Should the Mets wait for Stephen Drew?

Stephen DrewAs of today, the Stephen Drew free agent market is in a holding pattern, waiting to land in one of what appears to be two destinations; Boston or New York. In essence, Drew has become this year’s Michael Bourn, a quality major league player left with limited suitors. The Mets may be in very good position to get Drew when you look at the competition. The Red Sox are more than likely going to hold fast to a short contract offer as they have in house candidates in Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts to fill in on the right side of the infield. That doesn’t appear to be the Red Sox preference, as Middlebrooks struggled last year and Bogaerts is in essence a rookie, but they are also not in a situation where they absolutely need Drew. The Yankee’s are waiting on how long Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for and are more focused, at this time, on Masahiro Tanaka, as they should be, since pitching is their largest need. No other teams are reportedly interested in Drew at this time, and if you look around the league, that makes a lot of sense. The Mets are the one team that has a definitive hole at shortstop. So the question becomes, is Drew worth the wait to get him at a reasonable contract.

Fielding wise, the answer to that question appears to be yes. Drew has a plus career DWAR, according to Baseball-Reference and had a plus UZR this past season according to FanGraphs. Last season he tied for the highest fielding percentage of his career and his range was considered slightly above average for American League shortstops. Basically, Drew has become one of your classic if he gets to it he makes the play shortstops. He’s not going to wow you with his range, but he will make the plays that come to him. That’s refreshing over the inconsistent fielding the Mets have seen from shortstop over the past two seasons and basically also describes the fielding prowess of Ruben Tejada, at his best, the player the Mets will start at shortstop if Drew doesn’t join the team. However, Tejada didn’t show that level of consistency last season, so having a steady veteran to anchor the position defensively would be a breath of fresh air.

With the bat, Drew is definitely an upgrade over Tejada, but how much so is the great debate. That’s a hard argument to side upon as his numbers are a tad misleading. For instance, last season, Drew appears to have had profound lefty right splits. Against lefties, Drew batted .196 with an abysmal .246 OBP and .340 SLG. Against righties, Drew was strong, batting .284 with a .377 OBP and a .498 SLG, numbers that were actually better than his career numbers against righties in those categories, even though he struck out at a slightly higher rate in 2013 (16.5% strike out rate for his career against righties, 20.7% against righties in 2013). This makes Drew appear to be, in effect, a platoon player, but that doesn’t seem to be entirely accurate. Drew’s poor numbers against lefties were the direct result of a high strike out rate. Coming into 2013, Drew had, for his career, hit .242 with a .296 OBP, a .400 SLG and a 22.8% strike out rate against lefties. Those are serviceable numbers that you can live with in a left hand hitting everyday player. However, in 2013, Drew’s strike out rate against lefties exploded to 32.9%, making his numbers look a lot worse than they actually were. When Drew put the ball in play against lefties, he did so with authority. Drew hit .306 with a .553 SLG on balls in play against lefties, basically the same as he averaged in his career in that category prior to 2013 (.323 AVG and .535 SLG). Basically, this appears to show that Drew could be an everyday shortstop, as long as he cuts down on his strikeouts against left hand pitchers.

The other side of that argument comes with a question; why did his strike out rate increase so much against lefties in 2013? One could say that he was on the downside of his career, or that his many injuries have now adversely affected his play. That could be true. It also could be true that there are other reasons for this change. Drew’s strike out rate against righties didn’t show the same appreciable increase as it only went up 4.2% as opposed to 10.1% against lefties. The answer could simply have been fatigue. Drew hadn’t played a full season since 2010, and may have gotten worn down as the season progressed. That also could explain Drew’s abysmal hitting in the 2013 postseason. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know what was the cause of his increased amount of strike outs, which would have to be a concern for the Mets.

