If the offseason felt long to you, imagine how Stephen Drew must have felt. Today, the shortstop’s extended spring officially came to a close when the Red Sox announced that they signed him to a one-year deal, reportedly worth the prorated portion of the $14.1MM qualifying offer ($10.1MM). The Red Sox, who had a significant need on the left side of the infield and didn’t have to forfeit a pick to sign their own free agent, have been regarded as a frontrunner for months, but there wasn’t a lot of foreshadowing in recent days. On a conference call this afternoon, I asked General Manager Ben Cherington when the talks got more serious between him and agent Scott Boras.
“I would say that talks picked up over the weekend and into the early part of the week,” the GM said. “We know Stephen well. He did a great job for us last year and he’s a very good Major League shortstop and a good teammate and does a lot of good things that we value…We have a high degree of respect for Stephen, what he can do on the field, and what he can do for our team. We’re happy to have him back on the team.”
The signing of Drew will have a reverb effect for other Red Sox players. Xander Bogaerts, who was charged with manning shortstop in 2014, will shift over to third base, bumping the injured Will Middlebrooks out of the starting lineup. Drew’s arrival also backs things up for well-regarded third base prospect Garin Cecchini. When it comes to Bogaerts, Cherington says that after this season, his future could still very well be at shortstop.
“We believe that he can play shortstop well, things have stabilized there. I know he made a couple of errors last night but we believed last year and during Spring Training that he can play shortstop, we still believe that. This move with Stephen is not in any way about a lack of belief that Xander can play short,” Cherington said. “Xander’s ability to play short and third base allowed us to consider different options and alternatives. Stephen just happened to be the one we pursued.”
When asked if Drew’s arrival could signal some sort of position change for Middlebrooks, Cherington was non-committal and said that his main focus was getting the 25-year-old healthy.
As for Drew himself, Cherington confirmed that he’ll be on the Major League roster tonight but won’t be in the lineup against the Blue Jays. Drew will ultimately have a stint in the minors to warm up to big league action, but because of “administrative steps” that need to take place, there’s not an exact timetable for that just yet.
Presumably, Cherington is referring to the fact that Drew needs to pass through optional waivers, which take 48 hours, as the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported earlier this afternoon (Twitter link). Cafardo noted that Drew has consented to head to the minors to pick up 25 at-bats before playing with the big league club.