Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Yankees re-sign Stephen Drew creating multiple roster scenarios

The New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract with Stephen Drew, which carries incentives that could tack on an additional $1-2 million. The agreement was first tweeted by’s Jon Heyman Tuesday night. The contract will not be finalized until Drew passes a physical. Drew, who turns 32 in March, would be the Yankees starting second baseman if the season was to begin this morning.

What does this mean for the Yankees’ roster? Well, it’s created multiple options from which the Yankees can operate from this point through the season.

The best case scenario is that Drew is good enough to cash in on the incentives. The worst case scenario is that Drew flails like last season (51 OPS+) and the Yankees are slow to pull him from the role just as they did with Brian Roberts in 2014. That’s the hinge to this being a good or bad signing; whether the Yankees are going to be ready to move on quickly if necessary.

The middle ground here is that Drew is steady in the field and not a drain at the plate, allowing Rob Refsnyder to get even more acquainted with second base at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre over the first half of the season. If the Yankees are clicking on all cylinders and the Drew is not an issue, no changes are necessary.

However, if the Yankees are not primed for a run at that point, Refsnyder looks better at the keystone and his bat is as impressive as it’s been, they have a decent chance of shipping (or ditching) Drew for an alternative part on the roster and allowing Refsnyder a half season to get acclimated to the big leagues. If Refsnyder is struggling or deemed not ready, then they could insert Pirela. Either way it would afford the Yankees the chance to see either player for half a season's worth of games and thus make a determination as to whether they are the future at second base.

There are several other instances that developed from this signing. One, they have insurance for Didi Gregorius should he have a poor start to his New York tenure. If that were to happen, they could shift Drew to his natural position and bring up Refsnyder or use Jose Pirela at second.

If interested, the Yankees can now include Gregorius in a deal should they have to for Cole Hamels as has been bandied about of late. Again, this would force Drew to short and reinvigorate the Refsnyder/Pirela spring training competition I was excited to witness. The Yankees would however be in a similar situation for 2016, requiring a new shortstop, but for Hamels I’d bet they’d roll with it.

Lastly, the Yankees could split at-bats with a straight platoon of the left-handed hitting Drew beginning with Pirela, who is already on the 40-man roster and bats right-handed. That could happen as the team breaks camp or as the season wears on especially if it seems the Yankees are not postseason bound.

For $5 million I cannot argue with the Yankees’ decision making process here. It’s minimal in terms of finances and term. They can cut bait quickly and not worry about the money they invested. I’m disappointed in the fact that they don’t feel Refsnyder is ready, but I’m holding out hope that this move precedes another. If it’s to land Hamels for example, at the expense of Gregorius, then it’s well worth it.

Further, who knows what other instances could occur? Maybe Drew has a “normal” season after participating fully in spring training. He was a valuable resource in Boston in 2013 (111 OPS+). Perhaps someone gets hurt and having Drew, someone able to play multiple infield positions, is a better plug than Ryan, again allowing Pirela and/or Refsnynder reps in New York.

As I mentioned earlier I was enamored by the prospective Refsnyder/Pirela battle in Tampa, purely from the standpoint that giving young players a fair chance to compete is fine in my view when the team is not geared to make a deep postseason run. I wonder if the Yankees are any better than an 85-win team right now. It clearly clouded my vision of signing a veteran second baseman.

As such, I tweeted when it was reported early Tuesday that the Yankees were checking in on Drew and other second baseman that I couldn’t see a single instance in which a Drew signing made sense, especially at his reported $9/10 million desires. Well, I admit I was wrong (though half the cost makes the signing easier to swallow). After sifting through the various situations explained above, there are plenty of reasons to take the chance. Again, the key is that they waste no time showing Drew the door if he’s resembles the player he was in 2014.

Once again, the Yankees have made a move which could facilitate others, or ease the development of their young players without bogging themselves down to a horrible contract.

What are your thoughts? Is Drew a terrible signing, or one which can help the Yankees either directly with positive performance or indirectly by allowing development time to Refsnyder and Pirela? Let me know in the comments below.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.