The Red Sox should make their move on Stephen Drew (whatever that move might be).
It might not work out, but it will be worth a try. At this point, they need to try something.
An industry source tells WEEI.com the Red Sox are exploring multiple options when it comes to upgrading the left side of the infield, including calling around to investigate potential trades. And while there hasn't been any active engagement between the Sox and Drew's agent, Scott Boras, the thought of revisiting the services of the veteran shortstop has at least crossed the club's mind.
But there might be a fly in the ointment. Some executives believe Boras may be thinking the leverage has switched back over to Drew, with the date when teams won't have to surrender a draft pick to sign the shortstop residing just three weeks away. Whether or not that's true remains to be seen. (One potential interested team, the Mets, just got rid of their closer to save less than $1 million, while other candidates, such as Detroit, are not ready to commit to the kind of multi-year proposition Boras might be looking for.)
A case could be made that Boras should at least listen to what the Red Sox might be willing to offer considering it could mean as much as an entire month more of big league action/money for Drew.
This sort of move is not going to solve all of this team's problems by any stretch. And if Boras is looking for anything more than a one-year deal more than what the prorated sum of the already extended $14.1 million qualifying offer might come out to, the Red Sox shouldn't bother.
What it would be is a much-needed step in the right direction.
Offseason. Spring training. April. Even May. It was understandable that the Sox would ride out what they had. Living through the ups and downs of Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks on the left side of the infield seemed palatable considering the cast surrounding the pair. And each had shown something -- even as late as early May -- that a case could be made that Drew represented nothing more than a luxury item.
But listen to the words of Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington on The Bradfo Show podcast and you will be afforded some insight on how the thinking might be taking a turn.
“I think what I’ve said before I would say again, we have to evaluate every situation based on the information we have at that time," Cherington said. "If information changes, then our position may evolve and change along with it. That doesn’t mean we get every decision right; of course we don’t. But every decision we make, every position we take, is based on the information we have at that time. That’s led us to where we are now.
“Right now we know we’re right in the middle of this division. We know there are a lot of strengths on the team. We have a lot of depth, even before the 25-man roster, that we might be able to count on maybe later in the year. We know we have position players that are going to hit more because that’s what they’ve always done. And we know we’ve got an area on the left side of the infield where we’re missing a player, and where we haven’t gotten the total performance that we would like to get at this point in the year. I think what all that means is that we’ll continue to look at the information we have in front of us at the time and try to make decisions accordingly. There is always an interest in improving. The default position is always, let’s see how much we can get internally first, and then consider external alternatives after that."
The information has, indeed, changed.
Middlebrooks' finger (the pointer on his right hand) looks like it's been slammed in a car door. And, even with a healthy Middlebrooks, entering Sunday night the Red Sox' offensive production at the third base position was among the worst in baseball, combining for a .200 batting average and .592 OPS.
Then there is the desperate need for hitting against right-handed pitching. As pointed out by colleague Alex Speier, the Sox are woeful against right-handed pitching. Think about it: They've lost Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Nava, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Drew, off of whom had OPS marks of .863 or better. Only one Red Sox player (David Ortiz) has hit righties with as much success this season.
What is done is done.
At least one Red Sox player had lobbied for the services of Nelson Cruz, who ultimately signed a one-year, $8 million deal with Baltimore and now is carrying a .901 OPS with 11 home runs. Others still bemoan the loss of Ellsbury.
Quite a bit of faith was put in Nava, who had put up a .303 batting average, .385 on-base percentage and .831 OPS on the way to entering 2014 as the projected replacement for Ellsbury at the top of the Red Sox lineup. After playing in 17 games with Boston, he is now putting up similar numbers as a year ago (.275 average, .370 OBP, .805 OPS), albeit with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Jackie Bradley and Bogaerts are playing like complementary players, and A.J. Pierzynski, the catcher who replaced Saltalamacchia, has an OPS of just .656 (21st among regular catchers). And don't forget, the Red Sox were also helped considerably in the early stages of '13 by a guy named Jose Iglesias hitting .431 by the time June rolled around.
At a time of year when it's extremely challenging to find a trade partner, Drew represents a rare late-May opportunity for a lasting upgrade.
Brock Holt adds some energy. And Garin Cecchini might offer some assistance later in the season. (Despite continuing down a positive developmental path, the PawSox third baseman still needs some defensive fine-tuning.) Still, the move to revisit the World Series-winning left side of the infield appears the most solid building block for what has become a teetering tower.
Yes, there would be the issue of moving Bogaerts. When addressing that subject on the podcast Cherington said, "Xander is a really unique guy. He's gifted as a baseball player, but also really a mature, intelligent guy. I think Xander wants to do anything he can to help the team win. We've already seen him play different positions in order to do that. What we've seen from Xander this year is, here's a young guy who has taken on a high-responsibility position, shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, and probably had a couple of bumps in the road defensively early on but has continued to work really hard, and that part of his game has seemed to stabilize over the last 10 days to two weeks. He looks more comfortable out there.
"We know he's going to hit. We know there's huge offensive upside. What we're trying to do is help him any way we can become the big leaguer he can be. We see him as a shortstop, we always have. We saw him as a shortstop last year when he was playing third base in the playoffs. We would expect anybody on the team if at some point we came to them and said, 'The team needs this ...' We would help anybody on the team who would say, 'OK, whatever it takes to win.' I'm sure Xander would do that. That doesn't mean anything other than hopefully we have a bunch of good team guys. We like the job he's done at shortstop and certainly feel he can play that position."
There are no perfect answers to the suddenly uncomfortable questions facing the Red Sox. The Bogaerts position switch is an example of that. Drew, however, seems to be one of the few available pieces that would present a seamless fit.