Stephen Drew Rumors

NL Notes: Markakis, Kendrick, Mets, Kemp, Padres

Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck yesterday, but the Braves expect their new right fielder to be 100 percent by Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. President of baseball operations John Hart spoke with surgeon Steve Wray, who performed the procedure, and came away with the impression that aside from some possible disruption of his pre-Spring Training routine, Markakis would be fine. He’s expected to be cleared for physical activity within a month’s time and to be fully agile in six weeks.

Some more notes from the Senior Circuit to kick off your Thursday morning…

  • The Rockies are interested in right-hander Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation option, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The 30-year-old Kendrick pitched a career-high 199 innings last season, and Crasnick notes that his career 46.1 percent ground-ball rate is of interest to Colorado. That mark isn’t too far above the league average, but it’s an improvement over Franklin Morales and Christian Bergman, each of whom logged significant innings in Colorado’s rotation last year. Kendrick’s upside is limited, but he’d be a relatively low-cost option to soak up some innings in a shaky rotation.
  • Wilmer Flores is still likely to open next season as the Mets‘ shortstop, writes Marc Carig of Newsday, but a source tells Carig that the team does have interest in Stephen Drew and Everth Cabrera on low-risk, one-year deals. Previous reports have indicated that the Mets weren’t interested in Cabrera. The team hasn’t ruled out bidding on Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, but they’re likely to pass due to concerns over his defense. Those same concerns have halted their interest in Asdrubal Cabrera from progressing beyond internal discussions.
  • In a video blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Padres are in perfect position to try to squeeze some extra money out of the Dodgers in their deal for Matt Kemp. While the deal is expected to be completed, Olney notes that Kemp’s medicals are “ugly,” and the Dodgers need the trade more than the Padres do. The Dodgers are reportedly set to send $32MM to the Padres as it is.
  • The Padres aren’t done making moves even after striking deals to acquire Kemp and Wil Myers, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. One possible minor addition, he reports, is veteran catcher David Ross, who is still “considering” the Padres.

Astros Notes: Drew, Boras, Scherzer, Cubs

Here’s the latest on the Astros from Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle

  • The Astros met with agent Scott Boras to discuss shortstop Stephen Drew and relief pitching, says a source familiar with the conversation.  Boras confirmed the meeting took place without naming any particular names, saying “We’ve had meetings and talked and we have bullpen guys and the infield and outfield guys, so we’ve had some general conversations.  They’re kind of in a fluid state on their position players, but…we have some guys that may be some fits there.”  This is just my speculation, but it’s possible Houston could’ve been looking into Rafael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez, Boras’ two most high-profile bullpen clients.
  • Boras said that Takashi Toritani is drawing interest from MLB teams mostly as a second baseman rather than his natural shortstop position.  As Drellich notes, this would seem to eliminate the Astros from contention since Jose Altuve is already entrenched at second.
  • Unsurprisingly, Drellich’s source said that the Astros’ chat with Boras didn’t involve Max Scherzer.
  • The Cubs showed some interest in Jason Castro earlier this offseason, prior to Chicago’s acquisition of Miguel Montero from the Diamondbacks.

Winter Meetings Rumors: Giants, Santana, Marlins, Morneau, Dodgers, Angels

Needless to say, it was a frenetic end to the Winter Meetings. Over the course of the morning, several forward-looking reports emerged. We’ll round those up here:

  • The Giants are focused on free agent starter James Shields, according to Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News (via Twitter). San Francisco is alive on both Shields and Ervin Santana, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle adds on Twitter. The club met with Shields in San Diego, as Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported yesterday (Twitter link).
  • The Twins are still trying to land Santana, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who adds that the GiantsRoyals, and Yankees have also expressed interest in the free agent righty.
  • The Marlins are still looking hard at the free agent and trade market for a first baseman, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. A deal could come at any time, Spencer adds.
  • Attempts by the Marlins to deal for Justin Morneau of the Rockies have fallen apart, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer. He hears that Miami could rekindle talks with the Pirates regarding a Pedro Alvarez-for-Nathan Eovaldi swap.
  • Communications between the Marlins and Rockies regarding Morneau will continue, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports on Twitter, though Harding’s source says he is not sure if the potential match “has legs.”
  • The Dodgers did not make their moves as a prelude to dealing away Zack Greinke or dealing for Cole Hamels, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has already done its heavy lifting with yesterday’s series of moves, says Sherman.
  • After trading away second baseman Howie Kendrick, the Angels are “open to opportunities” for additions at the position, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Halos are not interested in free agents Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew, per Dipoto. Of course, the team just added Josh Rutledge to join in-house option Grant Green in the current mix.


Stephen Drew Drawing Broad Interest

Though he is coming off of a disappointing season, infielder Stephen Drew is drawing fairly broad-based interest around the game, Jon Heyman of CBSSports reports on Twitter.

