Stephen Drew Not The Answer For The Red Sox

Stephen Drew

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has reported that the Boston Red Sox have signed shortstop Stephen Drew for the rest of the 2014 season. Heyman is reporting that the deal is for around $10 million. It is the same deal as the $14.1 million qualifying offer Drew declined last offseason pro-rated for the remaining games this season.

Stephen Drew returns to the Red Sox, the team he won a World Series with last season. He hit .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs in 2013. Drew also provided excellent defense, something that the Red Sox have not had in 2014.

Drew finished with the second-best fielding percentage among shortstops in the American League last year at .984. This year’s starting shortstop Xander Bogaerts currently ranks fifth in the league with a .974 fielding percentage. Bogaerts also leads the Red Sox in errors with four.

Not only will Stephen Drew help the Red Sox defensively, he could also help offensively as well. Last season, he hit .284 with nine home runs and 48 RBI against right-handed pitching. In 2014, the Red Sox are only hitting .240 against righties. 

Despite everything I wrote above, I’m not a big fan of this signing for many reasons. The first of which is that it doesn’t solve any of the team’s long-term issues at third base and shortstop

Boston signed Drew for rest of the 2014 season. So once the season is over, the Red Sox will be in the same situation as it was last offseason.

I know third baseman Will Middlebrooks, (who’s currently on the disabled list) has struggled at the plate so far this season and the Sox needed to make a move. I just don’t believe this move makes much sense for the future.

It is widely believed that the Red Sox are going to move Bogaerts to third base. When I attended Spring Training, players and coaches were all saying Bogaerts was their guy and they didn’t have any intentions on re-signing Drew. Despite their public confidence in Bogaerts, the Red Sox have given up on him playing shortstop, almost two months into the season.

I don’t know what fans and coaches expected. This is Bogaerts first full season in the majors, so of course he’s going to make mistakes. Signing Stephen Drew doesn’t help Bogaerts develop at shortstop in the long-term. At some point, you have to let Bogaerts play and then evaluate if he’s your long-term solution at shortstop.

If I thought the Stephen Drew signing was the move that would help the Red Sox regain their magic from 2013, then I would be thrilled. Yes he will improve the team defensively, but the Red Sox have a lot of other issues.

The Red Sox starting pitching has a 4.20 ERA, ranking them 11th in the American League. David Ortiz is the only real power-hitter in the lineup. Boston is only hitting .240 with runners in scoring position.

Drew is a nice signing, but he is not going to make a huge impact on this team. At 20-23, the Red Sox can still win the AL East, but this team has a lot of work to do if they want to repeat as World Series Champions. 

Pop Quiz: Red Sox Shortstop

Red Sox shortstop

John Farrell mulls the answers to my pop quiz

Let me first say that I love John Farrell and his no-BS, team-first style. That said it seems to me that he would have done exceptionally poorly on the following pop quiz. See how your answers stack up:

1. Which is a better batting average, .223 or .449?

2. Is it better to strike out 58 times in 184 at-bats, or 13 times in 71 at-bats?

3. You have a choice between a good defender and an amazing defender. Who do you pick?

4. Should the money on a guy’s contract affect whether you play him or not, or should you put your best team on the field every day?

5. If you have a prospect that’s finally showing the skills you’ve been asking for, is it better to give him consistent playing time on a daily basis, or to defer to an aging veteran with a knack for striking out in the clutch?

6. Who should be the Red Sox shortstop: Stephen “Stephanie” Drew, or Jose Iglesias?

Every game that Stephen Drew takes the field instead of Jose Iglesias is a game the Sox are not trying their best to win. It’s abundantly clear at this point that Jose Iglesias is the better of the two players, both defensively and offensively. Even if Drew picks it up at the plate and Iglesias cools off (both are probably inevitable), you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that Drew (.190 against lefties) is the better hitter; most of his home runs have come late in blowouts with nothing on the line. Even if Drew does prove to be a marginally better hitter, which I doubt, Iglesias’s defensive contributions more than outweigh that.

I don’t hate Stephen Drew; he’s a passable shortstop. But Jose Iglesias is more than a passable shortstop; Farrell owes it to the team to play him every day, and the team owes it to Iglesias to give him the playing time he’s earned. Right now, the only thing keeping Drew on the field is his $9.5 mil contract, and last I checked, a contract doesn’t help your batting average too much. The Sox should trade Drew for a utility guy so that he doesn’t complain in the clubhouse about playing time, because if the Sox (best record in the AL, second-best in the bigs) are serious about playing for October, it’s clear who should be Dustin Pedroia’s double play partner.

