Stephen Drew – we all know him, and we all love to hate him.
There are any number of reasons fans can list for why the hate him – he’s blocking prospects, he’s an automatic out in the lineup, the money used to sign him could have been better spent, etc.
We had a similar frustration at 2B when Brian Roberts (former Oriole, former respectable second baseman) signed with the Yankees as a free agent.
Roberts played 91 games for the Yankees in 2014. As of today, Drew has played 92 games for the Yankees between 2014-2015. At this point, I feel it’s fair to compare one disaster to the other – even if Drew’s role has been much more variable than Roberts’ was.
First, there’s the money.
Roberts became a free agent after the Orioles decided not to sign him after the 2013 season (that probably should have been a warning sign). For the 2014 season, Roberts agreed to a one-year deal worth $2 million (up to $4.6 million) with the Yankees. He only made it through 91 games and was released on August 9. In October, he announced his retirement from MLB.
Drew signed a one-year deal worth $10 million with the Red Sox, which the Yankees inherited when they traded Kelly Johnson to Boston in exchange for Drew. Prior to this season, the Yankees re-signed Drew to a one-year $5 million deal.
Verdict: Even if Roberts didn’t make it through an entire season (or even 100 games), I still think he carried less financial risk. A contract worth $2 million – or even $4.6 million if he had met the requirements to earn the full amount – is pocket change for most MLB teams, especially the Yankees. At $2 million, you can afford to drop a liability in August.
Next, there’s the offense.
In a 14 year career, Roberts played in 1,418 games and posted a lifetime batting average of .276 and an OBP .347. During his season with the Yankees, his stats dipped slightly to a .237 average and .300 OPS.
Drew has played for 10 seasons (so far), appearing in 1,067 games to date, has a career average .253 and OBP of .319. While those numbers are slightly below Roberts’ career average, they are quickly declining. So far in 2015, Drew has a .157 average and .225 OBP. In 2014, Drew posted an average of about .160 (.176 BOS, .150 NYY) and OBP of about .250 (.255 BOS, .219 NYY).
Verdict: It would take great effort to bat worse than Stephen Drew.
Finally, the fielding.
Roberts played all 91 games he was with the Yankees at second base, and in that time committed 10 errors, resulting in a .974 fielding percentage. In his entire career at 2B, Roberts made 81 errors (over 14 years) and ended his career with a .986 fielding percentage.
Drew has only played in 74 games at 2B (all with the Yankees, 2014-2015), with 7 errors and a .973 fielding percentage. For most of his career, Drew was a shortstop – with 84 errors and a .979 fielding percentage in his 10 year career.
It is worth noting that Roberts settled into 2B very early in his career; after his rookie season, he only played shortstop twice. On the other hand, Stephen Drew did not play a single game at 2B until his ninth Major League season. Some consideration must be made to an adjustment late in his career.
Verdict: Very close to a tie and up to debate. Unsurprisingly, Roberts is the better fielder at 2B, but even at their natural positions over the course of their careers, Roberts is still the better fielder.
It’s unfortunate Brian Roberts’ last season was so bad (he knew it, and we knew it too) particularly because he had a good career before that and was a solid part of the Orioles for his entire career. At the same time, I admire Stephen Drew’s effort and willingness to adjust to a new position late in his career, even if it’s been…difficult.
So what is the best option for Stephen Drew at this point? Quite simply, it’s not my decision to make. What I can see from comparing last year and this year is that we’re really not a whole lot better off with Stephen Drew than we were with Brian Roberts – and we willingly signed Drew to play for us again this season.
Do I think Drew has nothing left to offer baseball? Not necessarily – but I don’t think he should be in the starting lineup if his performance continues to be so underwhelming. He is a veteran who has played for several different teams, and I do think his experience can be valuable to younger players. I’m just not sure young players watching his awful batting and decent glove is valuable to their baseball educations.
Final verdict: Stephen Drew’s contract is not a total disaster, but it’s definitely not the long term solution. While he’s disappointing to watch, I think Drew can play a decent enough second base to get through the season. At this point, the Yankees need to seriously think about the future at second base and decide who will be standing there. One thing’s for sure – barring some miracle this season, Stephen Drew should not be a Yankee in 2016.