The utility infielder returns to the Washington Nationals for 2017. Stephen Drew adds bench depth and security to a needed position.
Drew, and the Nats, agreed on the reunion for one-year and $3.5 million and incentives totalling $1.2 million. Drew, 34 when the season begins, starts his 12th year with long stops with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox on his resume.
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Able to handle the entire infield, his return gives the Nats options in spelling shortstop Trea Turner and second baseman Daniel Murphy when needed. If first baseman Ryan Zimmerman needs rest or is injured, Murphy can slider over to first as the experienced Drew can fill the role at second.
Washington was betwixt and between with infield depth before Drew’s re-signing. After the experienced Danny Espinosa moved to the Los Angeles Angels—demoted to the bench when the Nats traded for Adam Eaton—it appeared Wilmer Difo was the bench option for the middle infield.
Although Difo is well regarded, at 24 he would be better off playing every day at Triple-A Syracuse. There, he can get at-bats and needed repetition to become a major-league regular when the time comes. Drew understands his role with the club and can expect regular playing time.
Last season, he played in 70 games ranging from second and third base mixed with time at short and as a designated hitter. A shortstop with the D-Backs and Red Sox, when he signed with the New York Yankees in 2014, he shifted to second base, deferring to the legendary Derek Jeter. In 2015, he earned the super-utility role with the Yanks, playing all the infield.
While his glove and clubhouse presence are the main attractions, Drew can still hit.
Last year, in 166 plate appearances, his slash line of .266/.339/.524 earned him an Adjusted OPS+ of 125. When you can stash a hitter capable of producing 25 percent above-league average, that is quite a coup. His 11 doubles and eight home runs attest to it.
Not a serious threat to steal bases, Drew brings the entire package to the table. A good defender, solid bat and another veteran for the clubhouse, the Nats return a major piece to the 2016 National League East championship puzzle.
Although the lack of depth on the bench never garnered the concern as in the closer role or catcher, it was there.
For a team in search of good news, they have it with Drew.