Jose Iglesias: Nothing More to Prove

Jose Iglesias

All glove, no bat; it’s a common, but often career-threatening classification for a middle infielder. With some basic athleticism, you can learn to field; with practice, you will inevitably improve, and many do. But practice alone isn’t enough to help you hit major league pitching; there’s something about hitting that you either have or you don’t. The result is a bunch of guys who are all glove, no bat.

That’s what we all thought of Jose Iglesias, and for a while, he didn’t do too much to prove us wrong. But Iglesias’s glove, the fielding ability that earned him the nickname “Silk Hands” (Best nickname ever? Maybe), was so spectacular that the Red Sox were forced to be optimistic about his development at the plate. They never claimed he’d be a good hitter; they just assured us that he’d be a passable hitter. When that’s all the ever-sanguine front office can muster, it’s pretty clear that a prospect doesn’t have too much of a future at the plate. Iglesias did little to disprove this when he hit a miserable .118 in 68 at-bats with the Sox last year. He looked overmatched by major-league fastballs, wasn’t disciplined, and had no pop. All glove, no bat and that wasn’t going to fly. The Sox wanted Iglesias at short, but he had to hit.

So he did. I’m not sure what switch he flicked, but Jose Iglesias has become a hitter. It’s not steroids – steroids help guys who can already hit the ball hit it harder. Iglesias went from looking lost at the plate to being a mature major league hitter. The .118 batting average? He’s at .446 with a 13 – game hit streak. Overmatched and without discipline? Iglesias has struck out twice in his last 10 games while walking five times and roping 17 hits. No pop? He has a homer (off Hiroki Kuroda, no less) and seven doubles in 6 more at-bats than it took him to hit a homer and two doubles last season. Ok, a career .257 minor-league hitter probably isn’t going to hit .450 for the rest of his time in the bigs. But even if Iglesias has to come back to earth, he’s not going to fall back to where he was. The one-time all glove, no bat shortstop is demonstrating abilities at the plate that he just didn’t have before. His swing has become a pretty, compact stroke that helps him catch up to inside pitches instead of popping them up; he’s hitting .536 off lefties. He approaches each at bat with grit, fouling off tough pitches and refusing to chase. Iglesias is going to cool off, but when he does, with his newfound tools, he’s going to be a much better than before – dare I say it, maybe even a good hitter.

And yet he’s not our starting shortstop. He has amassed this amazing stretch while playing third (and playing it brilliantly), but when Will Middlebrooks returns from the disabled list, Jose won’t have a spot in the starting lineup. John Farrell will get him some at-bats, bless his heart, but if the Sox are serious about making a run at their first playoff appearance in 4 years, shortstop should be Silk Hands’ to lose. Play Stephanie Drew at utility, trade him, whatever – Iglesias needs to play every day, because now, not only can he do this

Jose Iglesias

…but also this.

Jose Iglesias

 It would be a shame to miss out on both, because he’s got nothing more to prove.

Drew vs. Iglesias: Who Will Prevail?

Jose Iglesias

Courtesy of bostonglobe.com

The Red Sox shortstop situation remains the one question mark as we head into May. The team sent a message to Jose Iglesias, Stephen Drew, and the rest of the organization when the front office sent Iglesias back to Pawtucket the instant both doctors and Stephen Drew deemed himself ready.

Drew’s play on the field, however, leaves the question mark on the proverbial page. His measly .146 average and .250 slugging percentage will rise, but by how much? His highest average of the last three years was .252 in 2011. For Drew at the plate, his effectiveness stems from his power. From 2006 to 2010 with the Arizona Diomandbacks, Drew’s lowest slugging percentage was .370 in 2007, while recording a slugging percentage of more than .500 twice (2006 and 2008). Prior to his gruesome ankle injury in 2011, Drew was consistently one of the most powerfully hitting shortstops in the game.

Post ankle injury, however, Drew has yet to display the same power. The closest he has come were in his 39 games with Oakland last season, in which he posted a .382 slugging percentage. The most troubling pattern of Drew’s has been his strikeout to walk ratio. In 2012 he walked 37 times while striking out 76 times. So far this season he has 8 walks and has struck out 16 times.

Drew counterpart Jose Iglesias has not fared much better. Since being sent to Pawtucket, Iglesias has walked just three times while striking out eleven times. He has homered three times already, three more than Drew this season. But until this year, Iglesias had yet to record a season with more than one homerun, so time will tell if this new power surge is trend or truth.

The perceived difference lies in their fielding abilities. Scouts compare Iglesias’ range, glove skills, and intangibles to the likes of Omar Vizquel, and former Red Sox shortstops Alex Gonzalez and Orlando Cabrera. But Drew, thus far, has closed the gap enough to at least warrant time to right his ship at the plate.

