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  • The Case for Stephen Drew

    It is now 2014 and Stephen Drew is still a free agent. There has been speculation regarding the Twins making a run at Drew. Some are in favor of a possible signing, while some are against it. This is a common theme when speculating on transactions. Everyone is going to have his opinion.

    Here is my case for signing Stephen Drew.

    More information on the stats used below can be found in the Glossary section of Fangraphs.com.

    Offensive Upside

    Stephen Drew was a good offensive player in 2013, putting up a wRC+(weighted runs created, normalized for park and league effects) of 109. That's before considering that he is a shortstop. In 2013 the league average wRC+ for shortstops was 85. To put that into perspective, his offensive production was similar to Dustin Pedroia (115 wRC+) compared to the league average second baseman (91 wRC+) and Allen Craig (135 wRC+) compared to the league average first baseman (110 wRC+).

    While that gives you an idea of how good his offense was for a shortstop, it would be more helpful to compare him to the player he'd be replacing. Pedro Florimon had a 68 wRC+ in 2013. So Drew was essentially 41% better at creating runs than Florimon. To give you an idea of how much better 41% is, I used two other full time Twins players to help illustrate how big of an upgrade Drew would have been over Florimon.

    Florimon wRC+: 68
    Drew wRC+: 109

    Dozier wRC+: 101
    Cano wRC+: 142

    Plouffe wRC+: 93
    Longoria wRC+: 133

    If you are skeptical that this was a career year for Drew, and thus an outlier, this was the fourth season that Drew put up a 109 wRC+ or higher.

    Steady Defense

    While Florimon is one of the better defensive shortstops in the league, Drew is a good defensive shortstop in his own right. Here is how Drew's defense has rated over the last five years using UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating, over 150 games) and DRS (defensive runs saved).

    UZR/150: 4.0
    DRS: 3

    Using 4000 innings as the threshold, a total of only 10 shortstops rated above zero in both defensive metrics during that time frame.

    Overall Player

    Using the same five year time frame, here are Drew's overall numbers.

    wRC+: 98
    UZR/150: 4.0
    DRS: 3

    During that span, only three other shortstops met or exceeded these standards: Tulowitzki, (Yunel) Escobar, and Peralta. In 2013, once again, only three shortstops met these standards. Tulowitzki, (Yunel) Escobar and Hardy.

    Health Concerns

    Health should be a concern with every player, but it seems to be overblown with Drew. He has been tagged with words like injury-prone and fragile, which doesn't seem to be fair.

    When you take out his flukey 2011 ankle injury (broken bone and torn ligaments from a slide in to home), Drew averaged 142 games played in his other five full seasons in the majors. In those five seasons he has been on the DL three times for a total of 54 days. Those three DL stints were caused by two hamstring strains and a concussion suffered from being hit in the head by a pitch. So other than a couple of freak injuries, he's been quite durable.

    2015 Class

    There has been talk about shortstops who may be available through free agency next offseason. So I wanted to compare them to Drew noting their ages when hitting free agency, along with their offense and defense over the past five seasons. I didn't include Ramirez and Jeter because they aren't realistic options due to many factors.

    Age wRC+ UZR/150 DRS
    Drew 31 98 4.0 3
    Cabrera 29 107 -10.8 -19
    Lowrie 31 108 -4.4 -28
    Hardy 32/33 92 9.3 31
    Rollins 36 92 4.6 -29

    All things considered, Drew looks to be the most attractive player.

    The Conclusion

    Other than giving up a second round draft pick, all things point to Drew being a great signing. He is a good player who would provide a significant upgrade at a position at which the Twins lack options. He would also provide balance to an infield (Dozier, Plouffe) that struggles against right-handed pitching.

    There seems to be a thin market for Drew with the Red Sox and Mets being the two teams most often mentioned. There have been reports that teams are not willing to go past two years, so this would be a good time for the Twins to jump in and offer Drew three years, $30-33 million.

    It would be nice to have another proven position player alongside Mauer to help with the infusion of youth coming up in the next couple years. Especially a shortstop.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Case for Stephen Drew started by JP3700
    Comments 234 Comments
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I think the draft pick compensation should be tied more to the team's market size then losing a free agent. The RedSox are a huge market and can sign away folks without fear. The compensation was meant to protect teams like the Twins (formerly) and pirates from being a farm system to other teams...

      That said, I still miss JJ Hardy... What a colossal blunder. Wonder if the Orioles would send him back to us for the ghost of Hoey.

