Replacing Stephen Drew

Last night, Stephen Drew broke his ankle and will be out for at least the rest of this season. It’s horrible timing for the D-backs, with both J.J. Hardy and now Jose Reyes off the market. So what are the D-backs to do? Figuring out who they are is a good start.

First, there are the internal options. While the D-backs scramble, that’s likely to be Willie Bloomquist. The erstwhile infielder, now on his third organization in the last three years, has not generated a positive WAR since 2008. Nevertheless, Bloomquist has been on the team all season, and other than the since departed Josh Wilson, he is the only player besides Drew who has started at shortstop this season.

The situation does not get any better at Triple-A. The Aces’ roster doesn’t even list a shortstop, though it appears that Tony Abreu and Cody Ransom have been splitting time there. Ransom has never really had a true shot in the Show, though at 35 years old, the reason why seems obvious. Ransom is mashing in Triple-A though, and he can’t really be any worse than Bloomquist, so that could be an option. Abreu hasn’t embarrassed himself at Reno, but his time in the Majors has been more focused at second and third. He’s probably not up to the task of handling shortstop on a full-time basis.

Going deeper, Taylor Harbin, the shortstop for the D-backs’ Double-A club, is not exactly knocking the door down, and Chris Owings, who was the only shortstop on the D-backs’ Top 10 Prospects list before the season, has taken a major step backwards offensively at High-A. In other words, all paths probably lead to Bloomquist.

While there are no slam dunks on the market, the good news is that any incoming player doesn’t have a high bar to clear in order to match the production the D-backs received this year from Drew (or Bloomquist). Drew was actually having a down year at the dish. His plate discipline had taken a turn for the worse, and the power he exhibited the last three years was not on display this season. While his .143 ISO was still above average for a shorstop, it ranks just 88th out of 154 qualified players this season overall.

Looking at the available options — most notably Jamey Carroll and Clint Barmes — it’s easy to make the case that on paper, they could be just as valuable as Drew was down the stretch. Both pass the valuable postseason experience test as well. Of the two, Barmes looks like the best fit. A free agent at the end of the season, Barmes has had a minor resurgence this season. Known more for his glove than his bat, Barmes has picked it up offensively this season, and that might get better once he leaves Houston, as he has compiled a 72 wRC+ at home versus 126 on the road. Barmes has accrued the same amount of WAR as has Drew, but in 19 less games.

Carroll would fit as well. Though he doesn’t have the defensive chops at shortstop that Barmes does, Carroll has improved his approach offensively the past couple of years. He’s not going to hit many, or any, home runs, but he can be an asset offensively. But he derives the most value for a club at second base. He’d be an upgrade over Bloomquist, but he is likely to give a lot of his offensive value back in the field if given the shortstop gig full-time. Other options include trying to extract the last bit of magic from Carroll’s teammate, Rafael Furcal, or calling the Mariners about Brendan Ryan. Though with Ryan’s name conspicuously missing from trade rumors, the price for him would likely be higher.

And that brings us to the heart of the situation. Should the D-backs be trying to aggressively replace Drew with an external candidate? Losing Drew adds to the D-backs problems, but there are other issues. The team is still a starter and a reliever short of being a bonafide playoff team, and may need two starters just to reach the playoffs, as the Joe Saunders and Zach Duke duo isn’t likely to help matters much. The D-backs could look at Drew’s injury as a blessing in disguise, an excuse to wait until next year. On the other hand, they are right in the middle of the fray, and the National League West is a winnable division. The D-backs can potentially bury the Rockies this weekend, turning them into sellers and leaving the Giants as their only remaining competition.

While he wasn’t having the dominating year he had last year, Stephen Drew was a positive contributor to the D-backs’ success, but he can be replaced on paper. But Drew’s injury puts the onus on the D-backs to decide who they are. Are they a happy-go-lucky team who is a year away from true contention that is happy to dance with the guys on their team, or are they poised to reach the playoffs now if they act aggressively to shore up the team. The landscape of the West almost forces them to the latter, and if they are able to beat the Brewers and other clubs to Barmes, the D-backs could still be set up for a playoff run in 2011.




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Paul Swydan is the co-managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for ESPN Insider. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

30 Responses to “Replacing Stephen Drew”

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  1. Ken says:

    That’s really a tough loss. The Mariners are not about to trade Brendan Ryan. However, they do have Jack Wilson. Wilson can’t even hit as well (as poorly?) as Ryan but does play strong defense and would likely come very cheap.

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  2. Robert says:

    I think the Dbcaks should trade for Hanley Ramirez. He’s a guy FLA does not want to pay $15 million to next season and has been a thorn in management’s side. Gibson commands respect from players, so I think Ramirez will be fine on that front. I believe Drew is under contract for next season. Upon his return, Ramirez would shift to 3rd base where his diminishing athleticism would better serve him. Suddenly, the Dbacks have another potential MVP candidate locked in for 3 additional years. A player like Ramirez on the free agent market would go for well above the $16 million average he’ll be making over the next 3 years and the Dbacks deferred salaries from 2001 will be paid off in bulk by the end of next year. I think it’s a move that makes financial sense and long-term personnel sense.

