Coming into the 2022 season, Brandon Drury signed a one year, low-money deal with the rebuilding Reds. By the end of the campaign, the veteran was occupying a middle of the order spot for the Padres during their run to the NLCS. Drury has bounced around over the course of his career, but is now a 30-year-old multi-positional free agent coming off a career year. He is not the flashiest player available this offseason, but he won’t be the priciest free agent to import, and he could be a solid fit for the Yankees.
I’ll start with the good for Drury, which, for better or worse, is mostly just his 2022 season. It was a huge year for the infielder by almost any measure you choose. Over 138 games and 568 plate appearances, Drury hit 28 homers and slashed .263/.320/.492, good for a 123 wRC+, and totaling up to 3.0 fWAR on the year. His 6.7 percent walk rate was the best he has maintained in any of his relatively full seasons, and he had by far the best power year he’s ever had. Along with those career-high 28 long balls, he also slugged nearly .500 and had an ISO of .230. It was the ideal outcome for Drury on a one year deal, headed into another dance with free agency.
A mostly full season of 123 wRC+ production is an outlier compared to career norms for Drury. Although it was a significant high-water mark, that doesn’t mean his improvements were a total fluke either. He was solid (114 wRC+) in an 88 plate appearance cameo with the Mets in 2021, and for what it’s worth, he has always seemed like someone who could be a better hitter than he showed.
His profile at the plate has looked better as well. Between 2021 and ‘22 Drury has had his best numbers in terms of average exit velocity, as well as significant highs in hard-hit rate. 2022 was also a career best for Drury’s barrel rate, and although most of the seasons in his career have been partial, the improvements should be encouraging, especially with this past season being a much larger sample.
The sustained success for Drury this year came mostly as a surprise, but his peripherals do help back up the legitimacy of the breakout.
It’s not all good when it comes to Drury however, as he comes with some hard-to-ignore downsides as a possible free agent target as well. He is now on the wrong side of 30, and coming off his impressive 2022 campaign, will probably command a multi-year contract. This was only the second relatively full season in which he has been an above average offensive player, the other being all the way back in 2016 with Arizona. Not only is the track record of success not all that long, he also has his fair share of well below average showings as well.
As far as the potential fit with the Yanks goes, there aren’t exactly holes at his primary spots, but it could be made to work. As of now, and depending on the outcome of the shortstop situation, Gleyber Torres could be the only infield regular under the age of 30. Having someone with experience at the corners and second base to give guys like Josh Donaldson (if he’s even around) and Anthony Rizzo a day would be big. Even if it worked like a rotating door, like they did with the DH spot at times last year. He can even play shortstop or a corner outfield spot in a pinch, and has been a solid defender over the course of his career.
The FanGraphs crowdsource projection has him getting something like three years for $30 million. It seems doubtful that the Yankees go that long with someone like Drury, and he may prefer to go somewhere with a more set-in-stone starting position. But, circumstances change a lot over the course of the offseason, and if things fell a certain way, he could be a useful addition for the Yankees.