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The Case for Stephen Drew

It is now 2014 and Stephen Drew is still a free agent. There has been speculation regarding the Twins making a run at Drew. Some are in favor of a possible signing, while some are against it. This is a common theme when speculating on transactions. Everyone is going to have his opinion.

Here is my case for signing Stephen Drew. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
Attached Image: Drew.jpeg
More information on the stats used below can be found in the Glossary section of Fangraphs.com.

Offensive Upside

Stephen Drew was a good offensive player in 2013, putting up a wRC+(weighted runs created, normalized for park and league effects) of 109. That's before considering that he is a shortstop. In 2013 the league average wRC+ for shortstops was 85. To put that into perspective, his offensive production was similar to Dustin Pedroia (115 wRC+) compared to the league average second baseman (91 wRC+) and Allen Craig (135 wRC+) compared to the league average first baseman (110 wRC+).

While that gives you an idea of how good his offense was for a shortstop, it would be more helpful to compare him to the player he'd be replacing. Pedro Florimon had a 68 wRC+ in 2013. So Drew was essentially 41% better at creating runs than Florimon. To give you an idea of how much better 41% is, I used two other full time Twins players to help illustrate how big of an upgrade Drew would have been over Florimon.

Florimon wRC+: 68
Drew wRC+: 109

Dozier wRC+: 101
Cano wRC+: 142

Plouffe wRC+: 93
Longoria wRC+: 133

If you are skeptical that this was a career year for Drew, and thus an outlier, this was the fourth season that Drew put up a 109 wRC+ or higher.

Steady Defense

While Florimon is one of the better defensive shortstops in the league, Drew is a good defensive shortstop in his own right. Here is how Drew's defense has rated over the last five years using UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating, over 150 games) and DRS (defensive runs saved).

UZR/150: 4.0
DRS: 3

Using 4000 innings as the threshold, a total of only 10 shortstops rated above zero in both defensive metrics during that time frame.

Overall Player

Using the same five year time frame, here are Drew's overall numbers.

wRC+: 98
UZR/150: 4.0
DRS: 3

During that span, only three other shortstops met or exceeded these standards: Tulowitzki, (Yunel) Escobar, and Peralta. In 2013, once again, only three shortstops met these standards. Tulowitzki, (Yunel) Escobar and Hardy.

Health Concerns

Health should be a concern with every player, but it seems to be overblown with Drew. He has been tagged with words like injury-prone and fragile, which doesn't seem to be fair.

When you take out his flukey 2011 ankle injury (broken bone and torn ligaments from a slide in to home), Drew averaged 142 games played in his other five full seasons in the majors. In those five seasons he has been on the DL three times for a total of 54 days. Those three DL stints were caused by two hamstring strains and a concussion suffered from being hit in the head by a pitch. So other than a couple of freak injuries, he's been quite durable.

2015 Class

There has been talk about shortstops who may be available through free agency next offseason. So I wanted to compare them to Drew noting their ages when hitting free agency, along with their offense and defense over the past five seasons. I didn't include Ramirez and Jeter because they aren't realistic options due to many factors.

[TABLE="width: 500"]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD]Age[/TD]
[TD]wRC+[/TD]
[TD]UZR/150[/TD]
[TD]DRS[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Drew[/TD]
[TD]31[/TD]
[TD]98[/TD]
[TD]4.0[/TD]
[TD]3[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Cabrera[/TD]
[TD]29[/TD]
[TD]107[/TD]
[TD]-10.8[/TD]
[TD]-19[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Lowrie[/TD]
[TD]31[/TD]
[TD]108[/TD]
[TD]-4.4[/TD]
[TD]-28[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Hardy[/TD]
[TD]32/33[/TD]
[TD]92[/TD]
[TD]9.3[/TD]
[TD]31[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Rollins[/TD]
[TD]36[/TD]
[TD]92[/TD]
[TD]4.6[/TD]
[TD]-29[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]

All things considered, Drew looks to be the most attractive player.

The Conclusion

Other than giving up a second round draft pick, all things point to Drew being a great signing. He is a good player who would provide a significant upgrade at a position at which the Twins lack options. He would also provide balance to an infield (Dozier, Plouffe) that struggles against right-handed pitching.

There seems to be a thin market for Drew with the Red Sox and Mets being the two teams most often mentioned. There have been reports that teams are not willing to go past two years, so this would be a good time for the Twins to jump in and offer Drew three years, $30-33 million.

It would be nice to have another proven position player alongside Mauer to help with the infusion of youth coming up in the next couple years. Especially a shortstop.


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