Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew throws his bat after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
The Yankees should have a bit of a new-look lineup tonight in Fenway Park following an off day on Thursday on which the team added two new position players: Stephen Drew and Martin Prado.
We’ll start with Drew, who was acquired in a deadline day trade for Kelly Johnson, another struggling infielder. Drew has played in 955 career major league games with Arizona and Boston, all at shortstop. He also played exclusively at short in 193 minor league games. I can’t find any position-specific fielding stats for college, but Drew was listed as a shortstop on the Florida State roster from 2003.
Point being, Drew probably hasn’t played second base since Little League, but that’s what the Yankees are going to ask him to do for the rest of the 2014 season. With Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan still on the Yankees’ roster – Kelly Johnson (traded) and Brian Roberts (released) are gone – Drew won’t get an opportunity to play short. So his defensive adjustment is going to be interesting to watch these first few games. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, but one wonders if Drew makes a defensive mistakes that costs the Yankees a game down the stretch run.
The real concern with Drew is his bat. Drew was offered a one-year, $15 million qualifying offer by the Red Sox following the 2013 season, but he turned it down hoping he would get a multi-year deal instead. Well, no one signed Drew and he sat on the free agent market through spring training. The Red Sox signed him to a one-year pact on May 21 and he didn’t join the big league roster until June 2. So it was understandable when Drew got off to a rusty start, but he’s never quite gotten out of that slump.
Through 39 games, Drew is hitting .176 with six doubles, one triple and four home runs to go along with 11 RBI and 11 runs scored. He is starting to heat up a little bit, as his average bottomed out at .128 on July 10.
Will he be an upgrade over Kelly Johnson? We’ll see about that. His defense should be a plus, as Drew has always been an above average fielder at shortstop, but the transition to second base is a question mark. Johnson had underwhelmed in New York, so perhaps it’s a case of both teams hoping a change of scenery leads to a turnaround.
Prado came up with Atlanta and broke up with a strong half season at the major league level in 2008, playing a variety of positions. He became a mainstay in the Braves’ lineup in the years to follow, making an All-Star game and finishing ninth in NL MVP voting in 2010. He was part of the Justin Upton trade prior to the 2013 season and has spent the past year and a half playing mostly at third base for the Diamondbacks.
Like Drew, Prado is going to find himself in a new position. With Chase Headley comfortably at third, Drew figuring at second and Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in left and center fields, respectively, Prado will get a shot at playing time in right field.
For all his versatility, Prado has played just two innings in right field in the majors.
A right-handed swinging bat, Prado probably falls into some sort of platoon with Ichiro and/or Drew if there is a lefty on the mound. Carlos Beltran is supposedly nearing outfield assignments again, so that might shuffle Prado around as well. Prado has also played 56 career games at first base, so he offers a bit of insurance there if Mark Teixeira goes down with an injury again.
Prado isn’t having a terrible year at the plate (.270 average, 17 doubles, five homers and 42 RBI in 106 games), but his on-base percentage has dipped to .317 and his slugging percentage is down to .370, well below his career averages in both categories.
Basically, he’s a poor man’s version of Ben Zobrist – a versatile player in the field who also swings a decent bat. And that’s just the kind of player the Yankees needed to patch up some holes and fit into a few platoons over the final weeks of the season. He’s also under contract through the end of the 2016 season, so he could be a key player for the Yankees in the years to come with question marks at second and third base for 2015.
These moves aren’t going to do a whole lot for the Yankees, most likely.
Roberts had a 1.3 Wins Above Replacement value through 91 games played. Prado has a 1.3 WAR in 106 games. So that’s a push. Kelly Johnson had a 0.5 WAR through 77 games. Stephen Drew is at 0.3 WAR through 39 games.
Prado, however, will give Joe Girardi a significant boost of versatility, something the idea of Kelly Johnson had promised but had never quite panned out.
And in Drew, the Yankees might not get a huge boost in production, but they might find Derek Jeter’s replacement for 2015. Perhaps Prado becomes the everyday third baseman next year as well. So these trades weren’t about 2014 and the Yankees’ hopes of clinching a playoff berth as much as they were with 2015 in mind.
Arizona Diamondbacks' Martin Prado throws to first against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)