Heyman attributes that to the fact that he is not saddled with draft compensation, as he was this time last year. But I would suggest that there is probably a general sense that a bargain could be had for a team that can present Drew with a desirable opportunity.

Among the clubs with some level of interest are the Yankees, Mets, Astros, Athletics, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Nationals, and Marlins. That lengthy set of club names probably encapsulates a variety of possible uses for Drew, ranging from a regular job at short to an intended use at another position to a pure utility role.


NL East Notes: Upton, Giants, Rizzo, Gordon

We’ve already published one set of NL East Notes today, but there’s no shortage of news coming out of the Winter Meetings.  Here’s the latest from around the division…

  • The Giants would only be interested in taking on Braves outfielder Justin Upton and his substantial salary if signing Jon Lester was no longer an option, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets.  Since the Giants have been told they’re out of the hunt for Lester, it’s fair to speculate that they could now turn their attention to Upton.
  • A rumored trade that would’ve sent Upton and Chris Johnson from the Braves to the Giants is about a week old and “not happening,” a source tells CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo spoke to reporters (including Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com) about a number of topics, such as how teams are showing increased interest in Washington’s relief corps over the last day.  “When David Robertson signed, our relief pitchers came more into focus with other clubs,” Rizzo said. “We got a lot of traffic on those guys.”  There has been a particularly large amount of interest in Tyler Clippard.
  • Rizzo met with Ian Desmond‘s agents and expects to meet with Jordan Zimmermann‘s agents before the Winter Meetings are over.  It was reported earlier this week that the Nats would explore an extension with Zimmermann, and Rizzo certainly expressed his eagerness to talk to the right-hander.  “Zim’s part of the furniture here.  He’s drafted, signed, developed and starred with the same organization. We feel he’s one of our own, and we’re certainly eager to discuss things with him,” Rizzo said.  The GM isn’t sure, however, what Zimmermann’s asking price will be in this round of negotiations.
  • The Marlins have interest in Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports (Twitter link).  It was reported earlier today that L.A. was open to offers for Gordon.
  • The Mets aren’t close to dealing a starter, but if they do swing a trade, the Rangers and Royals are both “viable landing spots,” ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweetsJon Niese would command a larger return than Dillon Gee, though Rubin says the Mets would prefer to trade Gee since they feel Niese has more upside and can better help the club contend in 2015.  They would trade Niese for a good enough offer, however (Twitter links).
  • The Rangers, Royals and Giants are Gee’s most serious suitors, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman writes (via Twitter).
  • In regards to the Mets‘ shortstop search, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo hears that the team is “far more” interested in Jed Lowrie or Stephen Drew than they are with Asdrubal Cabrera.

Free Agent Profile: Stephen Drew

A year after rejecting a qualifying offer from the Red Sox that derailed his offseason, Stephen Drew is back on the market. This time, Drew is coming off a poor season, but the lack of a qualifying offer should help him this time around, as should the weak shortstop market.

Pros/Strengths

Drew is a plus defensive shortstop, posting positive UZR numbers in five of the last six seasons. He’s consistent in the field, and he has good hands and decent range, which he augments by using data to position himself before plays. “He’s one of the best in baseball,” Red Sox coach Brian Butterfield said in 2013. “I feel fortunate to be able to see him every day. He has great hands and great feet.”

USATSI_8051206_154513410_lowresEven while Drew struggled at the plate in 2014, he was comfortably above average at shortstop. He also played a bit of second base with the Yankees in 2014, and by eventually moving to a utility infielder role, he could prolong his career for quite awhile even if his offense doesn’t rebound much. Clint Barmes, a similarly strong defender who provided value for the Pirates from 2012 through 2014 even as his bat faded, demonstrates what the last few years of Drew’s career, whenever those might come, might look like.

In his better years, Drew has a good bat as well, with plenty of line drives and walks to go along with 15-homer power. In 2013, he hit .253/.333/.443 with 50 extra-base hits, a fine total for a shortstop. At 31, he also isn’t so old that he’s obviously over the hill, and he’s only one year removed from having enough value to be extended (and to reject) a qualifying offer. If he can recoup a significant percentage of that value in 2015, he’ll be a bargain for his next team.

Cons/Weaknesses

Thanks to the qualifying offer, Drew’s 2014 season didn’t get started until June, and he never got going after that. The layoff from game action surely affected his season, but many other players have missed the starts of their seasons (usually due to injury, of course, and not a protracted period of free agency) and still been productive upon returning. At 31, it’s possible Drew’s poor performance in 2014 could be primarily the result of age-related decline.

