ESPN’s Buster Olney checked in with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday from the MLB winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to discuss baseball’s offeseason.
Stephen Drew remains unsigned after turning down the Red Sox’ one-year qualifying offer. Olney said it appears unlikely that the Yankees or Mets, both rumored to be interested, will be willing to pay his asking price.
“Flat-out from people within the Yankees organization in the last 24 hours, they are not on Stephen Drew,” Olney said. “There’s been a lot thrown out there that they’re on Stephen Drew. I’m being told they’re not on him. They’ve got Derek Jeter. They have to play out. … You look at it from Drew’s perspective: Does he want to go into a situation where he doesn’t know if he’s going to be the shortstop, are they going to try to put him at second base? And on top of that, I don’t think the Yankees are that enthusiastic about him.
“The Mets — I don’t think they’re that enthusiastic about him. Yeah, they have a need, but would it be enough where they were going to pay him something that would be attractive for a player who turned down a one-year, $14.1 million deal? If the Mets are going to sign him, it would have to be, I would assume, 20 to 30 million dollars. I don’t think their enthusiasm goes to that level.
“The great unknown in this whole conversation with all free agents is: What’s in the medicals? Stephen Drew’s coming back from an ankle injury [in 2012]. We don’t know exactly what’s in there. But I can tell you, talking with teams around baseball, there doesn’t seem to be a market for Stephen Drew. And the expectation among rival officials is that eventually he’ll go back to the Red Sox and make his best deal.”
Teams also would have to surrender a draft pick if they sign Drew.
Said Olney: “It’s one thing to sign Robinson Cano and give up a draft pick, Jacoby Ellsbury — those are elite players. Stephen Drew is not regarded as an elite player.”
Ultimately, Olney said agent Scott Boras might not have the market he claimed existed for Drew, and he guesses that the shortstop will end up back in Boston on a two-year deal worth between $20 million and $25 million.
“I’m sitting hear reading the market based on what I’m hearing from executives, and I think he’s in trouble. And I think he will go crawling back to the Red Sox,” Olney said. “We’ll see. Who knows? An injury could change things. Somebody gets hurt during a winter workout [could] change things.”
The Dodgers are said to be dangling outfielder Matt Kemp, but concerns about his health appear to be scaring off teams, including the Red Sox.
“The Dodgers are communicating to other teams, ‘We will eat money to make a Kemp trade or an [Andre] Ethier trade. Just give us back a decent prospect.’ So they’re willing to eat a ton of money, they just want a decent prospect in return. At sunken cost, they want to augment their farm system. So that will facilitate that trade,” Olney said.
“However, in Matt Kemp’s case, what I’m hearing from a lot of teams is, multiple ankle surgeries, he’s in a walking boot now, he’s had shoulder issues in the past, he’s owed $128 million, what is he? What is his value? No one can really define him. That’s why I think his situation will drag out longer, as teams wait to see how he looks in spring training.
“Andre Ethier can be defined right now. And that’s why I think he’ll be the more likely guy to be traded. He’s healthy, he’s owed less money — $71 1/2 million.”
Added Olney of the Dodgers’ mindset: “When that ownership group brought that team, it was just grab as much talent as possible. Now they’re into more refining that team they have on the field. The bottom line is that Matt Kemp is not a pure center fielder. They want to get a pure center fielder. They’ve got one in Jack Peterson in the minor leagues. I think they would like to clear the decks to put in a pure center fielder.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.
On what grade he would give the Red Sox for their offseason so far: “A-minus, because I think staying disciplined is such an important thing now. In recent years, how much have we lauded the Cardinals for swing no to Albert Pujols. How much did we laud the Red Sox for making that massive trade. I think to be able to do that even incrementally is really important, because it leaves you fluid to do other things down the road. …
“I think the Red Sox have done a great job holding off on [getting caught up in the post-World Series emotion and overpaying to keep players]. Now, next summer, if they’re looking for a leadoff hitter next season and Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn’t established himself in center field, they’ll at least be able to go out and do other things because they didn’t go crazy out on a limb this winter.”
On the Yankees: “The $189 million [budget] figure, as Brian Cashman said to me yesterday, their general manager, is a goal. It’s a target. … Right now when they’re looking for help, I think most of their conversations are about trades, which means they’re trying to work within those parameters. But if push comes to shove, at the end of the winter, if they need help and it’s out there financially where they’re going to have to spend to get it, I think they will.
“Part of their conversation with Robinson Cano about his value to the team was, when he was saying he’s a brand, he’s a star, was, ‘We had you center stage last year and our ratings plummeted in television, our attendance went down.’ They’re cognizant of what an important year this is for them. Their brand is built around winning, and they’re going to do everything they can this winter to win again.”
On the Mariners: “They’re going to do more. I wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago where general managers were looking at them and saying they’re the sleeping giant in baseball, because they have this great TV contract that’s going to net them a lot of money. Going into the Cano negotiations, their number of dollar obligations beyond Felix Hernandez in 2014 and beyond: zero. So they literally had this payroll to fill, and that’s why other GMs were saying they should be the team to sign Robinson Cano, which they did.
“I think they’re in heavy on Nelson Cruz, they’re looking for a right-handed hitter to help balance out Robinson Cano. The rest of their team, you might disagree with me, a lot of complementary-type players. … Maybe by the end of the winter — and this is just me speculating — maybe they wind up with Cano, Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Fernando Rodney. And you put that with the guys they have, that’s not a bad team. Do I think they’re good enough? No. Do I think they’re crazy, giving [Cano] a $240 million contract? Absolutely.”
On the Orioles: “The Orioles are a mess, because they have not expanded their payroll. You saw the beginning of that last week when they dumped Jim Johnson, their closer; they’re looking for a lesser guy there. They’re in conversations with a lot of players, but they’re a lot of cheap players. I think that has the possibility in Baltimore of festering back into what we’ve seen over the last 15 years.”