Drew will make Boston -- and Bogaerts -- better
CLEVELAND -- Boston's seven-game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Stephen Drew's first day back on the job, but, you know, there's that old line about correlation not implying causation.
Red Sox manager John Farrell summed up Drew's arrival best: "We've added a very good player to our roster who's going to make us better."
And that's the bottom line that applies here, because depth will always outweigh small samples in a 162-game schedule.
Boston's need for depth was evident back on May 21, when Drew was officially brought back into the fold with a prorated, discount contract that mercifully ended his stay in Draft-pick-compensation purgatory. (Kendrys Morales will have to wait until after the Draft for his admission into the wonderful world of employment.)
But in the time between Drew's signing and Drew's activation, Xander Bogaerts did his best impersonation of vintage "Nomah," and the out-of-nowhere emergence of Brock Holt had summoned the Fenway ghost of Wade Boggs.
Not too coincidentally, the Red Sox went on the kind of run that simply didn't come when Will Middlebrooks was manning third and batting a buck-97.
All right, so some people in Red Sox Nation were a little miffed when Drew arrived. Bogaerts had to take a few steps to his right to reclaim a position he had last played in the World Series, and Holt had to go from his new home on the hot corner over to first (where he's filling in for Mike Napoli for the rest of the week) before eventually settling into a super-utility job.
Whatever. Maybe the timing was a little awkward, but the motive behind the move is sound. Boston needed improved defense from the left side, and it's a reasonably safe assumption that Holt, whenever his current hot stretch (a .967 OPS dating back to May 20) subsides, will offer plate discipline and defensive flexibility that will profile particularly well in his new gig.
Drew was part of three double plays in his first game back. The yang to that yin is that he also was unable to properly apply the tag on two close plays at second. If there are kinks to be worked out, it's understandable, given the strange circumstances surrounding his time away from the bigs. In the grand scope of the season, Drew is an elite defender at a pivotal position, and he'll help a Red Sox pitching staff that enters Tuesday with a Fielding Independent Pitching mark (3.58) lower than its overall ERA (3.73).
The unintended benefit of the roughly $10 million investment that Boston has made in Drew is what it's done to Bogaerts.
Now, anybody who was disappointed with Bogaerts' .269/.369/.379 slash line just before word of Drew's signing began to spread inherently didn't understand the climate of shortstop production in which we live (.252/.313/.373 is the MLB average at the position). It is, however, true that the Red Sox had reason to suspect there was more power -- to all fields -- looming in Bogaerts' bat and that his defensive play was more stable than he had shown.
Members of the staff thought the Drew speculation, which had hung in the air through the winter, spring and first six weeks of the season, was affecting Bogaerts, who was putting pressure upon himself to justify his role as the starting shortstop.
Once Drew's return finally became official, Bogaerts, though understandably displeased to be losing his true position, could finally breathe easy, knowing the course was clear. The result? A .379/.446/.603 slash line since May 20, including a particularly encouraging two-run shot to the opposite field in Monday's loss at Progressive Field.
Bogaerts is merely enduring the early-career positional uncertainty that many others -- Drew included -- have in their rear-view mirror.
"I talked to [Bogaerts], just me and him," Drew said. "I was kind of in the same boat in Arizona, with [Craig] Counsell there and me coming up. Basically, it's going to hopefully make the team better. ... Going back to last year, he played really well at third. It's not that he can't play short. I just think it makes the club better."
Indeed, Bogaerts has power potential that can play just about anywhere. At shortstop, it's particularly prominent, and he'll reclaim that role in the not-too-distant future. But a Red Sox team still shaking off its October hangover (and dealing with a wealth of injuries) needed to balance its needs and be careful not to read too much into small samples out of Holt.
In the long term, Drew's glove and Bogaerts' improving plate performance are valuable assets to a club that, for all its early faults and frustrations, is still very much alive in the American League East. Drew alone does not make the Red Sox whole, but he does make them better.