Yankees Should Proceed with Caution on Free Agent Stephen Drew

Phil Watson@FurtherReviewCorrespondent INovember 21, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  Stephen Drew #5 of the Oakland Athletics at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 26, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported Thursday that free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew was drawing attention from a few American League teams, including the New York Yankees.

Drew struggled last season. He suffered an ankle injury in July 2011 that cost him the last half of that season as well as the first half of 2012.

In 40 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, Drew hit .193/.290/.311 with two homers and 12 RBI. After he was traded to the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 20, he was a bit better. In 39 games for Oakland, Drew’s triple-slash line was .250/.326/.382 with five homers and 16 RBI.

For his career, Drew’s line is .265/.328/.433 in 3,417 plate appearances over seven seasons with the Diamondbacks and Athletics. He has 77 homers and 349 RBI.

His best season was 2008 with Arizona, when he hit .291/.333/.502 with 21 homers and 67 RBI. He also smacked 44 doubles and 11 triples in 663 plate appearances.

Defensively, Drew had improved to the point he posted a UZR of 8.7 in 2010 with Arizona, according to Fangraphs.com. But after the injury, Drew’s UZR in 75 games at shortstop in 2012 was just a minus-5.2.

UZR stands for Ultimate Zone Rating and, according to Fangraphs.com, it is "an advanced defensive metric that uses play-by-play data to estimate each fielder's defensive contribution." The number value is computed as the player's defensive value, in runs, above or below an average fielder at his position.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that any interest in Drew is not meant to imply he is seeking a replacement for Derek Jeter at shortstop.

“I’m not looking to replace Derek Jeter,” Cashman said. “He’ll be playing every day for the whole year.”

Cashman didn’t comment about Drew.


Heyman’s report suggested the Yankees could be interested in Drew as a sort of “super sub.”

That’s an interesting concept considering that all 792 of Drew’s defensive appearances in his career have been at shortstop. Including defensive appearances in the minor leagues in 2005-06 and on injury rehabilitation assignments in 2009 and 2012, Drew has a total of 967 games played in the field since being drafted 15th overall by the Diamondbacks in 2004.

Every one of them has been at shortstop.

Of course, that’s not to suggest that a player with the necessary athleticism to be a major-league shortstop would be incapable of playing elsewhere on the diamond. It’s just that Drew has never been asked to do so.

If there is a cautionary tale in any potential pursuit of Drew, however, it is this: The injury he suffered in 2011 was a gruesome one. It was reminiscent of the injury suffered by former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jason Kendall in 1999.

Prior to that injury, Kendall has been an All-Star in both 1996 and 1998. At the time of the injury, Kendall was a career .312/.399/.451 hitter in 2,004 plate appearances with 31 homers and 207 RBI.

He did come back to hit .320/.412/.470 in 2000 for Pittsburgh but he also started 145 games behind the plate less than a year removed from the injury.

Offensively, his production began to wane. For the rest of his career (2001-10), Kendall’s triple-slash was .277/.350/.345 with 30 home runs and 479 RBI in 6,020 plate appearances. He was a solid major-league catcher but was never the same player he was before the injury and the heavy workload the following year.

According to Heyman’s report, the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers also have interest in Drew, who will turn 30 in March.