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Last chance to bring back Stephen Drew!

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  March 17, 2014 11:12 AM

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C'mon, Ben Cherington. Free him from his Boras-induced purgatory. Spare him another morning -- perhaps weeks' worth of mornings -- of awkward games of one-on-one pepper with Kendrys Morales.

Offer Drew a two-year deal at a rate that won't embarrass him, and bring him back to Boston, where he fit so well a season ago.

I know you're on a run of wise personnel decisions that rivals and may even surpass Theo Epstein's franchise-shifting sequence of transactions in the winter of 2003-04, but I ask you this: How can you possibly be so casual in parting ways with the last shortstop to start for a Red Sox championship team since ... um, Julio Lugo.

Ah, hell, I give up. I know Drew's not coming back. I wish he were, sort of -- how's that for digging in and taking a stance? -- but I'm resigned to the reality that he won't be re-signed.

You may have forgotten since my colleague Nick Cafardo recently shoved me aside and seized the wheel of the Drew bandwagon, but there's significant evidence in the archives here that I was at the forefront of celebrating Drew's entire catalog last summer and even into the fall. You Jose Iglesias truthers had your moments, but I officially claimed victory in the seventh inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. Should you not recall what happened, here's your reminder.

Drew made a crucial defensive play. Iglesias did not. Meet me in St. Louis.

All facetiousness aside, I do understand the Red Sox thinking. Sure, I would like to see Drew back here based on the More Good Players Is A Good Thing theory, especially if one of the players on the infield depth chart is coming off a sophomore season in which he lost his job twice and spent some unexpected time summering in Pawtucket.

Will Middlebrooks could become a cornerstone at third base for the next half-dozen years. His power is legit -- 32 homers in 660 big-league plate appearances is nothing to dismiss. I like seeing Josh Donaldson on his most similar batters list. Matt Dominguez and Lonnie Chisenhall -- yeah, they're slightly less encouraging.

Middlebrooks has some fundamental flaws that I'll believe he's cured when our eyes and a strong sampling of numbers confirm it. You know what they are: pitches away flummox him, and defensively he's a Hobson-in-progress. He worked hard this offseason, putting on obvious muscle, but I'm not sure that was the right way to improve -- the power was already there. It's the rest of his game that needs work.

He's hitting this spring (.308/.333/.577), an encouraging sign right up until you realize it means nothing -- he hit last spring as well (.321/.387/.536). The clock on Middlebrooks begins Opening Day.

If he doesn't perform or suffers an injury, I do wonder what happens. Jonathan Herrera is Pedro Ciriaco with a good glove. He's not someone a first-division team wants getting 400 plate-appearances.

I have no concerns about the player actually replacing Drew at shortstop -- Xander Bogaerts is a superstar ascending, and he strikes me as one who will make a habit of rewarding, and even exceeding, high expectations. He already did during our warm October. But he's not moving to third base at this point if Middlebrooks falters. He's working to be a capable defensive shortstop, and the Red Sox believe in him there.

harrelsonbudfinn37.JPGI get why the Red Sox have not brought back Drew, though I cling to the slim hope that he'll still be available should Middlebrooks do his Russ Davis imitation again. What I don't get why so many other teams have passed. He's steady-to-superb defensively, productive if streaky offensively, and it all adds up to one of the top 10-12 shortstops in baseball.

Yet the Cardinals passed on him for Jhonny Peralta, an absolutely inexplicable move. The Yankees are intent on leaving the Derek Jeter Monument To Derek Jeter at shortstop for one more farewell season. The Mets? The Mets may not even know he's available. I believe they're starting Bud Harrelson this season. And the Tigers, even after apparently losing Jose Iglesias for a good part of the season, seem wary of bringing in Drew, at least for now.

It's mystifying. It sure looks right now like Boras blew it in not accepting the Red Sox' $14,1 million qualifying offer. Who knows if Drew finds a baseball home before the June draft, after which there will be no compensation for signing him.

In the meantime, he works out for Team Boras with his fellow lost soul of the spring, Morales. Drew will find a new baseball home one way or the other; there's still plenty of time in the spring for some shortstop hamstrings to pop, you know?

But right now, he must feel bored, even detached from the game, particularly after the fulfillment of last October.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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