Stephen Drew‘s future is unclear. John Farrell‘s opinion is not.
Farrell appeared on WEEI’s Salk & Holley Show on Wednesday, and Drew’s free agency was among the topics of discussion. Farrell said that he’s “hopeful” that Drew, who is currently a free agent, will be back in 2014, as he’s a solid shortstop who makes the Red Sox a much deeper team.
“Our approach towards our team is always going to be one to build the greatest depth — not only to the 25-man roster, but guys below that,” Farrell said. “Stephen Drew is a very good shortstop. I know there will be people who say, ‘What’s the infatuation with him?’ based on the postseason performance, but he’s a darn good shortstop. He had a very strong year for us, he’s a left-handed hitter. Otherwise, we would have an entire right-handed-hitting infield, which creates further balance in the lineup going forward.
“I can’t sit here today and say that he’s going to be back here. Personally, I’m hopeful he’s back. It buys us some time, whether [Xander Bogaerts] is the guy going forward next year at shortstop or if he’s at third base.”
Drew struggled mightily at the plate during the postseason, hitting .111 (6-for-54) with 19 strikeouts. He proved to be a productive hitter during the regular season, though, and his steady defense was valuable, even in October amid his offensive woes.
Drew hit .253 with 13 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .333 on-base percentage in 124 regular-season games in 2013. That’s good production for a shortstop, and it could go a long way toward netting him a multiyear contract on the open market. The Red Sox did offer Drew a $14.1 million qualifying offer, though, and Farrell said Wednesday that the 30-year-old absolutely has a place on Boston’s roster next season if he accepts the offer, even with Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks part of the club’s infield mix.
“Will Middlebrooks, we recognize the up-and-down year that he had. But it’s also a guy that, 27, 28 home runs combined [in two partial big league seasons],” Farrell said. “There’s a little bit of swing and miss there. His offensive profile may be a little bit different than some of our other guys. But still, we’re always going to side on the ability to build as deep a roster as possible. If that creates a little redundancy, at least in the short-term, we’re more than accepting of that.
“The depth of our roster this year allowed us to overcome some of those injuries, whether it was with Shane Victorino in the outfield or with Stephen Drew because of the concussion and the hamstring issue. You can never have a deep enough club,” Farrell continued. “I would hope that we’d be able to bring all four of the [team's major free agents (Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury)] back, but that’s probably unlikely because of free agency and the way that salaries will escalate.”
If Drew rejects the Red Sox’ $14.1 million qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, Boston will receive a compensation draft pick. If Farrell’s mindset is a reflection of the organization’s overall thought process, however, it’s clear that the Red Sox made the offer with more than just a potential draft pick in mind.