      In conclusion, I don't have a huge problem going for him. I think the price needs to drop a bit or get an option or something... I'm not super excited by him either, but as this article shows, there won't be any better options any time soon... other than possibly Hardy next year.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      The more I think about this, the more I like this idea. I really wonder if baseball might not be undervaluing Drew. The crickets surrounding him make me wonder if there are some things we don't know about with him, because I can't believe he hasn't got more interest. He is, seemingly, the whole package - offense, defense, youth - at a very hard position to fill. It makes the 2nd round pick scare seem a bit silly.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Concur with John. Drew seems like such a no brainier, it makes you wonder what you're not seeing.

      Unless there IS something, the Twins should have signed him already.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I vacillate a bit on Drew. I'm not sold on him coming out of Fenway (I have an irrational fear of anyone who hits in that park) but his spray chart indicates that he didn't make much use of the Monster so that's probably a non-issue.

      On the other hand, Pedro Florimon is not a Major League hitter. The Twins have zero above average shortstop prospects in the high minors. If there is one position they can fill via free agency and not have to worry about getting in the way of any youngsters, it's short.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If you are worried about losing a second rounder, just look at all the second round picks by the Twins the last 25 years.......If you think they shouldn't sign him "because they aren't close", then why sign Pelfrey, why even try to get better at all......If you think they should not sign him because it will tie up resources for next year, they lose KC and Willingham off the payroll, they are still WELL below the 50% threshold, and they just got $25MM more EVERY year in national tv money.

      There really isn't a good reason not to sign him. OTOH, if you aren't punting the season again, there are plenty of good reasons to sign him.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Since I'm already on record as favoring a Drew signing, you're preaching to the choir in my case. The draft pick compensation just isn't a big deal to me and it actually probably keeps the competition and price levels down to the point where he should be attractive to the Twins.

      It's such a no-brainer to me that I can't help but feel like the fact that the Twins haven't been linked to him almost makes it more believable that they're still in play for another high-priced FA option like Garza. Knowing Boras isn't at all concerned about waiting for the market to play out, once the remaining top SP free agents are off the board, the Twins would potentially be turning their attention to position player upgrades and if Drew is still out there, maybe they get aggressive on him.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Concur with John. Drew seems like such a no brainier, it makes you wonder what you're not seeing.

      Unless there IS something, the Twins should have signed him already.
      One potential explanation is that the Red Sox are privately acknowledging similar issues with Drew that Arizona had. Namely, being soft and faking injuries. So maybe now there are two organizations lending support to the idea the guy has a bd makeup?
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      If you are worried about losing a second rounder, just look at all the second round picks by the Twins the last 25 years.......If you think they shouldn't sign him "because they aren't close", then why sign Pelfrey, why even try to get better at all......If you think they should not sign him because it will tie up resources for next year, they lose KC and Willingham off the payroll, they are still WELL below the 50% threshold, and they just got $25MM more EVERY year in national tv money.

      There really isn't a good reason not to sign him. OTOH, if you aren't punting the season again, there are plenty of good reasons to sign him.
      There is a good reason not sign him, we just don't know it. I read somewhere Boras may have to market him as a 3B or 2B to get the interest up. WAG's on the Twins possible reasons? We are going to take Trea Turner if he is available. We have our sights on a specific player in the 2nd round, that we are higher on than others. A starting pitcher from Puerto Rico?

      Drew reminds me of a player falling down the draft board, that no one can figure out why. I'm perfectly content to let the Twins handle this one.

      Edit: I didn't see Levi's bad make up suggestion. That sounds feasible.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      59.5%

      That's the percentage of games Drew has played over the last three seasons. I am quite certain that is the number that is scaring teams away.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      The Twins have zero above average shortstop prospects in the high minors..
      Not true. I'd say in the high minors (and on the 40-man roster) Danny Santana is an "above average" prospect and in mid minors Jorge Polanco is a top prospect. Lots of people are high on Goodrum (pun not intended) as well...

      That said, a 3 year contract to Drew will "block" only Florimon, Escobar and Santana. I like to see what Escobar can do. SS is his best defensive position, he is just 24 and I think that his bat will take off this season if given a chance.

      Not sure that Drew is the best investment here. Back to the wRC+ numbers: his career wRC+ is 96. His last 3 seasons his wRC+ was 92, 80 and 109 (average 93.6). In other words, for his career he has been 4% below the average player and 6.4% below the average the last 3 seasons combined. A 3 year contract will buy his age 31, 32 and 33 seasons, that should theoretically be worse than his age 28, 29 and 30 season when we was 6.4% worse than the average hitter.

