Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mulling over the Stephen Drew signing

I have kept quiet the last few days (even on Twitter) concerning the signing of Stephen Drew by the Boston Red Sox to shore up the left side of the infield. I wanted to get past my initial emotional reactions to deal with the signing in a rational way. What I have found is that my initial emotional reactions were based on rational thinking. This still feels like a panic signing.
The Red Sox were really the only team that could sign Drew before the draft day as doing so did not cost them the draft pick it would have cost every other team. And one of the reasons this feels like a panic signing is that the Red Sox did not get any kind of discount on Drew. The $10 million he is getting is an exact amount of the $14 million qualifying offer minus the time missed so far this season. Nobody else wanted Drew under those terms so it would have seemed like the Red Sox overpaid.
But let's examine the need for a moment. While I will agree that third base has been a disaster thus far for the Red Sox I am disappointed because I really felt like they had a viable option in Garin Cecchini. I have seen the guy play personally (in Portland) and love everything about him. He is and will be a Wade Boggs. He is that good an offensive player. And the knock on Boggs at first was his defense.
But Cecchini has the same kind of drive to become a good third baseman that Wade Boggs had. Boggs worked tirelessly at becoming one and he did. All reports are that Cecchini had the same kind of work ethic to become a good fielder. I believe Cecchini will be a better offensive player than Drew is and has been.
Even if it's not Cecchini, Brock Holt has been doing just fine too. He is hitting well and his fielding stats are conflicting. His errors have come at bad times and has made him look like a problem at third. But he is better than Middlebrooks there and could have settled into the position quite well.
To me, this is a question of Drew versus Cecchini and/or Holt and not Drew versus Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts is going to play. He's just going to move to third base again where he played well last season. The feeling I get from all the Red Sox twitterazzi was that Bogaerts was a huge disappointment this season in both the field and at the plate. I don't see it.
Let's start with the offense. I guess the disappointment comes from Bogaerts now showing the power that people thought he was going to develop as seen in the post season last year. The guy was on fire in the post season. There is no doubt the expectations were high. But other than the low .118 ISO, Bogaerts has shown good progress at the plate.
Xander Bogaerts' walk rate is up which has pushed his OBP way up. His strikeout rate is down. His wOBA sits at a healthy .353 and his 120 wRC+ is just fine for a 21-year-old kid in his first big league season. If anything, he has been under-utilized in the lower part of the Red Sox batting order.
The problems the Red Sox are having on offense should not point to Bogaerts. And it has been unfair to lump him in the same category as Jackie Bradley, Jr., which I have heard over and over. Bradley IS struggling at the plate. Bogaerts is not.
Xander Bogaerts is the Red Sox future at short. Yes, they have another great prospect in the minors at the position, but Bogaerts has been tested. As mentioned, he is 21 and the time to settle him into a position he will handle long term, that growth period will again be delayed by pushing him again over to third.
Drew adds a win over Bogaerts with his glove IF he plays short as well as he did last season. Is a win going to reverse the Red Sox tough start? I don't see one win making that much difference. Drew's offense was worth only 3.4 runs last season. That is hardly as good as his offense has been made out to be. And will he even match last year's numbers after sitting out two months of the season?
The Red Sox's bad start has a lot of causes. The starting pitching is one. Perhaps a bit of a World Series hangover is another. Farrell's over-reliance on emotional attachments like Jonny Gomes is another. Losing Jacoby Ellsbury and not getting anything from his replacements is another.
To me, too much emphasis has been placed at the left side of the infield, which includes Xander Bogaerts. Yes, third base has been a problem. But the Red Sox had internal options and Bogaerts has not been nearly as bad as he has been painted. In fact, it seems that his growth as a player is right where it needs to be for a 21-year-old.
The Stephen Drew signing seems like a panic move to me and is trying to capture some magic that only happens a few times in a team's history. If the Red Sox salvage this season, it will be because the pitching straightens out and the team starts getting some production in the outfield.

1 comment:

M.C. Antil said...

Very insightful and, for a Red Sox fan, refreshingly level-headed assessment of the situation. I'm with you on Cecchini's upside and the eerie parallels, both offensively and mentally, to Boggs at this point in their respective careers.

It was a curious signing at best, not only giving up a first round draft pick for a pro-rated amount of dubious help on a ship already perhaps leaking beyond repair, but doing it at the expense of some valuable player development time and the long-term strength and integrity of the organizational pipeline the front office has worked so hard to build.