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BOSTON -- You ask me, the Red Sox should make it a package deal and bring back both Drew brothers: Stephen Drew to give them shortstop defense worthy of the defending World Series champions, and J.D. Drew, who would answer Boston's need for outfield depth, perfectly capable of playing an above-average right field in case the Sox need to slide Shane Victorino over to play center field.
J.D., you may remember, never has gotten around to formally announcing his retirement, and for all that he accomplished in his big league career, he never had the chance to play on the same team with his little brother.
There are a couple of minor problems with this scenario, of course. J.D. hasn't played since 2011, has given absolutely no sign that he regrets his decision to stop playing, is 38 years old, and was breaking down physically in his last season. Plus, he was being paid $14 million a year by the Sox, and isn't going to leave his Georgia farm for chump change.
So, let's scratch that half-baked idea for something a little more realistic: The Sox should bring back Stephen Drew, even if they have to wait until spring training is half over to do so. And it might take that much patience to get it done.
It's no secret where things currently stand: Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, are looking for a multiyear deal from somebody. Drew used the 2013 season to re-establish his market value, and except for a horrific slump at the plate in October, did a good job of doing so, playing mostly superb defense and putting up offensive numbers that compared favorably to others at his position. His 3.1 WAR ranked 10th among big league shortstops, and his .777 OPS ranked seventh among shortstops with at least 300 at-bats.
So, when the Sox offered Drew a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, he rejected it, confident he would do better on the open market, just as third baseman Adrian Beltre did when he played on a one-year deal for the Sox, then hit it big with the Texas Rangers. So far for Drew, that hasn't happened, especially after the most obvious match for his skill set, the St. Louis Cardinals, opted to sign Jhonny Peralta instead.
So, where does that leave the shortstop market? Let's break it down:
No inclination to change (16):
Betting on their kids (8):
No man's land (6):
Let's look at no man's land first. The Yankees to date say they're willing to risk going into next season with Jeter at 40, with Brendan Ryan in reserve. The Angels' priority is to bump up their rotation; they can live with Aybar. Lowrie had an excellent season for the Athletics, but might be better at second base, though the Athletics, who already had Drew once, don't appear interested in a reunion. The Phillies would love to move Rollins, but he has full-trade protection. Cozart had a .284 on-base percentage last season, but the Reds' needs in the outfield and rotation take precedence. The Mets still look like the best match for Drew. They would lose only a third-round pick to sign Drew (they lost their second-rounder for Curtis Granderson), and he would do much to make the Mets more respectable. They don't want to pay Boras' current asking price, but despite all their public avowals of support for Tejada, common sense suggests this could still work.
Now, to the teams going with their kids: The team that jumps out on that list is the Pirates, who finally are a real contender. They have long held Mercer, a former All-American at Oklahoma State drafted in the third round, in high regard, and his .772 OPS was just behind Drew's .777 while he split time at the position in 2013. Drew would be a defensive upgrade, but with a $66 million payroll last season, the Pirates aren't the types to spring for a big contract for Drew, especially with draft-pick compensation involved.
Boras may yet find a better landing place for Drew than to go back to Boston on short years. Last year, he went to February before striking a four-year deal for outfielder Michael Bourn, and until March before getting three years for Kyle Lohse. Drew is only 31, and clearly capable of being a productive player for the foreseeable future.
But in the end, the best place may be back in Boston, where he could either be part of a time-sharing arrangement with Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks -- the most likely arrangement -- or be the everyday shortstop, with Bogaerts playing third and Middlebrooks the odd man out. The Sox are content to let the market form for Drew before they make their pitch, but a two-year deal, perhaps with an option, could be enough for Drew to return. But never, ever bet against Boras.