Stephen Drew is one of those weird cases, a mid-first rounder who should have been a top-three pick, like Jason Varitek or Jered Weaver. Drew was supposed to be an All-Star, if not a perennial MVP candidate. He was a golden draftee, the kind that don't come around but once or twice every few years.
He turned out to be pretty okay. Hurt at times and inconsistent, but pretty okay. He's had four seasons between three and four WAR in his eight-season career, which is close to star level. But those were mixed in with four seasons of replacement-to-serviceable. The odds are probably decent -- 55/45? -- that Drew's true talent level is closer to the star he was in his best seasons. But he's over 30 now.
He's also the only good shortstop on the market. He's the only thing close. Jhonny Peralta is also pretty okay, and he got a $53 million deal. Remember, Peralta is a year older and literally coming off a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Maybe they helped, maybe they didn't, here's $53 million to find out. Man, that seems crazy, but then you think about where else the Cardinals could have spent that money (nowhere, really). It was almost a reasonable deal. Drew is an even better bet than Peralta, considering.
There are a few issues, though. First, Drew been hurt a lot recently. It's tough to call someone injury prone based on a couple of injuries, with the most serious one being a total fluke. We get so caught up describing someone as "injury prone" or "fragile" when they've had three or four injuries, even if they're to different body parts. But we don't have a problem chalking up a fluky bad season to "one of those things." Why are three or four unrelated injuries over a multi-year period different? Sample size can apply to body parts, too.
That written, I wouldn't want to guarantee Drew a ton of money. My initial reaction is that he's made of graham crackers, and I can't shake the perception, unfair or not.
A second issue is that Drew will cost a draft pick. I think the Yankees' first pick in 2014 is Round 393, in which they'll draft Willie Nelson just to see if they can get him to shave and cut his hair for giggles. So they don't mind giving up a pick for Drew at the right price. Other teams most certainly will mind.
A third issue is that Drew will be 31 next year. For lumbering first basemen and DHs, it's okay to overlook the encroachment of nature if you're feeling optimistic. For shortstops, you have to wonder when the step will go away, the extra step that makes every shortstop a viable shortstop. If Drew can't field, he probably isn't that much better than Michael Young out there. That's almost entirely hyperbole, but you get the drift.
A fourth issue is that, by my count, there are 21 teams that have (or should have) zero interest in a big-ticket shortstop.
2. White Sox
15. Blue Jays
There are teams on that lists you could quibble with. What if the White Sox figured that Alexei Ramirez isn't their guy, and they're looking to make a trade before signing Drew to a big deal? What if the Phillies package Jimmy Rollins with Jonathan Papelbon and get a pitcher who knows how to win? Any of those could happen, in theory. I'll still put my nickel on the nine teams not listed.
4. Red Sox
Of those teams, one is the Marlins. Another is the Padres, who already have a reasonably priced Everth Cabrera. It's hard to see the Astros giving up a second-round pick for Drew, either. It's a really, really weird market for him. The Red Sox would love him back, but they also have Xander Bogaerts. The Yankees would want Jeter insurance, but they're still paying the actual Jeter actual millions, and they want to avoid the luxury-tax threshold, if possible. Even if Drew would play second base, I'm not sure the Yankees would want to pay that much for a Kelly Johnson upgrade.
Once you whittle away those unlikely teams, you're left with the Twins, Mets, Reds, and Pirates. And, heck, throw the Red Sox back in there. Bogaerts can always take third base away from Will Middlebrooks, which would allow for copious bogart-related puns.
Of those five teams, the Reds and Pirates would lose a pick. The Reds just got one from the Rangers for Shin-Soo Choo, so maybe they would still be interested, even if they haven't been a big part of the Drew rumors to this point.
The Mets are the obvious pick. Since November, we've been treated to headlines and tweets like this:
Mets okay with Ruben Tejada if nothing else shakes out
Mets: "Tejada probably wouldn't actively murder our chances"
Source: GM Alderson actually said "Ugh, jeez, I guess" when talking about Tejada
But the latest scuttlebutt has them with lukewarm interest. They're probably just dancing the Boras tango, but they're not a given considering the money they just spent on Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon.
I'll go a little off-center, then, and guess it's the Twins who pick Drew up for four years, $60 million. The Twins have had a weird, spendy offseason. Back in October, I would have figured their offseason plans were to shop Josh Willingham and curl into a ball. Instead, they've spent money to make their rotation interesting, if not effective. Upgrading from Pedro Florimon to Drew would improve the Twins about as much as the Mariners improved after signing Robinson Cano. If they're in a strange win-now world, there's no sense stopping at Mike Pelfrey.
Both Peralta's and Drew's new team will be disappointed in a few years. But for next year, they'll be substantial improvements. Moving from Pete Kozma to Peralta is a big deal for the Cardinals. Moving from Florimon to Drew would be an even bigger deal for the Twins. I wouldn't be surprised to see it, even if I haven't been right with one of these stupid things yet.