Red Sox, Stephen Drew agree

ByGordon Edes ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

BOSTON -- Shortstop Stephen Drew, who rejected a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Boston Red Sox after the World Series to pursue a multiyear deal elsewhere that never materialized, came to terms on an agreement with the Red Sox for a prorated version of Boston's original offer.

Drew was flying to Boston Tuesday, a baseball source said, and manager John Farrell said that he will undergo a full physical Wednesday. Assuming Drew passes, the deal will become official, one that will pay Drew roughly $10.2 million for the balance of the 2014 season, meaning he will be out approximately $4 million from what he would have gotten had he signed the original deal.

"We have the ability, provided all things work out, we've added a very good player to improve this team," Farrell said Tuesday. "That's the thing Ben (Cherington) and ownership have repeatedly shown: When a need exists, they'll do whatever is capable and whatever is available to improve the team.

"Stephen's return to us could very well do that. It will add stability to the left side of the infield."

Farrell estimated that Drew will need roughly 10-12 days and at least 25 at-bats in the minor leagues before he is ready to join the major-league club. The Red Sox will option him, with his permission, to Triple-A Pawtucket. Clearing optional waivers is a two-day process.

Once Drew is ready to play with Boston, Farrell said, rookie Xander Bogaerts will be moved from shortstop to third base.

"We had a chance to sit and talk with Xander," Farrell said. "He's aware of everything that's been talked about and reported, and (we) just wanted to be a little bit ahead of things, as to what it might mean to his position going forward."

Farrell insisted that while Bogaerts is being moved to third base, where he played nine games in the regular season last year, then replaced Will Middlebrooks for the last eight games of the postseason, his future with the club is as a shortstop.

"We still see Xander as a shortstop," Farrell said. "That was explained clearly to Xander. This shouldn't take away in his mind what our long-term view of him is. Xander is still a very good-looking young player and a very good shortstop."

The immediate reaction to Drew's return in the Red Sox clubhouse was positive.

"I think Stephen helped us out a lot last year," David Ortiz said. "He's a great player, great teammate. Hopefully, he's bringing the same attitude that he had last year and helps us out to win some games."

Drew's acquisition comes with the Red Sox in the throes of a four-game losing streak, their longest since they lost eight straight at the end of the 2012 season. They scored a total of three runs last weekend while being swept by the Detroit Tigers, the team with the best record in the American League.

The deal also comes just four days after Middlebrooks fractured his left index finger after being struck by a line drive. No timetable has been determined for his return, although Farrell said he will need to go out on a rehab assignment when he's ready to resume playing.

Talks between the Red Sox and Drew's agent, Scott Boras, accelerated after the injury to Middlebrooks, and the deal fell into place quickly, even though Drew's camp insisted there were a number of other potential suitors for Drew who were waiting until next month's amateur draft, when it would no longer require draft-pick compensation to sign him.

While Farrell insisted "we fully anticipate Will to be here," the deal appears to make Middlebrooks' future with the team more tenuous. The club, mindful of the 32 home runs Middlebrooks has hit over the last two seasons in 660 at-bats (the equivalent of one full year), was hopeful that Middlebrooks would establish himself as the everyday third baseman.

But for the second straight year, Middlebrooks has battled injuries (a calf strain and fractured finger), and even when healthy has not hit this season, batting just .197 with two home runs and 23 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances.

The competition at third base could be fierce going forward, with Garin Cecchini hitting over .300 in Triple-A Pawtucket and Bogaerts remaining an option there if the Red Sox ultimately decide that is his best position. Farrell qualified comments about how he planned to deploy his infielders by saying it depends on "who will be here."

He did not commit, for example, to a deployment of Bogaerts at short and Middlebrooks at third against left-handed pitchers, with Drew sitting out.

"I'm not going to say exclusively against left-handed starters that it will be Xander at shortstop," Farrell said. "That will be dependent on the other personnel who are here as well."

The one benefit Drew gains from signing now as opposed to last fall is that the Red Sox cannot make him a qualifying offering this November, meaning a club will be able to sign him without losing draft picks as compensation. The compensation picks had a chilling effect on Drew's market, Boras has said repeatedly.

But was that worth $4 million? That's a question Drew presumably will be asked when he arrives.

Drew has been working out full time for months with staff arranged by Boras, including baseball activity, taking ground balls, batting practice, simulated games and the like. But it is probably worth noting that after missing most of spring training last year and joining the club 10 days into the season, Drew was batting only .215 after 59 games.

But his glove will be more than welcome, as Bogaerts has been receiving on-the-job training at shortstop at the big league level, a tough place to learn such a demanding position. The Red Sox rank 13th in defensive efficiency (.666) this season, after finishing fifth last season (.694).

"(Drew) is an above-average defender who played an exceptional shortstop, particularly in October," Farrell said. "Having that experience and dependability will go a long way to stabilize the infield."

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