After missing nearly a year due to a serious ankle injury suffered last July in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Stephen Drew looks like he is ready to make his 2012 Arizona Diamondbacks debut in Atlanta on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old shortstop has spent the past couple of weeks rehabbing at Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno. In 44 at-bats, the former Florida State Seminole has a .244 average with a pair of long balls and five RBI. Drew's ankle isn't at 100 percent at the moment, but it is in good enough shape to help the major league club.
It has been a long and difficult road for the former first-round pick.
There were the comments from D'Backs owner Ken Kendrick last month which questioned Drew's commitment to coming back quickly, and he has also had to deal with a long and difficult rehab from one of the nasty injuries that I have ever seen.
Ever since coming into the league back in 2005, Drew has had an up-and-down big-league career.
His best full season came in 2008 when Drew hit .291 with 21 homers and 67 RBI, but the inconsistent shortstop saw his average drop 30 points the following season and also saw a steep decline in his power numbers. Overall, Drew has a career .270 average with 70 dingers and 321 RBI in six major league seasons.
With Drew expected to be back at some point on this road trip, Arizona manager Kirk Gibson will have his work cut out for him to try insert his longtime shortstop into the lineup.
After getting off to a slow start, Willie Bloomquist has been great with the glove and the bat over the last two months. John McDonald's glove is as good as ever, and he has found some power in his bat when given playing time a couple of times per week.
Things would be much easier for Gibson if Ryan Roberts were still struggling.
If that were the case, Gibby could give Bloomquist and McDonald some time at the hot corner while starting Drew at short, but Roberts has been one of Arizona's best hitters the last several weeks—after hitting a horrific .152 during the first month of the season.
Right off the bat, Gibson will probably start Drew a couple of times per week to make sure the ankle soreness isn't too much for him and also to continue giving needed at-bats to Bloomquist and Johnny Mac.
Having said that, Drew better not get too comfortable in that role because the organization should look to deal him before the July 31st trade deadline.
This last year has taught us one thing: Drew won't be in a Diamondbacks uniform come next season.
The club has a $10 million option with Drew for the 2013 season, but if Kendrick's comments are any indication, there is no way the shortstop will be back in Sedona Red.
With that more than likely being the case, the organization might as well trade Drew, as long as he proves to interested teams that he is healthy and can play several days during the week. Drew won't exactly field a ton in return—being that he is coming off a serious injury and is in the last year of his deal—but if you can get a prospect or two who can help you down the road, it would be worth it.
It certainly beats the alternative of losing him for absolutely nothing.
Drew is more than expendable, considering the seasons that Bloomquist and McDonald are having with the bat and the glove in 2012. Well into their 30s, both aren't long-term solutions, but they can hold down the fort until the team addresses the position over the offseason.
Drafted 15th overall in the 2004 draft, Drew has had a nice career in Arizona, but he has been too inconsistent and hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations set for him before his big league career started to pay him the money that his agent Scott Boras is going to ask for on the open market this coming offseason.
If he can prove that his ankle isn't an issue over the next couple of weeks leading into the trade deadline at the end of July, general manager Kevin Towers should look to move Drew and put an end to his six-year era in the desert.