Drew also has not batted above .253 since 2010, so he should not be expected to hit for a good average going forward. That limits his upside, which means that if he rebounds offensively in 2015, it could be a bounce-back of the dead-cat variety; Steamer projects he’ll hit just .218/.294/.352 next season. Given Drew’s defensive value, that would still place him above replacement level, although not by nearly as much as he’s been in the past.

Personal

Drew and older brothers J.D. and Tim are the first trio of siblings to all be first-round draft picks, and former star outfielder J.D., in particular, has had a big influence on Drew’s career. Stephen is naturally right-handed, but became a left-handed hitter by imitating J.D. “A lot of people don’t know I was a switch-hitter,” says Stephen. “I always wanted to come back and hit right-handed. If I had to do it over, I would, but it’s too late in my career to fiddle with that.” Stephen also wore the same No. 7 that J.D. wore in Boston. Stephen, wife Laura, and their two sons live in the small town of Hahira, Georgia in the offseason, down the road from J.D. and his family.

Market

The list of free agent starting shortstops is short — there’s Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jed Lowrie, and that’s all, and even that assumes that teams will view Cabrera and Lowrie as shortstops rather than second basemen. Meanwhile, many teams need a shortstop, including the Mets, Dodgers and Athletics. Some of those teams could try to address their needs via trades, but that could be tricky — prying away Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies or Jimmy Rollins (who has 10-and-5 rights anyway) from the Phillies should prove difficult. Brad Miller from the Mariners could be a more realistic target.

The Mets have already been connected to Drew, and Oakland is another possibility. Yankees GM Brian Cashman (whose recent trade for Didi Gregorius probably eliminated his team as a landing spot for Drew) has said that he does not believe Drew’s awful 2014 season reflects his true talent level, and it’s not hard to imagine other teams hoping he’s right, if only because they won’t have many choices. There’s also the possibility that Drew could market himself as a second baseman, but in this market, he shouldn’t need to.

Expected Contract

Drew has made about $40MM in his career, but poor timing and luck have prevented the Scott Boras client from ever landing a big contract. A nasty ankle injury in 2011 caused him to miss much of the 2012 season just before he hit free agency, and he settled for a one-year deal with the Red Sox in 2013. Then the qualifying offer ruined his offseason market, and he had to settle for a prorated one-year deal. Now he’s finally free of injury and the qualifying offer, but his poor performance will be a major drag on his next deal. Drew’s 2014 season should force him to take a one-year contract, perhaps for one year and $7MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Heyman On Wilson, Tulowitzki, Drew

The latest from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com..

  • Rival GMs tell tell Heyman that the Angels have made left-hander C.J. Wilson available, causing some to wonder if they might be trying to set up a run at a bigger pitcher via free agency or trade.  The Angels have suggested they aren’t inclined to eat any of his $18MM annual salary and it’s pretty hard to see a deal coming together if they stick to that position.  If they’re able to move Wilson, however, that could open the door for the likes of James Shields or Max Scherzer.
  • People familiar with Troy Tulowitzki‘s thinking believe that he’d only have interest in leaving the Rockies for about a half-dozen clubs, writes Heyman.  That list is believed to include the Yankees (who filled their shortstop need last week), Dodgers, Angels, Giants, possibly the Cardinals, and one or two others.  Still, owner Dick Monfort has suggested to inquiring teams that 30-year-old is not available.
  • The Braves have interest in Stephen Drew as a possibility at second base, according to Heyman.  The Yankees, Mets and A’s are among other teams that have been tied to the 31-year-old, though the Bombers now seem less likely after acquiring Didi Gregorius.

Shortstop Rumors: Rollins, Tulo, Dodgers, Miller

The Yankees called the Phillies to ask about the availability of Jimmy Rollins, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark, but the asking price was deemed too high and the Bombers have since moved on (All Twitter links). GM Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn’t comment to Stark on the Yankees’ interest, but he tells Stark that Rollins is still one of the best shortstops in baseball and would therefore want a lot in return. Amaro adds that Rollins would be “very hard to replace” and is someone the Phillies want on their team. According to Stark, Rollins was never even approached by the team to ask if he would waive his no-trade clause to accept a trade to New York. Throwing even more cold water on the idea of a match, Stark reports (Twitter links) that the Yankees were offering only a “utility player” and that Rollins was not interested in playing in New York.

