It made too much sense that the St. Louis Cardinals sign Stephen Drew to be their new shortstop.
Drew is the best free agent available on the free agent market. The Cardinals have the obvious need, with incumbent shortstop Pete Kozma dwindling down toward the .200 mark in batting average as the season went on, appearing almost entirely incapable late in the season of hitting the ball out of the infield. The Birds have the money with $40 million plus worth of free agents coming off the books including the club's former shortstop, Rafael Furcal who made $7 million in 2013 to do nothing. And Drew even has ties to the Redbirds, hanging out and taking batting practice with the club when big brother J.D. Drew was a member of the home team.
But then the younger Drew's agent got involved.
Scott Boras told CBS over the weekend that he thinks his client is one of the top five shortstops, both offensively and defensively, in the major leagues. And, because of that, Boras thinks Drew deserves a contract similar to the 8-year, $120-million contract the Texas Rangers lavished upon Elvis Andrus last spring.
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Let's forget the fact that the Rangers nearly immediately regretted that deal. The club is reportedly currently trying to trade Andrus to get rid of the contract and turn over the starting shortstop job to top prospect Jurickson Profar. I'm more interested in Boras' contention about Drew.
Sure, an agent's job is to pump up his client. But this contention is well past the borderline of ridiculousness.
Top five offensively, you say? Taking a quick peek at the stat sheet I find that Drew was 19th among MLB shortstops in hits with 112. He was 17th in runs scored with 57. The only category he fits a top five description is RBIs with 67. While the Cardinals would surely benefit from more runs being driven in by the shortstop, I'd say that is hardly a position the team leans on for the bulk of its runs batted in. Especially a team that hit .330 with runners in scoring position last season. The Redbirds need a shortstop who is a table setter more than an RBI producer. And I'm pretty sure any contending team that might be interested in Drew would be of the same mindset.
I'm certainly not suggesting that Drew isn't a good player or that the Cardinals wouldn't be a better team with him on the roster. But if I was the St. Louis GM and Boras started throwing out even the suggestion of a nine-figure contract, I think I'd be apt to pack up my briefcase and walk out the door. If the Cardinals were coming in cheap and thinking that they might get Boras' client for $30 million over three years (a somewhat reasonable expectation when you consider Drew's injury history) and Boras comes in looking for an Andrus contract, is there really even a reasonable point in the middle?
I don't think so. I'm completely on board with signing drew for four years and something along the lines of $42-$45 million. That's probably over-paying a guy who has had one decent year since a major leg injury sidelined his career. But the Birds can afford it since they're stocked with cheap pitching. Still, I don't believe the Cardinals should even consider Drew in the range of $75 million for five years. There's way too much risk involved. And if they're going to spend $15 million a year or more at shortstop, why not just go all in and try to land Troy Tulowitzki and Andrus in trade?
Boras' demands make the sticker shock of Tulo and Andrus' deals much less jolting.
When it comes to the stat of wins over replacement, both of those players are better than Drew. Tulo is an impressive 5.3 WAR, good enough for third behind Andrelton Simmons and Hanley Ramirez. Andrus is right behind Tulowitzki at 4.3 and Drew is 10th best in that category at 3.1.
The more I hear about Drew's contract demands, the more I like a trade for Andrus... As long as the Rangers are willing to be reasonable. I've heard rumblings out of the Cardinals camp that the club might be willing to trade Shelby Miller and David Freese to Texas. I'd hate giving up Miller. But would having a true top 5 shortstop who is 25 years old and under control for five seasons be worth it? Yes, if you subscribe to the theory that it's a good idea to trade a guy who plays every five days for one who plays every day.
If the Cardinals could make a second trade to acquire readily available Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, they'd have the makings of a pretty nasty team:
SS Andrus (R) .339 OBP, 42 stolen bases in 2013
3B Carpenter (L) .318 BA, .392 OBP, 55 doubles.
LF Holliday (R) .300, 22 HR, 94
1B Craig (R) .315, 97 RBI
CF Kemp (R) .293 career BA, averages 26 HR a season
C Molina (R) .319, 12 HR, 80 RBI
RF Taveras (L) .320 hitter in the minor leagues
2B Wong (L) .303, 10 HR, 45 RBI at Class AA Memphis.
The Cardinals could afford to take a chance on Kemp, if LA would pick up a reasonable amount of his contract, because they'd have centerfield capable backups Jon Jay and Shane Robinson in the wings. And, if they don't trade him, Matt Adams could play first with Craig shifting to right if Taveras didn't make the club out of spring training or if he got off to a bad start.
It's possible to swallow the contracts of Kemp and Andrus because of the money coming off the books. But, according to reports out of Los Angeles, the Dodgers figure they'd have to include money to dump Kemp.
The Rangers may regret the Andrus deal. But that's because they know they didn't have to pay him. They should have traded Andrus while he was cheaper and they could have landed a better return. But now the fact that another team will help them out financially figures as a large chunk of the compensation.