I think I’ve beaten the dead horse on this topic already, but I’ve discussed a bunch of different players in this series and I wanted to put everything together and summarize.
But before I get to that, with the free agent market and the hot stove remaining eerily quiet over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly apparent that Stephen Drew does not really have much of a market at this point. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs discussed Drew’s lack of a market here. In the end of that piece he mentioned that given the lack of teams for whom Drew would be a real upgrade at SS, it might behoove his agent to market him as a 2B.
As a SS, Drew’s market at this time seems to be Boston and the Mets. It has been reported that the Mets won’t go more than 1 year for Drew, and Boston seems to like their younger internal options. If Drew is willing to move to 2B, it does give him some more options: namely (as far as I care about), the Jays.
So would Drew as a converted 2B be a good option for the Jays? Well, of course, that depends.
In a vacuum, he’s a great option. On the surface, he’s coming off a solid .253/.333/.443 (good for a 109 wRC+, making him among the best offensive shorstops in the game) in which he also provided great defense. These combined to give him 3.4 fWAR last year.
However, even the simpler peripheral metrics show he’s due for some regression in 2014. His 2013 BB% and K% numbers (11% and 24% respectively) are more in line with his 2012 (a bad offensive year for him) than the rest of his career (when he was better offensively). The BB% is great, to be fair, but the K% is very high.
He’s also coming off a season of .320 BABIP, above his career average. But to be fair, it is supported by his elite line drive rate (25%). It actually seems more like his .280 BABIP in 2012 was a fluke and should’ve been closer to the .320 mark he got this past year. The projection systems have him for a .290 BABIP next year, but if he keeps hitting this many line drives I’d take the over on that.
Then there’s his power surge. His .190 ISO in 2013 was well above his career norm, and it was largely driven by his 10% HR/FB%, which was well above his career average as well. He’s still young enough that he might’ve gained some power for real, but it’s more likely his power numbers will come down closer to previous levels.
So all in all, I expect his BABIP to drop a bit (though not as much as you may think) and his power to drop a bit as well, while his strikeouts continue to stay high. All of this will likely push his wRC+ down around 100, making him a league average hitter. Which is just fine for a shortstop or a 2B. It’s just you shouldn’t expect him to repeat 2013.
And then for defense. Drew plays a good shortstop, and that’s a big part of his value. We tend to think that since SS is a more difficult fielding position than 2B that any good SS should make a great 2B. In truth, this works sometimes, but doesn’t other times. 2B is just a different position, that requires a different skill-set and different footwork. There are a lot of factors that go into whether someone can make the change well or not. It’s impossible to say with the kind of data we have now what a converted 2B Drew would be like on defense.
This actually could be a good study though, for anyone interested, to find all the cases of a SS converted to 2B and compare their UZR (a metric for defensive skill) before and after the switch. Just throwing that out there.
But anyways, given how hard it has been for infielders in Toronto over the past couple of years to adjust to the turf, I’d have to think that adjusting to turf and a new position would have to hurt Drew’s defensive value a little bit as well.
In the end, even though I think Drew is a pretty safe bet to put up the approximately 2.0 WAR that the projection systems predict he’ll earn in 2014, I don’t think he’ll produce much more than that.
So is he a good option for the Jays?
There’s no question that any 2.0-2.5 WAR player is better than what the Jays have right now at 2B. And as a free agent, he wouldn’t cost anything in terms of players. However, as a free agent, he will cost in money. I’ve heard the argument so many times this winter that Rogers needs to spend the money to improve the team by free agency without destroying the farm system, but everything has its limits.
The Jays are operating under a budget, and my guess is that budget is somewhere around $150M, which gives them about $15M in spending money for the winter. They have two needs right now: a 2B and starting pitching. Based on the way the markets have shaped up, there are a lot of quality pitchers out their as free agents. So many, that the cost to get one of them might not be unreasonable. The trade targets in terms of front end pitching, though, (cough, Samardija, cough) are overpriced (no pun intended).
Acquiring a pitcher through trade would really decimate the farm system. Acquiring a decent 2B through trade, however, may not be as expensive. Even a 2B who can put up a 2-2.5 WAR, like Drew can. For that reason, I think the best allocation of resources for the Jays at this point would be to spend their money on pitching, and spend their surplus players on a cheaper 2B with upside.
With that in mind, I’d say no, Drew is not a good option for them at this time. That being said, if the Jays somehow miss out on acquiring a pitcher and have the money to spend, then sure, Drew is a safer option to be at least league average, if not better, than anyone available on the trade market.
And who were those 2Bs on the trade market again? Let’s just recap this series quickly, shall we? Here were the options discussed, in order from ones I like most to ones I like least:
1) Rickie Weeks- As per MLBTR, the Brewers are looking for a veteran reliever. Casey Jansen for Weeks plus cash seems like a pretty good deal for both sides to me. In fact, that might even be more than what’s needed to get Weeks. Heck, I’d gladly throw in Maicer Izturis if we could get a second useful piece back from the Brewers too. DO IT!
2) Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin- Maybe a straight up trade of Gose for one of these guys would work for both teams. Otherwise, I’m not sure the Jays and Mariners match up so well. And this would only work for the Jays if they were confident about signing Rasmus long term.
3) Danny Espinosa- The Nationals may need some bullpen help also. I’m not sure whether the Jays and Nats match up so well either, but the cost for Espinosa should be cheap enough that if the Jays wanted him they could work something out.
I, for one, hope the Jays take a bit of a risk on one of these players. How about you? Would you rather just see Goins/Izturis? Would you rather spend the money on Drew?
This marks the end of this series of posts. Thanks for reading!