Here are some more notes pertaining to shortstops from around the league…

  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that while the thought of Troy Tulowitzki heading to the Yankees in a trade has long been considered a long shot, there are “recent, strong indications” that there’s absolutely no chance of such a trade. The Yankees are showing a real reluctance to take on another significant contract, and the six-year, $114 commitment Tulowitzki has remaining has no appeal.
  • Not only that, Martino hears from executives with interested teams that over the past two weeks, the Rockies have given the impression that Tulowitzki is simply unavailable.
  • The Dodgers are in the market for a stopgap to serve as a bridge to top prospect Corey Seager, reports MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. The team feels that while whoever mans shortstop for them in 2015 won’t have the offensive talent of Hanley Ramirez, he will provide a marked defensive difference that offsets some loss of offense. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and several Dodgers decision-makers watched Seager in the Arizona Fall League, and Friedman disagreed with scouts who feel that Seager will have to move to third base. Said Friedman: “I’m convinced that I would not move him off shortstop right now — his hands work really well, and we have a number of guys who think he has a real chance to stick there.”
  • In a video blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney notes that while three big-market teams — the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers — have a need at shortstop, the perception among executives is that there just isn’t much to be had. Executives feel that they could “absolutely” call the Mariners about Brad Miller, says Olney, but he’s been inconsistent at the plate. Stephen Drew hasn’t hit consistently over the past three seasons, either. Rollins has 10-and-5 rights and hasn’t given an inclination that he wants to approve a trade. And free agent Jed Lowrie is viewed by many teams as more of a second baseman than a shortstop.

New York Notes: Drew, Toritani, Reynolds, Cervelli Trade

Both the Yankees and Mets are interested in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The possibility of Drew going to either New York squad as a free agent was a prolonged saga that never came to fruition last offseason (though Drew did eventually end up a Yankee via trade). However, as Sherman points out, it could be different this time around, as Drew may have to settle for a one-year deal. (I’d personally wager that Drew can top the $4MM guarantee suggested by Sherman, but I agree with his point in a general sense.) Both teams are in the process of trying to determine whether his 2014 swoon was due to a late start to the season or if it was the beginning of a stark decline in his offensive skills.

Here’s more on the Mets and Yankees…

  • Also within Sherman’s piece, he notes that neither team is currently interested in Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani. The 33-year-old Toritani recently hired Scott Boras as his agent and is said to be weighing a jump to the Major Leagues, but only if it means regular playing time. An absolute iron man in 11 seasons with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers, Toritani hasn’t missed a single inning at shortstop over the past 10 seasons (1,444 games), hitting .285/.372/.412 in that time.
  • Mets prospect Matt Reynolds spoke with Adam Rubin of ESPN New York about the strides he’s made on both ends of the game in the past year. The shortstop said he felt playing at Triple-A Las Vegas helped improve his defense immensely, because the infield is so fast there. “Vegas’ infield is one of the fastest infields I’ve ever played on,” said Reynolds. “…You’re playing in the middle of the summer with 115-degree weather and the infield is rock solid. …it taught me to get ready early and to use my hands.” GM Sandy Alderson said Reynolds will return to Vegas to open next season.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that his top priority is finding a starting shortstop, writes NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. Cashman adds that he feels the Yankees’ payroll will be “high” and “impressive” this year, stating that ownership has always had an “impressive commitment” to the fanbase and he hopes to use that support to improve the roster.
  • In a second piece from Kuty, Cashman talks about the trade of Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson. Surprisingly, Cashman notes that he discussed this exact swap with Pirates GM Neal Huntington two years ago, but the sides didn’t follow through on the deal at that time. Cashman wouldn’t commit to John Ryan Murphy as the backup to Brian McCann just yet, mentioning Austin Romine‘s name as well.

AL West Notes: Street, A’s, Corporan, Astros

Huston Street no longer has an agent and will represent himself for any extension negotiations that take place with the Angels, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. Street was previously a client of Hendricks Sports Management. GM Jerry Dipoto tells Gonzalez that he does have interest in a new contract with Street but told the closer at the time his option was exercised that no talks would come until Spring Training.

Elsewhere in the AL West…

  • MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes that A’s sources downplayed the team’s connection to Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera. However, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that he again heard Oakland mentioned as possibility for both clubs. Heyman wonders it the A’s would try to sign both, with Drew slated for shortstop duty and Cabrera handling second base.
  • Jason Castro‘s name has drawn some attention as a trade target since the Astros acquired Hank Conger, but while Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle feels the ‘Stros would listen on Castros, he’s told that Carlos Corporan is the catcher they’d prefer to move (Twitter link).
  • In a second piece from Drellich, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow explained that he wants to give Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez a chance to make next year’s team, but both players will have to earn their spots, as both have minor league options remaining. Adding an insurance policy that is capable of handling both infield corners would be “advantageous,” Luhnow said. Drellich notes that at shortstop, the team will also look for an upgrade, but perhaps only a stopgap with Carlos Correa rising through the system. In general, said the Astros will target infielders on one- or two-year deals, as Correa, Colin Moran and Rio Ruiz can’t be counted on to impact the big league club in 2015. In last month’s Offseason Outlook for the Astros, I speculated that they’d be a fit for Drew for that very reason.