Baseball’s 162-game season is a grind, and very few players are able to play every game, so having a solid bench is crucial. Over the last couple years, the Nats have had one of the best benches in the league, which has come in handy considering their seemingly endless injuries.
A major component of their bench over the last two seasons has been veteran infielder Stephen Drew. In his two seasons with the Nats, Drew has played second base, third base, and shortstop, which has given the Nats some flexibility in the infield.
Drew is also an excellent bat off the bench. In 2016, he hit .266 with eight homers in 70 games. In 2017, he returned and hit .253 with one homer in 46 games. The 34-year-old also served as a role model for young infielders, such as Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo.
Unfortunately, Drew battled injuries for most of the 2017 season. He strained his hamstring in early-April, which caused him to miss about a month and a half. Then, he suffered an abdominal strain in late-July, which ended his season.
Drew attempted to make a comeback at the end of the 2017 season and was reportedly healthy enough to play in the postseason, but the Nats left him off of the postseason roster since he had not played in several months.
While Drew appears to be expendable with Difo serving as a back-up infielder, it would be beneficial to re-sign Drew. Difo is a great young player, but has struggled in a reserve role.
Difo did an outstanding job of filling in for Turner when he was battling various injuries, but struggled when he was not receiving regular at-bats. Pinch-hitting is one of the most difficult tasks in baseball, and some guys do it better than others.
Although Difo may be a better player overall, Drew is a much better bench player. If Drew returns in 2018, he could serve as a back-up infielder along with Difo, and Difo could fill in for long-term injuries.
Drew’s veteran presence could also be beneficial for the Nats. 2018 is a huge year for the Nats, and they will have a new coaching staff. If Drew returns, his veteran presence could ease the transition from the Baker regime to the Martinez regime.
Stephen Drew did not play much in 2017 due to various injuries, but the Nats should absolutely bring him back in 2018.