Following their World Series title one of the key questions facing the Boston Red Sox was how would they assemble their infield going into 2014? Xander Bogaerts is an out-of-this-world talent, and he was going to play a significant role on the team regardless, but the question remained whether to resign Stephen Drew, pushing Will Middlebrooks to a bench role, or to let Drew walk into free agency and place their bets with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks. This wise move likely saved the Red Sox a great deal of money and headache, particularly in the long term.
No one really knows where Scott Boras came up with his otherworldly demands for Drew, which have been rumored at $13-$15 million a year over a 3-4 year span, which is needless to say, ridiculous for a player of Drew’s ability (or lack thereof). Assuming he got that max contract length from some desperate team and was ready to play by Opening Day, Oliver projects Drew to be worth 5.9 WAR over the next four seasons combined. The free agent market valued a win (1 WAR) at about $6 million this offseason, so using that template Drew would be worth 35.4 million over the life of a four year contract, a rate significantly lower than his reported asking price. Otherwise, 5.9 WAR over a four season span is a far cry from consistent production, and a team like the Red Sox would have little trouble finding similar value from a player who would cost significantly less in salary commitments (even considering their shortstop curse over the last decade). Over that same span, Bogaerts is projected to post 18.3 WAR (worth $109.8 million), while also being a full decade younger than his potential counterpart. There is absolutely no reason for a player like Drew to replace a player like Bogaerts who represents nothing but talent and upside, and will produce significantly more value at a fraction of the cost.
For the sake of comparison, let’s compare Drew to Middlebrooks’s four year projections, since he is the player who would end up losing significant playing time in the event of a Drew re-signing. Middlebrooks is expected to contribute 8.2 WAR (worth $49.2 million) over the next four seasons; while he doesn’t match Bogaerts’s prolific production, he still represents a clear upgrade over Drew, and will also come at a fraction of the cost as an arbitration-eligible player. In this case re-signing Drew would cost the Red Sox production because it would move a cheaper, superior player to a bench role, while giving an expensive, inferior one an undue amount of playing time.
There is really no logical reason at this point for the Red Sox to re-sign Stephen Drew. There is a reason that Drew finds himself still on the free agent market, and it has less to do with draft pick compensation than one might think. The demands are exorbitant, and the cost would be unnecessary to take on when there are in-house options available to provide more production at a fraction of the cost. The Red Sox deserve credit for showing faith in their young players and allowing them opportunities to contribute at the big league level, because this strategy affords them the flexibility to use their resources elsewhere. In this particular case, it avoids redundant additions and maintains that flexibility that is crucial to a successful season.