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Stephen Drew would accept a multi-year deal with an opt-out; time for the Yankees to step up

Current 2014 projected infield: 1.3 fWAR in 2013. Stephen Drew in 2013: 3.4 fWAR. Get it done, Cash.

Jim Rogash

At the beginning of the offense, the proposal that the Yankees should sign Stephen Drew seemed questionable. This idea was reinforced when the best shortstop on the market, Jhonny Peralta, was given a four-year, $53 million contract by the Cardinals; the fact that Drew was tied to draft pick compensation didn't help. Drew was not going to get a deal that close to Peralta's contract, but a contract of at least half that value seemed logical for him, so I still felt the Yankees should stay away.

Now, however?

It's time. Drew appears to have overvalued his original worth in a market that was blasé about the options aside from Peralta. From Rubin's report, Drew is willing to accept a one-year deal as long as there is an opt-out clause attached to it. Even with the opt-out, it's hard to quibble with the idea that a multi-year deal with an opt-out after year one would really be the worst thing in the world for the Yankees.

As numerous people on this site and around the Internet have said, the Yankees' infield as it currently stands looks to be among the league's worst entering 2014. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are both recovering from major injuries and could very well stand to miss more time if something goes wrong in their rehab, Brian Roberts is an injury just waiting to happen, Kelly Johnson had a mere 89 OPS+ over the two years prior to 2013, Brendan Ryan is not a major league hitter, and Eduardo Nunez was one of the worst players in Yankees history last year. The Yankees decided to enter 2013 with similar question marks at shortstop, third base, and catcher; that plan did not work out, yet the team seems set on entering 2014 with big question marks like those anyway--a debatable strategy, to say the least.

One of the reasons Drew is still available is that he does have flaws in his game; there's no denying that. He's a complete give-up against lefthanded pitching, as he hit just .196/.246/.340 with a 53 wRC+ when facing southpaws in 2013, and his career marks aren't much better at .235/.291/.390 with a 74 wRC+. Those who don't like strikeouts might grow weary of Drew since he struck out in roughly a quarter of his 2013 plate appearances. Away from cozy Fenway Park and the his wall ball buddy, Drew batted a mere .222/.295/.392 with an 88 wRC+ in 2013. Additionally, while a capable defensive shortstop, people have guessed at if the Yankees did sign him, they would likely use him at third or second. In 1,097 games between the majors and minors since the Diamondbacks drafted him 15th overall out of Florida State in 2005, he has literally never played anywhere else on the field. (Hell, he's only made two appearances as a DH.)

However, criticisms of Drew at this point neglect the classic Moneyball philosophy--by focusing on what a player can't do, people will ignore the benefits of what he can do. The Mariners did not like the negative aspects of Shawn Kelley on the mound in years past and overlooked his incredible strikeout ability. The Yankees swooped in and traded for him at the cost of a Double-A outfielder far back on the depth chart, and Kelley rewarded them with a productive season out of the bullpen. (Abraham Almonte showed potential in his first year with the Mariners' organization, but the 24-year-old still doesn't project to be much more than bench depth in the future.)

Drew does have all those flaws mentioned above, but the man can hit. Why are people quibbling about his Fenway home numbers while the Yankees play their home games in the greatest park for a lefthanded hitter in the majors? He can pop the occasional dinger, reaching double digits in homers five times in seven full seasons, and he's belted 210 doubles and 60 triples during his career as well. For all the talk about his problems against lefties, that's nothing new for most lefthanded hitters. The only reason he got his 2013 numbers up to .253/.333/.433 with a superb 109 wRC+ despite those bad splits was by absolutely pummeling righthanded pitching (.284/.377/.498, 137 wRC+), which, lest we forget, is the most prevalent arm preference in the league.

On defense, Drew has never played second or third before, but he's done quite well at shortstop, which is a harder defensive position than either of them. If the Yankees wanted to try him at one of those positions, he more likely than not would do a fine job given his reputation. The Yankees could use legitimate shortstop insurance anyway in case Jeter's recovery lands him on the DL at some point. There's a decent chance that 2014 could be Jeter's last season, so a multi-year offer wouldn't be bad, especially since Drew might theoretically opt out with a good year in 2014 anyway. Even if Drew has an off-year and doesn't opt out, the 2015 free agent market for infielders isn't all that inspiring; who would the Yankees overpay for there? The best options are Hanley Ramirez, Chase Headley, and Pablo Sandoval, who all carry significant question marks and likely bigger financial hits as well. The Yankees would already have an infielder locked in through Drew.

The second round draft pick Drew will cost is less damage than it would be for other teams, so the Yankees have an advantage there. It's the 56th overall pick of the draft so the potential for elite talent at that point is much lower. If the Yankees signed Drew, they wouldn't get a pick until #92, toward the end of the third round. Yes, that's unfortunate, but if, as rumored, the Yankees do indeed go bananas with international signings with the threat of an international draft looming, then they could simply view that as their young talent infusion for 2014 rather than the draft. Plus, as excellent players like Wil Myers, Kyle Seager, and Jonathan Lucroy have demonstrated, talent can still be found deep in the MLB draft anyway if the scouts are good enough. Losing a mere second round pick to greatly improve the infield should not be a major concern, and neither should going further over $189 million. If they've already blown past it with the signings of Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, is it really so crippling to add another $10 million or so in average annual value? Studies of the Yankees' income demonstrated that they missed out on close to $60 million from missing out on the playoffs. If Drew helps the Yankees get there, then he'll more than make up for the luxury tax hit.

Projections say that the Yankees are a team that will likely finish with a win total in the eighties. Obviously, projections are not the definitive future, but even with all the offseason improvements, it's hard to say for sure that the Yankees are a 90-win team. A much better starting infielder like Drew could thus be the difference between the Yankees making the playoffs or sitting at home come October. We've said it before, and we've said it again: open up the wallet, Hal, and get it done, Cash.