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JP3700

The Case for Stephen Drew

Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.
It is now 2014 and Stephen Drew is still a free agent. There has been speculation regarding the Twins possibly 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 transactions. Everyone is going to have their opinion.

Here is my case for signing Stephen Drew.

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Offensive Upside

Stephen Drew was a good offensive player in 2013, putting up a wRC+ of 109. That's even 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+) or 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 than Florimon at the plate. 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 it was a career year, 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 still a good defensive shortstop in his own right. Here is how Drew's defense has rated over the last five years using UZR/150 and DRS.

UZR/150: 4.0
DRS: 3

Using 4000 innings as the measuring bar, a total of only 10 shortstops rated positive 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 those standards: Tulowitzki, (Yunel) Escobar, and Peralta. In 2013, once again, only three shortstops met those 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 ankle injury, Drew averaged 142 games played in his other five full seasons in the league. 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 using their age 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.

Age wRC+ UZR/150 DRS
Drew 31 98 4.0 3
Cabrera 29 107 -10.8 -19
Lowrie 31 108 -4.4 -28
Hardy 32/33 92 9.3 31
Rollins 36 92 4.6 -29

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

The Conclusion

Other than giving up a 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 in 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 of years. Especially a shortstop.

Updated 01-04-2014 at 01:12 AM by JP3700

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  1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
    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 than Florimon at the plate. 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
    Very abstract but very persuasive.. The injury/age/timing issue just tells me it still feels wrong, though. On the other hand he could be a guy who fits well in the clubhouse?
  2. Brad Swanson's Avatar
    It's so hard for me to shake just how brutal Drew was at the plate during the World Series. I'm hesitant to give up that pick, but Drew is probably worth it. Drew is one of those trendy new fly ball hitters too. Excellent analysis!
    Updated 01-03-2014 at 11:08 PM by Brad Swanson
  3. Otwins's Avatar
    Drew offensive numbers have been achieved at two of the better hitting parks in the majors. Fenway and Arizona. He will not hit that well in Target field. You will be paying for last years numbers and be receiving target field results. Same as Hardy. While I think that Drew is better than Florimon I would rather they sign another pitcher with the money.
  4. JP3700's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Hosken Bombo Disco
    The injury/age/timing issue just tells me it still feels wrong, though.
    Of the three issues, timing may be the one that might concern me a bit. Even so, Drew would be a step closer in the right direction. As a fallback option, he should be an asset as an above average shortstop. Unless he completely falls apart, there should be opportunity to recoup value in a trade.

    On the other hand he could be a guy who fits well in the clubhouse?
    I'm not sure about the clubhouse thing. Unfortunately I wasn't able to quantify it . FWIW, I've ran into several quotes mentioning that he was good in the Boston clubhouse.
    Updated 01-04-2014 at 02:07 AM by JP3700
  5. JP3700's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Otwins
    Drew offensive numbers have been achieved at two of the better hitting parks in the majors. Fenway and Arizona. He will not hit that well in Target field. You will be paying for last years numbers and be receiving target field results. Same as Hardy. While I think that Drew is better than Florimon I would rather they sign another pitcher with the money.
    That's why I used wRC+ as the offensive stat. It's park and league adjusted.
  6. jorgenswest's Avatar
    I am little more skeptical about the defense. The given span was 5 years. At that length, why not the whole career? Why not just the two years since injury? The 5 years include 2009-2011 which were the only three years that he didn't have a negative in either UZR or DRS.

    I think it reasonable to question how many more years Drew can play well defensively at shortstop. It may be a factor in his continued availability. If teams are giving up a pick, they want to get some longer term value. Is he still a good shortstop in 2016? Do the Twins want a liability at that position at a time many of the younger players reach the majors?
  7. Willihammer's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest
    I am little more skeptical about the defense. The given span was 5 years. At that length, why not the whole career? Why not just the two years since injury? The 5 years include 2009-2011 which were the only three years that he didn't have a negative in either UZR or DRS.
    He broke his ankle in 2011, had surgery later in the year and the recovery spilled into the 2012 season. He wasn't 100% for much of 2012.