Drew also appeared to have extreme home road splits in 2013. However, home road splits are some of the most overanalyzed statistical numbers in the history of baseball and Drew’s 2013 is a perfect example. In 2013, Drew hit .283 with a .367 OBP and .491 SLG at home as opposed to a .222 AVG with a .295 OBP and a .392 SLG on the road. That appears concerning, but the numbers are deceiving. Drew had 18 more hits at home than on the road, but 10 of those hits were singles and six were triples. Playing at Fenway Park didn’t make Drew hit 10 more singles. That can be done at any ballpark. The triples are also an anomaly as he’s actually more likely to repeat those numbers in the large outfield of Citi Field than he would in the smaller confines of Fenway. The other power numbers are in essence the same as he hit three more doubles at Fenway and one more home run on the road. Basically, if you add 10 singles to Drew’s away numbers, his AVG and SLG would increase by .048 points and his OBP by .042, which would make those home road splits look a lot less extreme, which his career numbers show. Despite playing in hitters ballparks the vast majority of his career, he’s only hit .017 points lower on the road than at home, with a .048 difference in his SLG. That SLG difference is also anomalous as the difference is basically because Drew, for his career, has hit 36 more triples at home than on the road. In fact, despite having most of his home at bat’s take place in Boston and Arizona, Drew has hit 10 more career home runs on the road. Basically, this all appears to show that a move to Citi Field isn’t going to adversely affect his power numbers.

Drew also has experience batting lead-off. Drew has batted first in the order 219 times in his career. In that position in the order he’s hit .283 with a .343 OBP and a .473 SLG. These numbers are improved when you look at what Drew has done leading off games in his career. To start a game, Drew has hit .322 with a .374 OBP and a .495 SLG. Those are much better slash lines. On the other side of this coin, though, is the fact that Drew has never been a stolen base threat and he didn’t hit lead off in 2013. In fact, in lead off situations in 2013 (batting with nobody on and 1,2 or 3 outs), Drew hit .248 with a .341 OBP and a .398 SLG. He did produce a 12% walk rate in those situations, the highest in his career, but also struck out over 25% of the time. If his strike out rate was not the result of fatigue and is more the result of deteriorating talent, then he’s not the guy you want to bat lead-off.

Then there is the injury history. Drew has missed a lot of games over the past three years (38 in 2013, 83 in 2012 and 76 in 2011). Prior to 2011 Drew was a healthy, everyday player, playing in over 150 three times in four years and missing four straight 150 plus games seasons by only 15 games in 2009. He is reportedly fully healed from the injury that caused the majority of those missed games, a vicious ankle fracture he suffered in 2011 that required surgery and caused him to miss much of 2012. His missed time in 2013 was partially due to a concussion suffered in spring training that year and because, when he came back, Jose Iglesias had cemented his place with a strong start.

So, putting all of this together, how can we answer the question in the title of this post? If Drew is willing to accept something like a one or two year deal, with options for the second or third year based upon performance (say a certain amount of at bat’s or plate appearances), then the Mets should jump at it. People forget how good Drew appeared at a young age. He seemed to be a budding star, a dynamic offensive shortstop who was improving defensively. Unfortunately, his career had a massive detour right when he should have been hitting his prime seasons, leaving the aforementioned concerns, which are legitimate considering he’s a shortstop entering his age 31 season. However, Drew showed many signs that he could be returning to the player he once appeared to be. If that is the case, the Mets would be foolish not to take the chance, if the contract is affordable. If Drew becomes that player, he would provide a nice bat, solid defense and give the Mets lineup some really good balance, being the fourth left hand hitter that would be making a regular appearance in the lineup. The bottom line is, the positives appear to outweigh the negatives, making the answer to, is Drew worth the wait a yes.

22 comments for “Should the Mets wait for Stephen Drew?

  1. eraff
    December 31, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Professional, Championship Quality Shortstop……. good lefty bat…. I Mourn the concept $12 million for this player is considered too steep for this franchise—-and I just don’t believe that!!! More than that… Why would a 3-4 year deal be seen as anything Less than an Opportunity!!!????

  2. Patrick Albanesius
    December 31, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Very well researched! You sum up the argument nicely that Drew’s positives outweigh the negatives. If we can get him for 2 years at $10-12 million a year, then it’s a deal worth doing. If the price is closer to 3 years or $15+, I think that’s money better spent elsewhere. Anyway you look at it, Drew is a stopgap. The Mets need to figure out how long that gap is, and proceed from there.

  3. Scott Ferguson
    December 31, 2013 at 11:50 am

    The max contract I’d offer Drew is two years with an option based upon performance.
    Anything more than that would be too much of a risk as the Mets could get stuck with 4 years of injuries.
    Plus I don’t think they need a stopgap much longer than 3 years.

  4. December 31, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Key advantage for the Mets is that they only give up a third round pick. Keeps the competition to the Mets and Red Sox. I like Drew but payiong him $10+ million a year is tough to swallow.

