Stephen Drew’s departure offers the Boston Red Sox an opportunity to start fresh.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington acknowledged Thursday that re-signing Drew earlier this season was a move that simply didn’t work out. Now that the veteran shortstop has been traded to the New York Yankees for Kelly Johnson, the Red Sox can revert to their original 2014 plan, which called for Xander Bogaerts to be Boston’s starting shortstop and Will Middlebrooks to be the starting third baseman.
The Red Sox’s decision to bring back Drew toward the end of May was a polarizing topic, but it made sense at the time given that the left side of Boston’s infield was in a state of flux. Middlebrooks had landed on the disabled list, Bogaerts’ defense at shortstop had been spotty and no one could have foreseen Brock Holt emerging as he did. Adding Drew seemed like a surefire way to stabilize the unit.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Drew struggled and the club fell out of contention, meaning the 31-year-old’s return represented, if anything, a setback in terms of developing Bogaerts as their shortstop of the future.
“In the long run, I don’t worry about Xander Bogaerts because he’s going to be good. He’s going through stuff, but he’s going to be good,” Cherington said Thursday, alluding to the rookie’s 2014 struggles. “He’ll have to go back to shortstop and take ground balls there now. But it looked like he was even getting more comfortable at short right before he moved to third, so hopefully he’ll just pick right up where he left off.”
The Red Sox, to their credit, ensured Thursday that they didn’t compound a mistake. The Red Sox took a proactive approach and shipped Drew out of town rather than playing out the string. Now, the final 54 games of the 2014 season can be used as a measuring stick by which Boston makes future personnel decisions.
It’s long been debated whether Bogaerts’ long-term future resides at shortstop or third base. The rest of this season could go a long way toward making that determination, though it’s clear where the Red Sox currently stand in regards to the 21-year-old.
“Nothing at all has changed in our opinion of him as a player. He’s going to be a really good player for us for a long time,” Cherington said. “We said last winter we believed he could play short for us. That didn’t change because we signed Stephen Drew despite sort of the tension around it. We signed Stephen Drew because we were trying to fill a need at a time when we were still trying to scratch and claw for wins.”
Drew only appeared in 39 games with Boston this season. He hit .176 with a .255 on-base percentage. While Drew certainly offered value through his defense, there was no sense in hanging onto him with Boston looking toward next season. A trade with the Yankees — something Cherington said didn’t cause any undue stress — was better than no trade at all, especially with Middlebrooks rejoining the club following a rehab stint at Triple-A Pawtucket.
The Red Sox entered the season with high hopes for Bogaerts and Middlebrooks. It’s time to see things through.