The Toronto Blue Jays are leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit to upgrade their second base situation prior to the beginning of the 2015 season. However, after flipping the stone on Stephen Drew and seeing the price tag attached as being a bit steep, the Blue Jays have seemingly moved on.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Toronto remains one of five teams that have shown interest in Stephen Drew but have seemingly balked at the $9 – $10 million asking price, especially when most consider him a one-year deal at best. Based on his recent career trends, that hardly seems as a surprise.
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After turning down a qualifying offer and failing to find a suitor willing to shell out a multi-year deal and lose a draft pick in the process, Drew languished on the free agent market last season and had to settle for a pro-rated contract (worth $10.1 million). After making his season debut on June 2nd, Drew failed to get himself off the ground, struggling to a .162/.237/.299 slash-line with a wRC+ of 44 and was ultimately worth less than replacement value at a fWAR of -1.1. Things got so bad for Drew that he sparked a rare trade between the Red Sox and Yankees, as Boston seemingly would do anything to rid themselves of him, even take on Kelly Johnson.
According to Sherman, that has lead many teams to doubt that Drew can rebound. While Drew’s agent Scott Boras is noting that his client’s .764 career OPS is stellar for a middle infielder (it is), teams are hesitant to buy into a player showing that steep of a decline. Even with his bounce-back 2013 campaign with Boston (.253/.333/.443, 13 HR, 67 RBI), Drew’s three year marks since 2012 are less than spectacular, with the shortstop batting .220/.301/.377 and a strike-out rate over 23% in each season.
To make matters worse, Drew received an extended audition at second base for the New York Yankees in 2014, a move that Boras has touted would be fluid given Drew’s work at shortstop. However in 274 innings of work, Drew failed to get his footing defensively, posting a UZR/150 of-20.3 and also graded out negatively in rGDP (Runs Saved – Double Plays) and rGFP (Good Fielding Plays Runs Saved), both with scores of -1.
Given that the Blue Jays would want to use him exclusively at second base, and already have a plus fielder there in Ryan Goins, it is easy to understand why Toronto would balk at the asking price. Stephen Drew wouldn’t solve a team need here, nor would he lend to the payroll flexibility that the Blue Jays still need to add a few arms to the bullpen.
There are still better options out there, with smaller salary commitments, and the Toronto Blue Jays were wise to move on in this regard.