With Jhonny Peralta off the market, Stephen Drew is now the lone worthwhile free-agent shortstop. But with the Cardinals no longer in need of a shortstop and the Red Sox likely to go with Xander Bogaerts at short and Will Middlebrooks at third base, where does that leave Drew going?
If you watched Drew in the postseason with Boston, you saw a player who earned a lot of praise for his defense but struggled with the bat, hitting .111 (6-for-54). This small sample of 16 games actually worked to obscure Drew's true abilities, which are more in line with an average defensive shortstop but an above-average hitter for a shortstop.
Here are Drew's defensive metrics from four different fielding systems -- Defensive Runs Saved from Baseball Info Solutions, Total Zone from Sean Smith and Baseball-Reference, Ultimate Zone Rating used at FanGraphs and Fielding Runs Above Average from Baseball Prospectus:
Year DRS TZ UZR FRAA AVG
2010 0 -2 +9 -2 +1
2011 +3 -1 +4 -2 +1
2012 -7 -4 -7 -4 -6
2013 -2 -4 +5 -3 -1
All the systems agree that Drew struggled a bit in 2012, when he returned from a broken ankle suffered in 2011. Otherwise, however, the metrics consider Drew about league average defensively, which matches his general reputation before the 2013 postseason -- steady but not spectacular.
Since 2010, among shortstops with at least 1,000 plate appearances, Drew ranks seventh in wOBA, behind Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro and Peralta. Steady if not spectacular.
Drew did have a notable platoon split in 2013, hitting .284/.377/.498 against righties but .196/.246/.340 against lefties, so the team that signs him has to be mindful of that potential. Still, overall, Drew should provide plus offense compared to most shortstops.
So who needs one? In theory, a lot of teams. But when you go through the rosters, there aren't many logical places to slot Drew. Here are the bottom 10 teams in terms of offense from their shortstops in 2013:
21. Reds: .274 wOBA
22. Mariners: .274
23. Astros: .271
24. Twins: .269
25. Pirates: .267
26. Yankees: .265
27. Cardinals: .254
28. Mets: .250
29. Marlins: .250
30. Royals: .241
Let's go through each team.
Reds: Zack Cozart is fine defensively, has a little pop and is still cheap.
Mariners: Brad Miller showed some promise as a rookie.
Astros: With Carlos Correa in the pipeline, no need to spend money on Drew.
Twins: Pedro Florimon can't really hit but looked like a plus defender. He's inexpensive. The Twins will probably give him another year.
Pirates: Jordy Mercer will get the chance to prove his bat is for real.
Cardinals: Peralta is on board to replace Pete Kozma.
Mets: Ruben Tejada is no longer a solution. But would the Mets spend for Drew?
Marlins: Drew would be an upgrade over Adeiny Hechavarria, but the Marlins are unlikely to spend the money.
Royals: Alcides Escobar hit .293 in 2012, but that .344 BABIP looks like a fluke now. But the Royals will surely give him another shot considering he resembles a Gold Glove defender at times.
So you can see why the market for Drew may be surprisingly limited. Most of the teams that need a shortstop who can hit are either small-market franchises or have an inexpensive stopgap with a decent glove.
The obvious team from the list above is the Mets. But it's the Mets, and who knows if they'll make a long-term bid on a free agent this winter. So that leaves another possibility for Drew ... the Dodgers.
The Dodgers should sign Drew and move Ramirez over to third base. Yes, they could re-sign Juan Uribe and keep Ramirez at the position he'd rather play, but would you really want to commit to Uribe considering his .199 average over 2011 and 2012? Uribe does play a solid third base and would be much less of a financial commitment than Drew, but the Dodgers need to consider their up-the-middle defense. Matt Kemp is a liability in center field; new Cuban second baseman Alex Guerrero will convert from shortstop, where he was described as a bit stiff; and Ramirez, while better in 2013 according to the metrics, has been below-average for years and is maybe a better bet to stay healthy at third base.
So Drew would give the team a known quantity on defense and lock down the position for several years. Bringing back Uribe only postpones the inevitable need to upgrade the defense at shortstop for another season.
The Dodgers certainly can afford Drew, and assuming the team trades Andre Ethier, the lineup would be balanced with Kemp, Guerrero, Ramirez, Yasiel Puig and A.J. Ellis from the right side, and Drew, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez from the left side. With Uribe, the lineup leans a little too much to the right side.
So unless the Mets step up, Drew to the Dodgers seems like a strong possibility.