The New York Mets have a somewhat dire situation at shortstop, and free agent Stephen Drew seems like an obvious solution. However, the Mets have been limited financially in recent years, and Drew is far from a perfect player, raising the question as to what price the Mets should pull the trigger and sign the shortstop.
There are two components to this question. The first is determining what Drew's actual value is, and the second is what his value is to the Mets.
New York shouldn't overpay Drew, but the desperation of their situation could force their hand and make them agree with Drew's demands.
Drew's Actual Value
Drew is a proven major league shortstop, but he has many flaws and isn't worth breaking the bank for.
Most of Drew's value stems from his positional value. Finding a shortstop who can both defend the position adequately, while also providing offense, is difficult, and the Mets have been unable to find a quality player at shortstop since Jose Reyes left in free agency.
Drew will turn 31 later this month, and has had an inconsistent career. His best season came in 2010 while playing with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had a 4.7 fWAR, while hitting 15 home runs with an .810 OPS, but failed to produce in the subsequent two seasons. His fWAR dipped to 1.7 in 2011 and -0.3 in 2012. Last season he resurrected his career for the Boston Red Sox, recording a 3.4 fWAR.
Having a shortstop who brings 3.4 wins-above-replacement to the table is a valuable commodity, but Drew hasn’t consistently performed to that level throughout his career. Signing Drew and expecting that production is a risky decision, as he could quite possibly regress once again.
Because of the lack of quality shortstops around the league, Drew should earn a significant amount of money. However, his inconsistency throughout his career, combined with the fact that he is aging, should limit the length of the contract he signs, as no team should offer more than a two-year deal.
Drew’s price is also hindered by the fact that any team that signs him will have to surrender a draft pick. Luckily for the Mets, it would only be a third-round pick, as their first-round pick is top-10 protected. Despite this, losing a draft pick lowers his value, even if it is just a third-rounder.
Drew's Value to the Mets
The Mets have a glaring hole at shortstop, and especially with their signings of veteran players this winter, the goal is to win now. Unfortunately, having a shortstop of Ruben Tejada's quality makes that less likely.
If the Mets are serious about winning in 2014, as their signings of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon indicate, signing Drew is the logical decision, as he makes the team better and is ready to be had.
However, while Drew makes the team better, he only does so marginally. While Drew posted an fWAR of 3.4 last season, Tejada had fWARs of 1.6 and 1.8 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, before regressing last year. Tejada also accumulated those totals while playing in just 96 games in 2011 and 114 in 2012.
If the Mets are held back by financial concerns, there is an argument to be made that having Tejada as the starting shortstop is better for the Mets than spending over $10 million on Drew for however many years.
There are also other options available to the Mets outside of the organization. Seattle Mariner Nick Franklin no longer has a spot as the team’s starting second baseman with the arrival of Robinson Cano, and has played shortstop in the past. However, he is not a great defensive shortstop, and would cost the Mets an asset such as Rafael Montero. The Mets need to decide whether spending money on Drew or spending assets for Franklin costs the franchise more.
There is also the mindset of the organization and their fans to take into account when valuing Drew to the club. Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com believes that the Mets need to sign Drew to prove that they are actually trying to win in 2014:
…in the event Seattle wants too much in return for SS Nick Franklin, the Mets should just go for it and sign free-agent SS Stephen Drew to a two-year, $20 million contract. It may not be the best investment of all time, but it would send a signal to fans and players that today’s talk of wining will be supported by new action.
This argument is valid, as signing Colon and Granderson are moves motivated by the desire to win in the short-term, yet the team still has a glaring hole at shortstop. However, a team should never make a deal to satisfy their fans, and if the front office feels that the funds they would spend on Drew could be better spent elsewhere, they shouldn’t feel pressured into signing Drew.
The Mets need a shortstop, and Drew is there for the taking, but they should by no means overpay in their pursuit of Drew.
If Wilmer Flores can't play shortstop, what should the Mets do?
The best situation for the Mets would be if Wilmer Flores proves he can play shortstop in camp, although that is an unlikely situation. If Flores can’t handle the position defensively, Tejada will be given the opportunity to resurrect his career, but he still lacks the talent or ceiling of players like Drew and Franklin.
With other options still available, and with Drew’s inconsistency throughout his career, the Mets should offer no more than a one-year, $10 million contract or a two-year, $18 million deal.
Trading for Franklin makes more sense, as the Mets have plenty of pitching depth and can sacrifice some of it for a shortstop of the future. If the Mets are truly strapped for cash, they shouldn’t overspend for Drew. If he comes at the right price, however, he makes the Mets better and they should jump at the opportunity to sign him.
Statistics courtesy Fangraphs.