Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic, in an interview on WEEI's Red Sox Hot Stove show, discussed the Red Sox' recent acquisition of shortstop Stephen Drew, who agreed with the team on a one-year, $9.5 million deal for the 2013 season. Piecoro said that he was a bit surprised at the dollars the Sox conferred upon Drew -- who was a first-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2004 and played with them until being traded to the Athletics in August -- but that ultimately, he believes the move is a strong one for the Sox.
"It’s a little higher than I thought," said Piecoro, who suggested that at the start of the offseason he might have expected Drew to receive a deal for roughly $6 million or $7 million a year. "I thought that was a little steep, but nine and a half [million dollars] isn’t what it used to be. I think that it’s a good gamble for the Red Sox."
Piecoro said that Drew never had "a full six months of terrific performance," but that Diamondbacks officials would often remark that they were surprised -- based on the way he was hitting -- that his numbers weren't better than they actually were. Based on his skill set as a shortstop capable of playing average defense while being an above-average hitter, he viewed him as one of the better players at the position in baseball, and suggested that, pre-injury, Drew might have been in line for a considerable free agent contract.
"I always had him somewhere in the top five, maybe top eight shortstops in the game at any given time, even when he was in his so-called down years," said Piecoro. "He takes good at-bats. He always seems to swing at the right pitches. He always gives you the quote-unquote professional at-bat. Even when he’s making outs – it didn’t matter who the GM was, it didn’t matter who the manager was – guys were always like, ‘Man, I’m surprised he’s not having a better year, that his numbers aren’t better than what they are.’ It always felt like he was hitting line drives, like he was hitting the ball at people.
"I always thought he was going to be in line for something along the lines of a four- or five-year deal for maybe $15 million a year. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was five [years] and 75 [million dollars], just because of how hard it is to find a shortstop and how infrequently guys like that hit the open market. And it just always seems like the big market teams are typically in need of that kind of a guy. Even though he never really put together the season or wasn’t the most consistent, there were flashes of that tremendous performance that would make you kind of dream and think, ‘If he were to sustain this for six months, he’d make this much money -- and even if he doesn’t, and even if he’s the guy he’s always been, given how hard it is to [find a shortstop], he’s still going to make that much money.’"
Drew hit just .223 with a .309 OBP, .348 slugging mark and .657 OPS in 79 games last year after returning from a fractured ankle. Still, Piecoro noted that the shortstop had the best line drive rate of his career, and suggested that the numbers weren't an accurate representation of his talent.
"You watch him and you don’t think his numbers should be as bad as they were," said Piecoro. "I think he’s going to be a lot better. You watch him play, you watch his at-bats, from what I saw last year, there’s no reason to think he’s no longer capable of being a good player."
Piecoro also touched on a couple of additional topics.
On the seemingly perpetual rumor mill in which Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton finds himself: "I’ve always thought they’d be kind of nuts to trade him in the first place. I’ve never really understood why his name is out there and what their eagerness is in trying to trade him, but it does seem like it’s there. There must be some motivation from the Diamondbacks perspective to unload him," he said. "Given how motivated they seemingly are to get something of value for him, at any point, I wouldn’t be surprised if a trade happened."
On whether the Diamondbacks might have had interest in Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias before acquiring defensively minded shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Reds in a three-way trade: "The times that I would bounce Iglesias’ name off of [Diamondbacks officials], I’m not sure they were sold that he could hit. That’s kind of been his rep ever since he signed out of Cuba. ... People say that about Gregorius, too," said Piecoro. "[Kevin Towers] saw Gregorius a lot in the [Arizona] Fall League. I think he was absolutely convinced that there’s more offensive potential in there with the bat. The people I’ve talked to with the Diamondbacks, I don’t feel like they feel that way about Iglesias."