The Stephen Drew Experience was not a great time for Yankees fans. Brought over at the 2014 trade deadline with the expectation that he would at least be better than the last gasps of Brian Roberts, the shortstop-turned-second baseman was absolutely atrocious with a 34 wRC+ in 46 games.
The Yankees hoped that Drew’s dismal 2014 was a fluke caused by his absence from the majors through early June due to free agent compensation-related issues. So they re-signed him for 2015. He improved... to a stat line of .201/.271/.381 with a 76 wRC+ in 131 games, slightly worse than 2014 Roberts.
The two sides parted following the 2015 campaign, and Drew had to settle for a bench job with the Nationals, where he promptly became a useful player for the first time in three years.
2016 Statistics: 70 G, 165 PA, .266/.339/.524, 8 HR, 124 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR
Age on Opening Day 2017: 34
Drew turned out to be perfectly suited for a job that asked less of him, and it actually makes sense. Even when Drew was good back in 2013 with the Red Sox, he was destroyed in lefty-on-lefty matchups. Aside from an out-of-character reverse platoon advantage in 2015, he hadn’t fared well against southpaws since his prime with the Diamondbacks in 2010.
The rest definitely didn’t hurt Drew either, as he suffered numerous constant nicks and bruises over the past few years, and he missed most of his last month in 2015 due to side effects from a concussion earlier in his career. To his credit, Dusty Baker found the perfect way to deploy Drew for the Nationals’ advantage. All but 17 of his plate appearances came with righties on the mound, and in that reduced role, he slugged .559 with an OPS over .900 off righties. For comparison, Mark Trumbo slugged .533 with an .850 OPS in his 47-homer season.
Drew has never really been a bad defender, either. A natural shortstop, he quickly took to second base during his time in New York (much like Starlin Castro), and he added third base to his skill set in 2016 as well. So he had a good chunk of exposure at all the infield positions aside first base, and playing in the National League, he made plenty of pinch-hit appearances too.
Brian Cashman has never been one to shy away from unpopular reunions, either. He reacquired Javier Vazquez in 2010 despite fans’ irritation from his 2004 results, and he nearly brought Carl Pavano back prior to the 2011 campaign. If he thinks Drew makes some sense, then he will absolutely talk to him.
The funny thing is that Drew might actually make sense for the 2017 team. For as much as some fans liked the youth and energy that Ronald Torreyes offered, he didn’t hit anywhere close to Drew’s 2016 performance, managing a .258/.305/.374 triple slash with an 81 wRC+ in 72 games. The same criticism goes for Rob Refsnyder, an inferior defender who failed to homer once and hit worse than Torreyes (72 wRC+ in 58 games). For as much as Drew struggled in 2015, he did still hit 17 homers, so the short porch certainly offers the potential for lefty pop off the bench.
Drew’s 2014-15 performance can’t be completely ignored though, even if it was in a different role. It would be a hard sell to say that Drew will again surpass the .800 OPS threshold. Maybe he will, and 2016 won’t be a fluke. Hell, even if his OPS is around .750, I think he would be a fine bench player and the Yankees wouldn’t be crazy at all to sign him.
That being said, there are enough red flags that I would be very surprised if Drew came back to the Yankees. Why would he want to come back to a place where we was booed so mercilessly? It’s probably better for all parties involved to just never think of him in pinstripes again.
We’ll always have that random pinch-hit slam.