COMMENTARY | A major factor in why the St. Louis Cardinals failed in their pursuit of free agent shortstop Stephen Drew over the off-season is that the Redbirds couldn't offer Drew a promise of playing time as a starter.
Ironically, now the Cardinals are team which could offer Drew, .265 career hitter who four times in his seven-year career has reached double figures in home runs, plenty of playing time. The deck was cleared at short when Rafael Furcal was revealed to be out for the season thanks to a torn ligament in his throwing elbow. Meanwhile, Red Sox 23-year-old shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias has impressed in spring training and Boston is itching to give him a chance to become a long term solution for a team that has had a revolving door at short.
Drew is currently recovering from a concussion suffered when he was hit in the head with a pitch Thursday against the Minnesota Twins. Boston manager John Farrell has been content to let Iglesias handle the duties at short while Drew recovers. But what happens when Drew comes back?
Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak has insisted that his club feels secure with inexperienced shortstop Pete Kozma as the starter. But what is he going to say? Clubs that might be inclined to deal a big name shortstop know St. Louis is desperate. With a group of top prospects on the verge of the major leagues, the Cardinals know they would be held hostage for an unreasonable return for a significant player under team control for multiple years.
But Boston would likely be more reasonable. Drew, after all, is only signed to a one-year deal which was designed to five Iglesias and prospect Xander Bogaerts a chance to develop while the veteran could rehab his free agent value damaged by the devastating ankle he suffered in 2011.
Drew will make $9.5 million in his current deal, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. The deal includes a $500,000 bonus if he makes 500 plate appearances. The contract also includes a clause that says Drew can't be traded until June 15. But I'd bet he'd be willing to waive that clause if Drew had the option of playing somewhere else as opposed to riding the bench in Boston.
Boston would probably prefer not to pay big money to a bench player when it has a payroll of $175 million, so the cost in talent ought to be low in return for erasing what now seems to be a $10 million mistake. The question for the Cardinals is would the team would be more willing to part with money or elite prospects to fill the hole created at short by the loss of Furcal?
According to Cot's, the Redbirds have a payroll of just shy of $111.9 million, which doesn't seem to offer a lot of wiggle room since it's the highest total payroll in franchise history. But St. Louis has a ton of money coming off the payroll in 2014 when Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Furcal and Jake Westbrook will come off the books, saving the team about $40 million. So it could be reasonable to go a little over budget this season knowing it will be under its salary threshold next year when Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller and possibly Michael Wacha will play for the major league minimum.
Scott Wuerz has been a reporter and columnist at the Belleville News-Democrat, located in suburban St. Louis, since 1998. During that time he has covered three St. Louis Cardinals World Series appearances, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game and Mark McGwire's chase to break Roger Maris' home run record. He has penned the View From the Cheap Seats Cardinals fan blog for the News-Democrat since 2007.
- Sports & Recreation
- Stephen Drew
- Rafael Furcal