By Ryan Hannable
As much of New England spent this past week digging out from the snowstorm that hit the region, believe it or not spring training is just a little over a month away with the first full workout set for Feb. 20. While much of the 2014 roster is set, there is still one looming question surrounding the club — will Stephen Drew be re-signed?
This is a question which has been out there since Drew rejected the Red Sox’ $14.1 million qualifying offer back in November. Drew and agent Scott Boras have reportedly been seeking a multi-year offer, but with the free agent still out there it would seem the offers have been few and far between. As for potential teams needing a shortstop, both the Yankees and Mets have publicly said they are comfortable with where they are at. Manager John Farrell has a very good relationship with the 30-year-old, whose outstanding defense kept him in the lineup this past postseason even though he hit just .114. But with Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks already signed on the left side of the infield, can the Red Sox bring Drew back?
There is no question bringing Drew back would provide tremendous depth to the Red Sox infield, but can they they bring him back with the current roster? As it stands now the Red Sox have five major league ready infielders on their 40-man roster in Middlebroooks, Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, and newly acquired utility man Jonathan Herrera. Even though Daniel Nava and Mike Carp are outfielders, they also serve as serviceable backup first basemen. With those five infielders, along with five outfielders, two catchers and David Ortiz, the Red Sox have 13 position players. With the standard formula of having 13 position players and 12 pitchers, the Red Sox 25-man roster is full. If the Sox were to bring back Drew, they would have little choice but to trade Middlebrooks due to their current roster.
While Bogaerts split his time between shortstop and third base (six and six) in starts during the regular season, Bogaerts is still considered a shortstop, which the coaching staff has confirmed. If the Red Sox were to bring Drew back, either Bogaerts would have to shift to third base, or he, Middlebrooks and Drew would have to share the left side of the infield. With Bogaerts and Middlebrooks in the very beginning of their careers, is sharing time the right thing to do for their development? For Bogaerts specifically, if the Red Sox wanted him to play everyday and traded Middlebrooks, is playing third base full-time the right thing for his development as a future shortstop? For Drew, an eight-year veteran, is he going to want to share time with a 21-year-old in his first full season in the majors?
Much of the decision surrounding Drew depends on the Red Sox and how they view Middlebrooks and the development of Bogaerts. It would seem the Red Sox have still remained high on Middlebrooks despite his sophomore slump of 2013 and really like Bogaerts and his potential super star status. This means there simply isn’t enough roster space for the Red Sox to be able to bring their 2013 shortstop back. If the club decided they wanted to try and move Middlebrooks and shift Bogaerts to third base, then it’s a different story, but as it stands right now count on Drew not returning to the Red Sox for 2014 unless things change and a deal for Middlebrooks is made.
If you were the Red Sox what would you do? Do you believe in an infield of Middlebrooks at third base and Bogaerts at shortstop? Share your answer in the comment section or on Twitter @Hannable84.