    Last year, he returned to 100% and picked up where he left off in 2011. So from where I'm standing, all his troubles resulted from the ankle injury and that seems to be fixed now. Obviously when healthy, Drew's a very solid SS.
  8. jorgenswest's Avatar
    I used play index to find all 30 year old starting shortstops from 2001 to 2010.

    There were 17. Of those 17, five were still starting at SS at 33. Rollins, Jeter, Gonzalez, Cabrera and Tejada. Others with good enough bats changed positions like Michael Young and Carlos Guillen changed positions.

    I think it is unlikely that Stephen Drew will be a solid starting SS in 2016. I wouldn't give up a pick for a shorter contract.
  9. JP3700's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest
    I am little more skeptical about the defense. The given span was 5 years. At that length, why not the whole career? Why not just the two years since injury? The 5 years include 2009-2011 which were the only three years that he didn't have a negative in either UZR or DRS.
    Generally I look at three years for defense, to get a fair sample size. Since the injury diluted the sample, I used five to get a reasonable sample.

    I would have pointed out the two years after injury if he continued to be a poor defender in 2013, but that wasn't the case. He was worth 3.3 RAA between the two stats indicating that he was recovered from his injury.

    We all know defensive metrics are flawed. The thing is, I haven't found one bad thing about his defense in 2013. Combine that with the metrics, and my own personal eye test from seeing him play, Drew passes as a good defensive shortstop.

    I think it reasonable to question how many more years Drew can play well defensively at shortstop. It may be a factor in his continued availability. If teams are giving up a pick, they want to get some longer term value. Is he still a good shortstop in 2016? Do the Twins want a liability at that position at a time many of the younger players reach the majors?
    It's reasonable to think that about most free agents, as they are usually around 30 by the time they hit the market. It's his age 31-33 seasons, so slight regression is expected. But you can't assume he'll be a liability either.
  10. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by JP3700
    I'm not sure about the clubhouse thing. Unfortunately I wasn't able to quantify it . FWIW, I've ran into several quotes mentioning that he was good in the Boston clubhouse.
    Yeah that is probably the least quantifiable attribute . Chemistry.
  11. Willihammer's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest
    I used play index to find all 30 year old starting shortstops from 2001 to 2010.

    There were 17. Of those 17, five were still starting at SS at 33. Rollins, Jeter, Gonzalez, Cabrera and Tejada. Others with good enough bats changed positions like Michael Young and Carlos Guillen changed positions.

    I think it is unlikely that Stephen Drew will be a solid starting SS in 2016. I wouldn't give up a pick for a shorter contract.
    How many had a career OPS+ of 98 through age 30 and fell out of MLB altogether by age 33? Drew will retain value because of his bat, even if he can't stick at SS in what would probably be the final year of his contract anyway (if we're lucky Polanco or someone will be ready by 2016 too).

    Florimon OTOH could be playing ball in Mexico in 2016.
  12. USAFChief's Avatar
    My opinion is there is almost nothing the Twins could do at this point that would be a bigger upgrade than replacing Florimon with Drew.

    If the Twins are truly interested in putting a better product on the field, this seems like a no brainier, and I wouldn't even give a thought to sacrificing a second round pick that at best might help years down the road.

    Id follow that up by signing Morales, and the offense is instantly better, with little to no loss of defense and money still available this year and in the future.
  13. DocBauer's Avatar
    JP, you have given a thoughtful and fact filled analysis that is very compelling. And if the Twins DID sign Drew tomorrow I would do at least one cartwheel for overall improvement/investment in the club overall and I wouldn't object or pout in any way. But while your post was filled with positive reasons for signing, I am going to offer an opposite opinion despite what I just stated.

    My biggest objection resides in your positives. Precisely, comments such as "for a shortstop" which you state often in your argument.

    Now don't misunderstand, I not only understand the context, but also understand the goal of putting the best and deepest 9 on the field. But at the end of the day, despite some aberrations in the late 80's and some of the 90's, (steroid era?) SS has been, and always has been, a defense first position. A strong offensive SS is a blessing for a team, and MLB has seen a revolution at the position in regards to outstanding athletes playing the position who can contribute both offensively and defensively over the past 10-20 years, steroid or not. It's a natural progression of athleticism the same way football has seen more mobile QB's and the NBA has seen more athletic and offensive PG's.

