Why Not Three Years?

By Rich Sparago

News is beginning to percolate around the Mets and Stephen Drew. The latest is that Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, is trying to engage Mets’ ownership to become involved in the pursuit of his client. As Danny Abriano has written here, the Mets seem to be hung up on both the potential dollar value and length of a potential contract with Drew.

Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew hits a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning during game six of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets’ hesitation on the dollar value is, if not palatable, understandable. The team is emerging from financial difficulties, and has made a strong monetary commitment to improving this off-season, dedicating $87 million to Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, and Bartolo Colon. The length of a possible contract is also at issue, as Danny points out. The Mets may be willing to go two years with Drew, while Boras is said to be seeking three years. I’m simply not clear on why the Mets would balk at three years.

It would be reasonable to refuse to give a free agent a three-year deal if the organization had a prospect coming at that position in the near future. This may explain why the Mets gave Chris Young a one-year deal. Young is coming off a sub-par season, and the Mets have Cesar Puello (among others) as candidates for the major-league outfield in the next two to three years. However, that does not seem to be the case at shortstop. Let’s look at who played the position at AAA, AA and Class A last year.

AAA- The Las Vegas 51s used Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla, Brandon Hicks, Brian Bixler, and Rylan Sandoval last season. Among these players, Tejada played the most games at shortstop (59) and hit .288 with a .337 OBP. This goes along with his .202 average and .259 OBP with the Mets. Quintanilla played 48 games in AAA, and hit .333 with a .419 OBP. Omar struggled in New York, batting .222 with a .306 OBP. Hicks (27 years old) played 41 games at shortstop, and hit .283 with a .348 OBP. Bixler (30 years old) played 17 games at shortstop, batting .259 with a .323 OBP.

AA- The primary shortstop at Binghamton was Wilfredo Tovar (128 games), who hit .263 with a .323 OBP. Tovar, 21 years old, appeared with the Mets in September, having only 15 official at-bats. Tovar hit 4 home runs in AA, with 36 RBI.

APhillip Evans played 106 games at shortstop for the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2013. The 21-year-old hit .203 with a .268 OBP. Evans hit 2 home runs and drove in 25 runs.

The point here is that no player in the full-season minor leagues jumps out as a can’t-miss prospect (at least within the next two to three years). That being the case, it’s somewhat ponderous to me that the Mets are not willing to give three years to Drew. They may be playing the market, hoping that they will not have to offer three years, when they could possibly land Drew’s services with a two-year deal. If that works, it will be a shrewd move by Sandy Alderson. However, if the strategy does not work and Drew goes elsewhere, the Mets may miss out on a solid shortstop, who could fill a need that many, including the organization itself, have identified as a need for 2014 and beyond. As far as I’m concerned, Drew’s 13 home runs, 67 RBI, .253 average and .333 OBP would look nice in Terry Collins‘s lineup next year.

How would you handle the Drew negotiations?

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