Hindsight; it’s usually 20/20. And in Stephen Drew’s case, it seems to be screaming “I told you so!” in the most mocking manner possible.
That’s because back on November 7 Drew made the decision to decline Boston’s qualifying offer, thereby becoming an unrestricted free agent. Instead of taking the one-year and guaranteed $14.1 million from the Red Sox, Drew chose to venture out into the open market upon the belief that he could do better with a more lucrative multi-year contract elsewhere.
But to date, no team has been willing to make such an offer.
A week ago, super agent Scott Boras, who represents Drew, claimed that the market just was not yet ripe for Drew. At this point it may never ripen.
A big hang up for Drew is the fact that, because he turned down Boston’s qualifying offer, any other team wishing to sign him will have to give up a compensatory draft pick to the Red Sox. This feature, a new one under the current collective bargaining agreement, often has a dampening effect on a player’s value. That was the intended purpose of the rule when it was introduced before last year’s free agency period.
But the compensatory draft pick rule isn’t the only factor contributing to the absence of phone calls to discuss Drew. It’s likely that Boras had been banking on shopping his client to St. Louis, the one club that had both money to spend and a glaring vacancy at shortstop when the Hot Stove season began.
In a shocker, the Cardinals filled that middle infield void by inking Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million deal that slammed the door in Drew’s and Boras’ face (Peralta is represented by Diego Betnz of SFX).
Looking around the rest of the league, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a need at the position Drew happens to play.
Speculation indicates that the New York Mets might be the best fit for a free agent shortstop. To sign Drew, they would have to be willing to part ways with the more affordable Ruben Tejada. Reports have surfaced of late that the Mets front office has grown tired of Tejada’s attitude and antics, and might be willing to move him. But even if that move were to come to fruition, Boras may be pricing Drew well outside the Mets’ remaining budget.
Of their 2014 payroll, they’ve already committed $7.25 million to outfielder Chris Young, $13 million to outfielder Curtis Granderson and $10 million to Bartolo Colon this offseason alone. New York owes $20 million to third baseman David Wright, $5.5 million to starter Johan Santana and another $5.05 million to Ike Davis.
Drew, who made $9.5 million on a one-year contract with Boston in 2013, seems to be seeking a three year deal under which he would make around $12 million per year. I just don’t see Mets general manager Sandy Alderson being willing to make that kind of commitment to a shortstop who – while very productive in 2013 – has been statistically and sabermetrically average for his career.
Other teams that began the year with a need at shortstop have already filled them. The Dodgers have signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero, the Pirates have signed veteran Clint Barmes, and the Marlins have signed recovering Rafael Furcal.
That might leave Drew with little choice but to come crawling back to the Red Sox. But having completed a trade with the Rockies for utility infielder Jonathan Herrera, and with excitement building around 21-year-old rookie Xander Bogaerts, Boston is no longer in need either.
The Red Sox indicated previously that they would not be willing to offer more than a two-year deal to bring Drew back. And now, what reason do they have to offer more than the one-year, $14.1 million that Drew previously turned down?
Looking back on everything that has happened since that fateful November 7th date, and the state of the shortstop market today, it’s easy to question Boras’ and Drew’s decision making in declining the qualifying offer that was made. After all, $14.1 million is a LOT of money for a middle infielder, especially one with as paper thin a track record as Drew’s. It seems farfetched now that Drew will be able to get the four-to-five years he’s looking for; that Drew will be able to get anywhere near the $12 million per season he’s looking for.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from following the Hot Stove over the last few years, it’s this: never be surprised by what Boras is eventually able to pull off.
I expect Boras to drag out negotiations surrounding Drew for as long as he can to try and strike the best possible deal. The true measuring stick of his job will be how that deal measures up to the qualifying offer that was left on the table in Boston.