The Boston Red Sox have signed shortstop Stephen Drew to a one-year, $9.5 million deal with $500,000 in possible incentives, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. The 29-year-old returned from a fractured right ankle suffered while sliding into home plate in July of 2011, splitting the season between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Oakland Athletics. Drew played more like a guy on the fringes of the 25-man roster than someone deserving of an eight-figure salary, however, costing his clubs the better part of a win in the field and posting his worst OPS+ (79) since 2007.
While he's no Jose Iglesias with the glove, Drew could be worth the cash if he stops resembling Iglesias at the dish. To do that, he'll have to reverse his steep decline against pitches thrown high in the strike zone.
Here's a look at Drew's slugging percentage against high pitches over the past three seasons:
Drew slugged .519 against high pitches back in 2010, which was nearly 120 points above the major league average. Drew's slugging percentage against high stuff fell to .466 in 2011, and it nosedived to just .210 in 2012. He hasn't hit a homer on a high pitch since he took Tim Lincecum yard on a curveball on September 29, 2010.
When he's not making weak contact against high pitches, Drew is whiffing at them. Here's his contact rate against high pitches from 2010-12:
Drew missed 13.4% of the high pitches that he swung at in 2010, compared to the 19.6% major league average. His miss rate jumped to 24.8% in 2011 before declining slightly to 23.2% in 2012. Scuffling against high pitches, Drew's overall slugging percentage has dipped (from .458 in 2010 to .348 in) and his K rate has climbed (from 17.1% to 23.2%) three years running.
Even so, Drew is not a terrible stopgap option for the Sox. He gives Iglesias (who struggled to slug his weight during a big league cameo last season) more time to develop some modicum of offense, and he doesn't block Xander Bogaerts, whose Hanley Ramirez-like skill set could make him a star. Boston is paying Drew like a league-average starter, and he could be that. But to get back to his previous career heights, he has to handle the high suff.