It’s a signing waiting to happen. After months of posturing, months of Hot Stove positioning, the coals are getting warm and spring training will soon begin. As of yet, no major league team has signed Stephen Drew to play shortstop for the 2014 season.
Will they sign him or will they pass? Speculation has raged on both sides of that issue in Mets World all winter long. I must admit, I never really connected emotionally to either side of this Great Mets Debate. Undoubtedly, I was impressed with the defensive play of Stephen Drew during this fall’s baseball post-season. Yet, Drew’s injury history was a concern and whether or not the Mets front office’s reluctance to sign on the dotted line was a bargaining ploy, a financial decision, or organizational doubt about the baseball value Drew would bring to the team’s roster, I could understand their hesitancy in pulling the trigger to make the move.
With February around the corner, we’ve reached the decision point. I think the Mets should sign Stephen Drew.
This off-season has been a chance for the Mets to reconnect with their fan base. Over the past three years, legions of loyal Met fans have felt betrayed. There were real reasons the Mets have not been a player in winter’s Hot Stove competition in recent years, have not ‘wheeled and dealed’ like they had during the days of Omar Minaya.
That matters little to many Met fans, fans that live and die for the orange and blue. A minor league overhaul and rebuild may have put down a foundation for a brighter Met future, but there was little recent evidence on the diamond at Citi Field. Many Met fans could only see a team that was standing pat year after year without making any serious investments intended to improve the product on the Citi Field diamond.
Signing Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon, and Chris Young have tempered the ill will somewhat. The off-season signings have teased Met fans into hoping that perhaps a new dawn is breaking over Flushing. Met fans want to believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The renewed trust is shaky with Met fans desperately needing to feel a new age has begun.
It’s the fragile hopes of the Met hopeful that make me believe signing Stephen Drew is a necessity. A Drew signing would signal to Met fans that their team really is headed in the right direction with a front office truly committed to winning, and winning now. Signing Drew would be medicine to strengthen the psyche of the other players on the Mets roster and, of course, throngs of Met fans as well.
It is hard to argue Stephen Drew would not be an upgrade at shortstop over Ruben Tejada both at the plate and in the field. In an injury shortened year, Drew knocked home 67 RBI’s last season, almost double Tejada’s career high total of 36. Drew would bring the Mets lineup some added pop, an offensive asset we still desperately lack at this time. In defining the difference Drew could make in the lineup, take a moment to consider who you would rather see batting second or even eighth this summer.
Defensively, Drew is also an upgrade over Tejada as well. Probably the most alarming part of Tejada’s 2013 season was his regression fielding his position at short. I was stunned by his shoddy defensive play and glove work early in the season last year. I kept saying to myself, “It’s early. He’ll shake it off. I know he’s a much better defensive shortstop than this.” But, shake it off he didn’t.
Defense is a lifeline on a team built around pitching. It’s one of the reasons, if it’s Duda or Davis, the Mets have to go with Davis at first base. Adding Drew at shortstop will vastly improve the Mets defense, adding confidence to the egos of every pitcher on the staff. His defensive numbers last season for Boston were impressive and ranked among the top five in most defensive metrics.
Of course, I would not endorse signing Drew for more than two seasons. It is being widely reported that Drew would most likely take a one or two year deal with any team at this stage. Drew has to be concerned by his inability to sign on with a major league team. His agent Scott Boras has been working feverishly behind the scenes trying to polish Drew’s assets to find a suitor, but to no avail. It’s down to teams and Drew can either play shortstop every day for the Mets or become a super infield back-up infielder. I’d wager he’d choose the Mets so he can build up his value and get a second shot at free agency in a year or two.
A two-year deal would also allow the Mets adequate time to evaluate exactly how their top shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini develops. The Mets picked Cecchini 12th overall in the 2012 MLB draft because they believed he had the baseball makeup and instincts to become their major league shortstop of the future. At this point, it’s doubtful that two more years of minor league play will hinder his major league debut. It should also be adequate time for Mets brass to evaluate the future roles of all the other young shortstops in the pipeline who are equally as promising.
Finally, the Mets should have the money to spend. That has been the message all along this Winter. This has been their promise, a promise three years in the making. Even with last month’s free agent pickups, for the third consecutive baseball season, the Mets projected payroll is expected to dip again if the season started today. Met fans are savvy. They understand that high cost rosters are not guarantees of on the field success. But, they also appreciate the idea that investing on your roster for the right players improves the odds and increases the likelihood of winning.
In Stephen Drew, the Mets will have an above average stopgap at shortstop, and an offensive and defensive upgrade that signals to their players and fans that the expectation of our team to compete in 2014 is more than simply words. It’s action.