Agent Scott Boras has a quality starting shortstop on his hands in free agent Stephen Drew. Drew, 31 in March, bears the stigma of costing a draft pick to sign. But in 2013 for the Red Sox, he hit .253/.333/.443 in 501 plate appearances and was worth 3.4 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs. That tied for eighth-best in baseball among shortstops.
If you are a believer in projection systems, Drew will not be a top ten shortstop in 2014. Using an average of projected 2014 WAR from Steamer, Oliver, and where available, ZiPS (all from FanGraphs), Drew ranks 23rd among starting shortstops with 2.0. Starlin Castro and Jose Iglesias rank below Drew, but they are close enough that he wouldn't be a clear upgrade. We're left with six starting shortstops on whom Drew would be an upgrade, based on these projections: Jonathan Villar of the Astros, Derek Jeter of the Yankees, Ruben Tejada of the Mets, Pedro Florimon of the Twins, Alcides Escobar of the Royals, and Adeiny Hechavarria of the Marlins. Let's look at each situation individually.
- Astros: The Astros want to see what Villar, 23 in May, can do over the course of a full season. The Astros viewed the outfield as a place to potentially add a hitter, so they acquired Dexter Fowler in December. They also picked up first baseman/left fielder Jesus Guzman in another trade that month. For the Astros to displace Villar and give up the #33 pick in the draft, Drew would have to come at an extreme bargain. The Astros do not look like a fit, even if Drew would give them an extra win in 2014.
- Yankees: GM Brian Cashman told Peter Gammons in late December his team won't be signing Drew, which is a fairly rare comment on a specific free agent. Drew would only cost the #53 pick in the draft. But even if it makes some sense in a spreadsheet, adding him as insurance for Jeter could be controversial. Plus, the Yankees made a large commitment to Jeter and have more pressing needs right now.
- Mets: One rival GM thinks the Mets are feigning disinterest in Drew, according to Gammons, as he would be an upgrade on Tejada. Drew makes a ton of sense for the Mets, who would only have to surrender the #82 draft pick. The Mets are by far the best match for Drew.
- Twins: The Twins have spent $86.75MM on four free agents so far this winter, with 97% of that going toward pitching. Their draft pick cost would be #43, and I don't see why they wouldn't give Drew serious consideration. However, they seem set with Florimon.
- Royals: The Royals have spent big on free agents Omar Infante and Jason Vargas this winter, but don't seem interested in upgrading on Escobar even if they could afford Drew.
- Marlins: The Marlins have added four position players through free agency this winter, but they seem set with Hechavarria manning shortstop for years to come.
What about Drew's old team, the Red Sox? He may have less than 100 big league plate appearances to his name, but 21-year-old phenom Xander Bogaerts projects to be better than Drew in 2014. Re-signing Drew would mean not receiving a supplemental first round pick for losing him, so there is a cost in that regard. Drew makes sense if the Red Sox are wary of using Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks as their starters on the left side of the infield, though.
It seems the Mets and Boras will continue to play chicken regarding Drew, but GM Sandy Alderson does have the upper hand in that no other suitor is emerging. It seems to be the right time for a Mystery Team to step in. One Hail Mary option for Boras could be to market Drew as a potential second or third baseman in 2014, for teams with entrenched shortstops. Once again, Boras is tasked with pulling a rabbit out of his hat on a free agent client.