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    • Sean O'Neill says:

      …and what exactly would the DBacks have to give up to get Ramirez?

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Marlins might be interested in owning their fanbase and stadium.

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      • Robert says:

        I’m not saying they’d get him for nothing. The dbacks would probably need to give up a top-tier prospect like Skaggs and maybe an up and comer like Goldschimidt.

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      • Joe says:

        As a Marlins fan, I would hope they’d take no less than something like Daniel Hudson, Skaggs or Parker, and two of Goldschmidt, Davidson, Borchering. We’ll even throw in a Bonifacio from our end if you want it.

        Any less than that go bleep off Arizona. We’ll take our Hanley and open our unnamed stadium with him as our cleanup hitter.

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    • Adam says:

      I think [favorite team] should trade for [wildly unrealistic trade target] because [long-winded way of saying "targeted player is really good"] and we only have [less-talented incumbent]

      I love Mad-Lib comments.

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      • Robert says:

        How is he an unrealistic trade target? Fangraphs themselves did a whole article about trading Hanley Ramirez. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/trading-hanley-ramirez/

        The Dbacks have depth in their farm system now. Whether they’re willing to part with some of that talent is up to management. I’m just noting that he would be a fit, especially considering the current needs.

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        Reason for DBacks to acquire Hanley: Acquire another potential MVP candidate for the next 3 years.

        Reason for Marlins to trade Hanley: he costs a lot and has clubhouse issues.

        Reason these are not problems for ARI: Manager commands respect.

        Conclusion: This makes sense for the Dbacks. (No mention of marlins in this section)

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    • jim says:

      the flak you’re getting seems a little unwarranted, this definitely doesnt seem like that bad of an idea

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    • Paul Swydan says:

      I thought about Hanley, but ultimately decided against including him for two reasons. 1) I don’t think the Marlins are selling. They may next year at this time, but I feel they will need him to help open the new ballpark. 2) While I see what you’re saying about moving Hanley to third next year, I think the D-backs would end up needing to trade too much of their pitching depth to acquire him, and then they’re left with no pitching help on the way. So that wouldn’t be good.

      As an aside, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that Kirk Gibson commands respect in Arizona, and therefore Hanley (or any other player for that matter), would therefore respect him.

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  3. candyarse says:

    Gibson seems perfectly happy playing Bloomquist. He was actually benching Drew several games recently to get Bloomquist more time.

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  4. UZR is a Joke says:

    Aviles

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  5. ToddM says:

    The Dread Pirate can play a little (poor) shortstop, freeing up Spanky Burroughs to play third.

    On second thought, that’s a bad idea.

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  6. philosofool says:

    Jack Wilson.

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  7. ettin says:

    The Angels have Alexi Amarista up with the team at the moment and he could be a defensive replacement with a contact bat or buried in their minor league system is Andrew Romine who is a superb defensive SS. I don’t think you can find anyone to replace Drew’s offense but you can replace a bit of the lost offense with good defense… just a thought.

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  8. FettidHouse says:

    This isn’t really that big of a deal. Drew has been useless with the bat since April ended. And he’s been losing playing time recently. It’s not that hard to replace his numbers over the last few months.

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  9. SenSurround says:

    I hate to say it but this really probably is a blessing. The DBacks were playing with house money this year, they were expected to be terrible, and this keeps them from dipping into what could be a dynamite crop of kids (mostly pitching) coming up in the next few years in a futile attempt to win this year. They’re already five and a half back and the Giants only seem to be getting stronger.

    Unless they can get somebody for essentially nothing (and they do have a little extra payroll to play with this year if they want to grab a not so hot contract), they should do nothing and ride it out with Ransom/Bloomquist.

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  10. Jason says:

    You guys continue to bash Saunders when he hasn’t given up more than 3 ER in his last 7 starts. Zach Duke sucks, Joe Saunders just has bad peripherals. I’m sure if you go back 2 months, his peripherals looked a lot worse than they do now.

    He’s probably not as good as he’s pitched in that time, but he did pitch pretty well in 08, so it’s not like this is 100% over his head. Feel free to bash Duke, just do more research on Saunders.

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  11. JP says:

    For the life of me can’t understand why someone like Brewers hasn’t already gone hard for Barmes. Dude’s got a 1.9 WAR. Now Keppinger is gone, I see Barmes as the next Astro to be moved.

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  12. Ken Williams says:

    I’ll give you Omar Vizquel if you give me Matt Davidson. LOL

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  13. j6takish says:

    The Twins are the only team that can win with any regularity while missing a 5 win player, Dbacks need more Nick Punto

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  14. Juancho says:

    Aviles should be available cheap. We’ll throw in Getz.

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  15. Ian says:

    Brian Bocock. Get er done, Towers.

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