Just one of the many new additions, shortstop Stephen Drew, is key to a successful 2013 season for Boston.
Drew, the brother of former Boston outfielder J.D. Drew, signed a one-year, $9.5 million contract with the Red Sox this winter, after spending the first seven years of his major league career with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A’s.
The left-handed hitter was one of the better shortstops in baseball earlier in his career.
In 2008 with Arizona, he hit .291 with 44 doubles, 11 triples, 21 home runs and 67 RBI, while playing solid defense according to advanced metrics.
During his career he has 162-game averages of .265 with 36 doubles, 10 triples, 15 home runs and 70 RBI.
Drew’s career has been derailed recently because of injury, as he has played a total of just 165 games during the past two seasons.
In July, 2011, he suffered a gruesome broken ankle that required surgery and kept him out until the first half of last season.
When he returned, it was obvious he wasn’t the same player. Playing a combined 79 games with Arizona and Oakland, he hit a combined .223 with seven home runs and 28 RBI, and declined noticeably in the field.
The Red Sox, needing a starting shortstop because prospects like Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts weren’t deemed to be major league-ready, took a chance and signed Drew.
It’s starting to look like the team’s gamble could pay off.
Stephen Drew moving as he did pre-'11 injury. In 2008-2010, his average season was .277, .800 OPS, 35 2bh, 12 3bh, 16 HR.— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) February 20, 2013
If Drew is indeed fully recovered, he could possibly turn into the team’s best shortstop since the glory days of Nomar Garciaparra.
Although he was careful not to make excuses, Drew told the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton that he is glad to be in Boston and may have rushed back too quickly from his injury:
Not getting into all the details, it was mixed emotions. Pretty much, I did everything I could to get back. When you have an ankle injury like that, it takes time. In this game, sometimes you don’t have the [timetable] they think you should have… I was thankful for the time I got to spend there and the guys, but I think it was best to move on.
Drew confirmed to The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo that he finally feels healthy:
I worked hard this offseason trying to get my ankle right. It was a horrible accident, and I didn’t know whether it would result in having to curtail some things or even retiring. But the work I put in has given me confidence. I feel great again.
Boston manager John Farrell told Britton that he’s been impressed with Drew’s health and work ethic:
There seems to be no ill effects of the ankle injury. Through his ground-ball work to the team defense that we’ve run through so far, he’s very particular in just looking for feedback. He’s pretty meticulous in his work.
Drew figures to hit in the bottom-third of Boston’s order. If he turns in a typical year, it will be more production from the shortstop position than the team has seen in years.
Last season, Boston shortstops combined for just a .241 batting average and an anemic .642 OPS.
The team’s 7-8-9 hitters combined for a .241 batting average and .660 OPS.
Drew could act as a catalyst for turning around the bottom of the order.
Although Drew may be poised for a big bounce-back season, his time in Boston could be short. Iglesias is considered one of the slickest fielding shortstops in the game, while Bogaerts was recently ranked by MLB.com as the 20th-best prospect in baseball.
Drew, who will wear his brother’s No. 7, doesn’t hold any illusions about what the future may hold for him in Boston beyond this year. He told Cafardo, “Right now, I’m just going to focus on this year. I’m excited to be here and hopefully I put up a good year and get this team back in the World Series.”
If Drew can make a full comeback while contributing to a Red Sox playoff run, he will have regained control of his career.
While that could create some difficult decisions for Boston next offseason, they would surely welcome their new shortstop being a major key to a successful 2013 season.
Statistics via BaseballReference