9:27pm: The D-Backs have checked in on Drury, reports Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. He’s obviously a familiar target for the organization after spending three seasons there, and he aligns with the team’s search for a righty-hitting infielder.
Arizona GM Mike Hazen has noted a few times this offseason the team was hoping to bring in a right-handed bat. They were linked to Justin Turner before he landed with the Red Sox and have been connected to Evan Longoria, who remains available. Arizona presently looks likely to turn to the lefty-swinging Josh Rojas at third base, though he’s capable of bouncing around the diamond in a bat-first utility role. Emmanuel Rivera, acquired from the Royals midseason, is the top right-handed hitting third base option on the roster. He hit reasonably well in 38 games with Arizona but owns a .238/.298/.393 mark in 457 career plate appearances overall.
As Passan notes, many of the bat-first players have been coming off the board recently, with Justin Turner, Michael Brantley and J.D. Martinez all agreeing to terms in the past few days. For teams still looking for an extra bat in their lineup, some of the best names still left out there include Drury, Michael Conforto, Jurickson Profar and Matt Carpenter. No specific teams are connected to Drury, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a deal come together soon on the heels of those other agreements.
The widespread interest for Drury, 30, is understandable given his defensive versatility. In his career, he’s played all four infield positions as well as the outfield corners, making it easy to imagine him on various rosters. His shortstop experience is limited, with most of his work coming at second and third base, but he’s also logged more than 300 innings at first base and each of the outfield corners. He’s not really graded as an expert defender anywhere, but that ability to play passable defense at multiple positions means just about any team could find a way to fit him into their plans one way or another.
Once he’s slotted in somewhere, he should be able to provide an impact bat that would upgrade any lineup, at least based on his 2022 performance. Drury launched 28 home runs this year en route to producing a batting line of .263/.320/.492. That production was 23% better than league average, as evidenced by his 123 wRC+. His maximum exit velocity was in the 85th percentile, his barrel rate in the 72nd and his hard hit rate in the 62nd.
Despite all those reasons for Drury to have plenty of interest, there are also things to be concerned about, which will likely lead to some variance in how teams value him going forward. Drury’s first full season in 2016 was a decent showing, as he hit .282/.329/.458 for the Diamondbacks, leading to a 102 wRC+. However, he slipped to a 92 wRC+ in 2017 and then had a miserable three-year stretch over 2018-2020 with the Yankees and Blue Jays. He dealt with various injuries in that time and hit just .205/.254/.346 for a 56 wRC+. He bounced back with a solid season for the Mets in 2021 and then was even better in 2022, though there’s concern there as well. Drury hit .274/.335/.520 with the Reds but then dipped to .238/.290/.435 after getting traded to the Padres. That latter performance was still above average with a 105 wRC+, but it was a big dip from his 131 wRC+ as a Red.
Even with those concerns, MLBTR predicted he could secure a two-year, $18MM contract. While the early offseason saw many of the top free agents soaring past their predictions, it hasn’t exactly carried down to the lower tiers. Looking at the other bats mentioned off the top, Brantley re-signed with the Astros for one year and $12MM, a bit below MLBTR’s $15MM prediction, though he can come out ahead via $4MM of incentives. Martinez was projected at two years and $30MM but settled for $10MM over a single season with the Dodgers. Turner did well for himself though, as he was predicted for a one-year, $14MM deal but secured a two-year deal with an opt-out. Sources differ on the guarantee but it seems to be in the range of $22MM.