      One thing that might be encouraging is his splits. He is horrible against LHP. Last season in 167 PA vs LHP he hit .196/.246/.340 with a 10/55 BB/K ratio. If the Twins were to find a platoon player against LHPs, they might be in business. Florimon is worse against LHP, but Escobar is better. Drew mashed RHP in the rate of .284/.377/.498 last season, but a. do you want to pay $3/35M for a platoon player (even though he will take the majority of PAs) and b. (even more importantly) will the manager platoon him, because he should?
    1. goulik's Avatar
      goulik -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      If you are worried about losing a second rounder, just look at all the second round picks by the Twins the last 25 years.......If you think they shouldn't sign him "because they aren't close", then why sign Pelfrey, why even try to get better at all......If you think they should not sign him because it will tie up resources for next year, they lose KC and Willingham off the payroll, they are still WELL below the 50% threshold, and they just got $25MM more EVERY year in national tv money.

      There really isn't a good reason not to sign him. OTOH, if you aren't punting the season again, there are plenty of good reasons to sign him.
      Most teams would be giving up a first round pick which makes it easier for the worst teams like the Twins to go after him because we lose less AND what are the odds on a second rounder?

      Either Drew or that Cuban SS (what's his name? Where's his thread?) needs to be acquired. There are NO shortstops close to pounding on the door in our system as there are at most all other positions. That is why I had Drew in my off season blue print... We need to address SS this year or next!

      (Honesty in conversation, I have also said a winning team can have a poor offensive SS and compared Florimons potential to Gagne but that's only potential IMHO)
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      One potential explanation is that the Red Sox are privately acknowledging similar issues with Drew that Arizona had. Namely, being soft and faking injuries. So maybe now there are two organizations lending support to the idea the guy has a bd makeup?
      This is what puts me in the minority, if he's faking it's bad, but if he's not faking, it doesn't make it much better, he's still missing a boatload of games. I'm not a big Drew supporter, I'd take a shot on a one year deal, but considering he hasn't played 130 games since 2010 I think it's unlikely he does it regularly over the next three years. I'm also pretty concerned about his career high SO% at his age 30 season which was preceeded by his 2nd highest SO% season the year before. The limited number of games he plays combined with the increasing strikeout numbers have the look of an accelerated decline.

      These kind of guys seem to end up platooning very quickly. Speaking of platoons, check out his .196/.246/.340 slash against lefties last year. I'm not excited about giving a guy multiple years at $10 million per to share time with Pedro Florimon.
    1. kirbyelway's Avatar
      kirbyelway -
      I don't understand the fascination with Drew, the guy can't stay healthy. He has bad wheels and the grind of the shortstop position just makes him a bad signing waiting to happen. Defensively and as your 9 hole hitter Florimon or Escobar are fine.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      I don't dislike Drew, and if the Twins sign him, I'll be cool with it. That said, if he does sign, I think he has the potential to become one of the more unpopular players in recent history. He misses a lot of time, he often looks disinterested and he is very inconsistent. He's just as likely to hit .220/.310/.350 next year as he is to hit .255/.333/.440. Those are his last two seasons and while he was injured for some of the poor season, that kind of proves my point too.

      I'm with Thrylos, I'd prefer Escobar next season, although I'm not sure that's a real option. The Twins seem to be pretty fine with Florimon.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      What, faking injuries?

      Drew's injuries, ordered by days on DL.

      Date On Date Off Transaction Days Games Side Body Part Injury
      3/26/2012 6/27/2012 15-DL 93 73 Right Ankle Recovery From Surgery
      7/21/2011 10/8/2011 60-DL 79 64 Right Ankle Surgery
      6/28/2013 7/20/2013 15-DL 22 17 Right Thigh Strain
      3/8/2013 3/27/2013 Camp 19 0 - Head Concussion
      4/24/2009 5/12/2009 15-DL 18 18 Left Thigh Strain
      3/27/2013 4/10/2013 7-DL 14 7 - Head Recovery From Concussion
      6/15/2005 6/29/2005 Minors 14 0 Right Thigh Strain
      3/22/2011 3/31/2011 Camp 9 0 Strain
      3/21/2009 3/29/2009 Camp 8 0 Abdomen Strain
      3/31/2011 4/4/2011 DTD 4 2 Abdomen Recovery From Strain
      4/5/2011 4/8/2011 DTD 3 2 Abdomen Soreness
      3/17/2011 3/20/2011 Camp 3 0 Abdomen Strain
      5/18/2013 5/20/2013 DTD 2 2 - Low Back Soreness

      The two biggies are the ankle injury and ensuing recovery. Closely followed by a concussion. Not sure how you fake either of those.

      The right thigh strain could be worrisome I guess, maybe it could aggravate the ankle if Drew has to compensate for it. I'm reaching here.

