need and he went out and filled it.”
Farrell would not look back at the ‘what if’s’.
“I’m not going back there,” he said. “I think the one thing that is still to remain included in all this is our commitment to young players and to go back and say something should have been done differently, we’re not about that.
“He’s an above-average defender. We lived that a year ago. He played an exceptional shortstop, particularly in October. And to have that experience and that dependability, I think it’ll go a long way to stabilizing the left side of the infield.”
Farrell could not say if the signing would have happened if Middlebrooks had not gotten hurt.
While Drew hit just .253/.333/.443 last season, against righthanders the left-handed batter was .284/.377/.498. As a team this season, the Sox are hitting just .240/.321/.365 against righthanders, .233/.310/.354 against right-handed starters.
“If he was a right-handed hitter, we’d look to improve the team however we could,” Farrell said. “Our difficulties against right-handed starters is, we’re well aware of that. To say it was exclusively driven to improving against right-handed starters, can’t say that. Bottom line is we have a chance to improve our team overall and that’s what brings him to us.”