    Since the Mets are building while they wait for their young pitching I would rather see them trade for a young shortstop like Owings or Gordon.The prce may be steep but the hit/miss rate on young pitchers is so high that I believe it warrants a role of the dice. Now if the demand is Niese or Gee…well then Hello Mr. Tejada for 2014 or pay up and buy drew.

  5. Metsense
    December 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Drew averages a 2.5 WAR over his career so at $ 5.5 m a WAR a contract below $13.75m annually is a fair value and likewise anything 4 years or under is fair in this 2013 winter market. That being said, I have no problem with Sandy taking his time reeling him in as long as he doesn’t lose the fish.
    The Mets have not invested any new money into the 2014 team and they only reinvested the money from the expired contracts. I don’t believe that this money isn’t there; be it in a stash, a new loan, or a ponzi scheme.

    • Name
      December 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      Actually, i was thinking that we could sway Drew over here because of playing time, but looking at his injury history he might actually prefer the Red Sox and Yankees because he’ll have more opportunities to ride the pine.
      Best case scenario for him is probably 130 games, min 80, most likely of 100 or so games. No way we should be spending 8 figures on a part-time guarantee. My new target for this guy is 2/18, anything more would be an overpay.

    • Chris F
      December 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      “The Mets have not invested any new money into the 2014 team and they only reinvested the money from the expired contracts.”

      I’m sure glad someone got around to saying that, as it has been botching me for some time now. Aldersons has not spent any money at all, just replacing dead contracts, so all the celebration is a bit unwarranted in terms of what he’s done. This team still has nowhere near 25 mlb level players on it.

  6. Jerry Grote
    December 31, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Side note to Mets fans:

    Stephen Drew, as the author points out, had a decided split against same side (LH) pitching. Up to 2013, he managed only a 696 OPS against them.

    Our incumbent, such as he is, in his best years was no better than 696. In. His. Best. Years.

    Sign the man, and pay him the money. Even if Drew hits as badly as Tejada did *in his best years*, his fielding makes him a huge improvement of Ruben and solidifies this team up the middle.

    Two years and 26MM, third year gets guaranteed if he makes the All Star team in either of the first two or plays 290 games in the first two.

    • Chris F
      January 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Im with you JG. You know as this drags out, I wonder why not go 3/36 with a 4th option on games palyed in years 1-3 (or other incentives as you noted). We need to stabilize SS, esp with nothing in the system. Tejada will not be the starting SS on a playoff team.

  7. January 1, 2014 at 12:39 am

    While many comments here are in favor of signing Drew,do the Mets have room in their payroll to sign him? Forget the noise coming from SA. Realistically the team will be capped out after arbitration hearings. I think Drew’s better playing days are behind him. When he’s healthy he is a definite improvement over Tejada. That being said Boras will hold out to the very end like he did with Bourn knowing some team will eventually come close to what he’s looking. The Mets are not in desperation mode and are not going to pay what some people feel is a justified contract.

    • Jerry Grote
      January 1, 2014 at 8:59 am

      First, I don’t think the team will be capped out.

      Second, didn’t Bourn get decidedly less than expected? He was considered to be only slightly less than Upton. In fact, I believe both he and Nelson Cruz are going to create a case for next year: GMs are going to wait it out to find bargains.

      Ownership has said time and again that they will expand their budget to fit for the right player, and Sandy is only under generally self-imposed limits. Drew becomes reasonable and “the right player” at the junction of about 25% less than Peralta in terms of years and dollar exposure.

      Which again, would be around 2+ years, and $42MM (based on a third year, with incentives). That seems about right to me, and fair to all parties involved.

      • January 1, 2014 at 11:12 am

        I’ll say it again. I understand your numbers equating value for Drew. Ownership has said a lot of things. How many came to fruition? They’re just saying what they have to say to keep the fan base happy. Look into your crystal ball and tell me you see Jeff shaking hands with Drew with Boras at his side. Had Cruz not been implicated he would have had his multi-year contract by now. Between filling out the remaining roster spots and the arbitration players payroll is going to come in at about 90 million dollars. Boston ONLY offered Drew a 2 year contract. I would be curious if anyone knew how much the Red Sox’s offer was for.

  8. Scott Ferguson
    January 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Some info I came across:
    Cashman is stating the Yankees won’t sign Drew.
    He’s there for the taking if Sandy decides to go for it.

  9. Jerry Grote
    January 1, 2014 at 9:34 am

    With the conversation about Drew so often turning to trading Ike Davis, I am going to repeat something I’ve said elsewhere.