    But SS is still a defensive position. And there has been a bit of a "correction to the norm" if you will the past few years.

    This leads us back to the "for a shortstop" argument.

    Despite cuts and new media money, sooner or later the Twins hit an investment wall. And if they invest wisely, do as rumored, I'd much rather see an investment in Garza as a #2 pitcher who sometimes qualifies as a #1 with a possible trade of Correia. Another solid bench player or two like Baker and someone else, and this is a better overall club top to bottom than signing someone who gives solid defense and offense "for a shortstop".

    Floriman and Escobar, can handle the position very well defensively, with some offensive versatility, and room for improvement. Santana may yet prove to be an even better as well as younger and cheaper alternative with the, possibly even better and more talented, Polanco and Goodrum just behind.

    Not objecting to Drew. Just think we can spend better, go with what we have and wait for the future, spend our money better, rather than on "for a shortstop" improvement.
  14. JP3700's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by DocBauer
    My biggest objection resides in your positives. Precisely, comments such as "for a shortstop" which you state often in your argument.

    This leads us back to the "for a shortstop" argument.

    signing someone who gives solid defense and offense "for a shortstop".

    spend our money better, rather than on "for a shortstop" improvement.
    I'm just not following the continuous mentioning of "for a shortstop". I mentioned it once throughout the whole post to give readers an idea of how good he was at the plate.

    Stephen Drew is a shortstop. What other position should he be compared to? The fact that he is 15-25% better than the average shortstop is what helps make him valuable.

    But SS is still a defensive position.
    I agree. And Stephen Drew is a good defensive SS.
  15. DocBauer's Avatar
    Totally agree!

    Just feel there are more important areas to improve overall. Such as the potential Gaza signing.

    Again, don't get me wrong, a signing of Drew isn't a bad thing at all. My concerns are years and dollars vs other options.
  16. twinsfan34's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by JP3700
    That's why I used wRC+ as the offensive stat. It's park and league adjusted.
    These numbers put Drew's numbers in 81 games at Target Field?
  17. twinsfan34's Avatar
    How does Jhonny Peralta (age 32 in '14, 4yr/$53M) compare to Drew? Why did the Cardinals go with Peralta over Drew?
  18. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
    I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of Florimon and if the Twins do not sign Drew (and I'd be tickled pink if they do) I think that Eduardo Escobar very well may supplant him as the everyday SS by the end of the season. I think Doc adds some necessary rebuttals to your article, but overall I agree with both of you that signing Drew would be an immediate and significant improvement. I don't know if this team is ready to compete this season, and Drew will almost assuridly be better this season than next, but with no better SS options on the market next season, Drew may still be the best FA option.

    The Twins continue to be linked to FA starting pitching, Garza, Arroyo, and even Tanaka. If the front office is able to land either Tanaka or Garza, I think the upgrade of Drew would put the Twins in position to contend this season. Would it make them World Series contenders? Probably not, but Tanka or Garza coupled with Drew along with the other off-season additions would put the Twins back to relevance. There's money to be spent, and sacrificing a 2nd round pick is a price that I'd be willing to pay.

    Continuing my thought, I wonder if signing Drew would make Garza more agreeable to a reunion in Minnesota.
  19. JP3700's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34
    These numbers put Drew's numbers in 81 games at Target Field?
    Not quite. That would be a cool tool to have .

    wRC+ like OPS+ measures how a player compares to league average (100) using different metrics. wRC+ is based off wOBA. wRC+ is also park and league adjusted so it allows you to compare players using different years, parks and leagues.

    For example, run scoring environments change every year. Also, Coors Field is a better ball park to hit in than Target Field. American and National league also have different run scoring environments.

    So when you're looking at a player's wRC+, it's been adjusted by all these factors.
  20. JP3700's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34
    How does Jhonny Peralta (age 32 in '14, 4yr/$53M) compare to Drew? Why did the Cardinals go with Peralta over Drew?
    This is just speculation.

    a. Signing Peralta did not require sacrificing a draft pick.
    b. Drew's agent is Scott Boras, who will generally wait it out for the best deal possible. Unless you overpay, of course.
    c. The Cardinals factored in point b, and didn't want to possibly miss out on both shortstops. So they just went out and snagged Peralta early.
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