The Nationals have announced a deal to bring back free-agent infielder Stephen Drew, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post first reported (Twitter links). Drew, a client of the Boras Corporation, will be guaranteed $3.5MM and can earn up to $1.2MM more in incentives, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter links).
Drew, 33, enjoyed a strong bounceback year in 2016 after a pair of subpar offensive campaigns. Over 165 plate appearances, he slashed .266/.339/.524 and drove eight home runs. A bout with vertigo kept him out for a lengthy stretch, but he made it back in early September.
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Having traded Danny Espinosa,while shifting Trea Turner back to his natural shortstop, the Nats were arguably in need of another middle infielder for depth purposes. Though youngster Wilmer Difo could certainly fill a utility role, he might be better-served receiving regular time at Triple-A. Plus, Drew brings a lengthy history of solid glovework, pop from the left side, and that fabled veteran presence.
It’s reasonable to expect that the southpaw-swinging Drew will spend most of his time filling in at short, second, and third. But perhaps the most interesting dimension of this signing is what it could mean for the team’s setup at first base. If Ryan Zimmerman can’t turn things around as an everyday player, then Drew could step in at second with the defensively challenged Daniel Murphy sliding over to first against tough right-handed starters. Then again, the Nats do still have left-handed-hitting slugger Clint Robinson available as an option behind Zimmerman, and he wouldn’t have much roster function if Murphy spends time there. All said, then, while Drew will obviously take one bench spot, there remains plenty left to sort out in D.C.