    The natural trade is NOT trading Davis. It’s trading Murphy in this situation. Murphy is trading high; Davis is trading low. Murphy has multiple positions, and therefore multiple suitors; Davis plays only one position. Murphy is established as a top ten or so player at his position; Davis is not.

    But perhaps most importantly, Murphy is a left handed bat that will generate roughly a 330 OBP and a 430 SLG at roughly a 2.5-3.0 WAR, that might fit well at the #2 slot in the batting order. Let’s see … where could we easily replace that sort of firepower from a middle infielder? And between Murphy and Davis, which one is more likely to return another team’s top 2 or 3 pitching prospect?

    Murphy< Drew + top line pitching prospect + Eric Young at leadoff. It's really that simple.

  10. January 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

    They should continue to wait for him, considering it sounds like they could get him on an affordable one- or two-year deal. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t continue talking with Arizona about trading for one of their shortstops at the same time.

  11. Julian McCarthy
    January 1, 2014 at 10:56 am

    The Mets should not sign him, there are so many more options next season. Whether through free agency (Hardy, Cabrera, Lowrie, and Ramirez) and with the surplus of pitching next off-season the Mets can potentially land a top-tier shortstop easily (Baez, Castro, Profar, Andrus, Segura, and even Tulowitzki)

  12. Seabee
    January 1, 2014 at 11:07 am

    You snooze, you lose . . .

    Sign Drew now, 3 years at 10/11/12, 33 total, he is our new leadoff hitter!!!

    C’mon, there is no comparison between Drew and Tejada. And, we don’t need to trade Montero or another gem. And, in addition to the stats, we are bringing another winner to town.

  13. January 1, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I can not understand why the Mets wouldn’t be interested in Drew. Two years at 10 / 12 million. His bWAR last year was higher than Tejada’s career total. I much rather keep Ike Davis than Tejada. We have a WS winning shortstop available for a reasonable (by today’s standards) price. The Mets should be all over this.

  14. Nebba
    January 2, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Is Alderson all in or not? What did he tell Granderson and Colon before they signed? That we’re waiting for our prospects to develop in Low A ball while Tejada, who, no so confidetially, we can’t stand, gets another shot? What did Alderson tell D. Wright?

    Drew is a proven pro who will immediately make this a team the NL East will have to take very seriously. No ifs ands or butts, Fred needs to dig deep, pay up and get this done.

  15. Jerry Grote
    January 2, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    It’s just where you want to use your pennies.

    My guess is that you can add, right now, a 30 HR 1B, a 35 HR RF, and a 200 IP, top of the rotation pitcher for 3/40. Morales, Cruz and Garza are all looking for a home.

    Not one of them will cost you more than a SS that hasn’t played 140 games in back-to-back seasons since before Barack Obama was President. Hey, let me say this loud and clear: I believe we need a SS too and Drew is the answer.

    The dream, of course, is that Sandy plays his cards right and he gets Drew AND one of the guys above because he’s saved his pennies.

  16. Metsense
    January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    A “Rubin Rumor” says the Mets front office is divided but the money is available and three years seals the deal.(two and he is back in Boston). The most games that Tejada has appeared in is 114. Who is his back up? Signing a 31 year old Drew solves that problem, improves the defense at shortstop and centerfield because Drew can lead off and Lagares would be in center relegating EY to 4th outfielder and Tejada to back up middle infielder. I don’t care how long Sandy wants to play this but if he doesn’t sign Drew then it has all been lip service.

    • Jerry Grote
      January 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Pick three ranges of WAR you think Drew will create. Assign a likelihood of each outcome. The sum of those ranges gives you his value.

      So, total WAR for three years for Drew:

      2-4 WAR (essentially, he’s nearly worthless): 20%. (.2 x 3 WAR = .6 W)
      5-7 WAR (he produces the 2 WAR as fangraphs suggests: 60% (.6 x 6 WAR = 3.6 WAR)
      8-10 WAR (he continues to produce as he has last year: 20% (.2 x 9 WAR = 1.8 WAR)

      That’s an expectation of 6 wins; if you become fatalistic and assign 60% chance of nearly complete worthlessness, he’s still above 5 wins.

      You have to take a chance, and I think Stephen Drew is about as likely to come out reasonably valuable at anywhere near 2/26 to 3/40 as you can possibly get.

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