      By comparison, here's Michael Cuddyer's injury history.

      Date On Date Off Transaction Days Games Side Body Part Injury Severity
      6/28/2008 9/13/2008 60-DL 77 66 Left Fingers Strain Index Finger
      8/19/2012 10/4/2012 15-DL 46 44 Right Abdomen Strain Oblique
      4/4/2008 4/25/2008 15-DL 21 18 Right Fingers Dislocation Index Finger
      5/9/2013 5/24/2013 15-DL 15 14 - Neck Cartilage Injury Herniated Disc
      8/1/2012 8/16/2012 15-DL 15 14 Right Abdomen Strain Oblique
      7/19/2007 8/3/2007 15-DL 15 13 Right Thumb Sprain Thumb
      6/30/2005 7/17/2005 15-DL 17 13 Left Hand Contusion
      8/11/2011 8/22/2011 DTD 11 9 - Neck Cartilage Injury Felt Pop Swinging Bat Disc Injury
      9/3/2005 9/11/2005 DTD 8 7 Trunk Strain Rib Cage
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Not true. I'd say in the high minors (and on the 40-man roster) Danny Santana is an "above average" prospect and in mid minors Jorge Polanco is a top prospect. Lots of people are high on Goodrum (pun not intended) as well...

      That said, a 3 year contract to Drew will "block" only Florimon, Escobar and Santana. I like to see what Escobar can do. SS is his best defensive position, he is just 24 and I think that his bat will take off this season if given a chance.

      Not sure that Drew is the best investment here. Back to the wRC+ numbers: his career wRC+ is 96. His last 3 seasons his wRC+ was 92, 80 and 109 (average 93.6). In other words, for his career he has been 4% below the average player and 6.4% below the average the last 3 seasons combined. A 3 year contract will buy his age 31, 32 and 33 seasons, that should theoretically be worse than his age 28, 29 and 30 season when we was 6.4% worse than the average hitter.

      One thing that might be encouraging is his splits. He is horrible against LHP. Last season in 167 PA vs LHP he hit .196/.246/.340 with a 10/55 BB/K ratio. If the Twins were to find a platoon player against LHPs, they might be in business. Florimon is worse against LHP, but Escobar is better. Drew mashed RHP in the rate of .284/.377/.498 last season, but a. do you want to pay $3/35M for a platoon player (even though he will take the majority of PAs) and b. (even more importantly) will the manager platoon him, because he should?
      Molitor said Santana was two years away at the end of 2013. Polanco is more of a second base prospect than a shortstop. Goodrum might become something, but he is still quite raw and three years seems his reasonable landing time. Drew would not block any of these guys.

      My chief concern with Drew is health. Perhaps they hang onto Escobar and Florimon just in case, or hope that Bartlett can be a reasonable stop gap in case of injury. But it all hinges on teh cost. You just hate having salary tied up in injured players.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      I'm not big into projections, but mlbtraderumors did an article on Drew a while back and they cited projections that were not at all kind. I just do not believe a multi-year contract for this guy at more than $10M per year will come close to paying off. The draft choice is another pebble in the landslide as far as I'm concerned.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Not true. I'd say in the high minors (and on the 40-man roster) Danny Santana is an "above average" prospect and in mid minors Jorge Polanco is a top prospect. Lots of people are high on Goodrum (pun not intended) as well...
      Eh, I think the fuss over Santana is due to the lack of decent SS prospects in the Twins organization, not any inherent talent in Santana himself.

      The guy hasn't OPSed over .739 in five years. He doesn't have good plate discipline. He doesn't hit for a high average. He doesn't have particularly good power. He's a prospect on the level of Brian Dozier pre-2011, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

      In other words, he's the type of guy that pleasantly surprises you if he breaks out. He's not the type of player you think about when building your MLB roster.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      If Sano continues to have arm problems Drew could be a good backup option at 3rd too should the Twins get tired of Plouffe not hitting should Plouffe continue to hit .700 OPS or less.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      What, faking injuries?
      I'm not sure why we saw a comparison to Cuddyer or a list of his injuries. Those are irrelevant to what you are responding to. Here is a quote from Drew's past owner in Arizona:

      You know, I'm going to be real direct about Stephen. I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now. And, frankly, I for one am disappointed.I'm going to be real candid and say I think Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than going out and supporting the team that's paying his salary.
      All you can do is hope that the player is treating the situation with integrity, and, frankly, we have our concerns.
      I was simply suggesting that if we are looking for a mystery roadblock to team interest, that a second team saying the same thing behind closed doors might explain a lot.
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