Where Iglesias has made three errors this year at Pawtucket, Drew has made just one error with Boston. According to baseballreference.com, Drew, so far this season, is worth three runs above the average shortstop in the field. That puts him on pace for a +24-run rating over the average MLB shortstop for the season. These numbers, of course, stem from a 15-game sample size. Drew has not played in more than 100 games since the 2010 season. Time will tell for Drew and Iglesias: what is truth and what is trend? We will know what the Red Sox think come the July 31 trade deadline.

Jose Iglesias Takes to the Spotlight, but is He Ready?

Jose Iglesias

In two games, Iglesias has five hits in nine at-bats.
Photo by Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Jose Iglesias and Dustin Pedroia have been working alongside one another since the beginning of the off season.  Stephen Drew signed a 9.5 million dollar contract despite his injury in spring training.  Is Jose Iglesias ready to take to the big league or does he still have much to work on?  In an interview by Jose McDonald, ESPN Boston, Pedroia states Iglesias has a lot to work on to move up to the big leagues.  He still has room for vast improvement and being down in Triple A Pawtucket will allow for time to do just that.  Or will it? Due to Iglesia’s confidence level being up in the majors for the first two victories of the season, the question stands, will being sent back to the minors disprove his worth or will it truly be an encouragement to work harder for 2014?

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I know what I got to do — move runners and be on base. I have my confidence back and that’s a good thing.”
That’s just it, he now has his confidence. Now what? Does he lose it if he has to go back to Pawtucket? Does he lose his momentum and rhythm?

Despite Thursday night’s loss to the Yankees, the Sox remain on top with a 2-1 victory for the series and both Jose Iglesias and Jackie Bradley Jr. have a lot to do with it.  Jose Iglesias, for instance, proved his worth when in the three game series in New York this past week he claimed a total of five hits in nine at bats. In the 25 games in spring training, Iglesias had nine RBI’s, and hit .294. For a 22 year old rookie that’s superb! Then why is he potentially returning to Triple A Pawtucket?

You don’t sacrifice years of a star for the sake of rushing a prospect.

Stephen Drew, despite his injury, is an all-star veteran who signed a 9.5 million dollar contract for the Red Sox this season.  John Farrell knows what he is doing.  He is confident that Drew will overcome his concussion and be back on the field as the Red Sox take to Fenway on Monday, April 8.  Although there are questions about whether or not Iglesias can stay on target and if they should keep him on the bench where he is idle, or send him back to the minors where he can work to improve, Farrell and others like Dustin Pedroia agree Drew cannot and will not lose his job over an injury, and he will be starting come April 8, after his trip to Portland, Maine.

It is a predicament for Iglesias, for he is trying incredibly hard to be a part of something bigger than he is.  He wants so bad to help a struggling team to get themselves back on their feet and make it to the playoffs. What is your take on the situation? Does he go to Triple A or should he continue to endure the opportunity to fight?

Boston Red Sox Shortstop Update

Red Sox

Courtesy of boston.cbslocal.com

Stephen Drew will officially start the season on the seven-day Concussion Disabled List. He will be eligible to play by April 3rd, but the Sox are not counting on it.

So, it’s a two-man battle for the starting shortstop job.

On the one hand we have Jose Iglesias, the next Orlando Cabrera, the next Alex Gonzalez, the only two World Series champion shortstops in modern Red Sox history. They say Iglesias could be better than both of them in the field already. They say defense wins championships.

On the other hand we have Pedro Ciriaco, the slasher, the rise-to-the-moment guy, the Yankee killer.

At the plate, Ciriaco is ahead of Iglesias. This spring he is batting .371 to Iglesias’ .292. Last season Ciriaco hit .293 with a penchant for clutch hitting, especially against the Yankees, but he does not walk. Literally. He has not walked once this entire spring. Scouts will start compiling data on Ciriaco, and if he were to play everyday, I would not be surprised if we saw a few brutal slumps from him.

He is the perfect pinch hitter, though. He lives for the big moment. You can see it in his stance when he has a chance to change the game with a hit. You don’t send a pinch hitter up to take pitches and to walk. You send him up there to rip one down the line. You need a slasher, a guy whose confidence increases where others might grow anxious. That’s exactly what Ciriaco brings to the locker room.

He also has more defensive versatility than Iglesias. He can play third, and second too, when Pedroia or Middlebrooks needs a day off. And we know he never lets an opportunity go to waste—he capitalizes on his starting opportunities.

So, expect Iglesias to be the opening day shortstop and expect to see Ciriaco in the on-deck circle in the eighth inning. If the Sox make the playoffs this season, Ciriaco and Iglesias will be two of the pillars to that success, just in different ways.