Stephen Drew was on the radar of the New York Yankees this past offseason, but the team never ended up signing him in part because they didn’t want to give up a draft pick. New York’s interest was in having Drew work into the rotation at second base, despite the fact that he’d never played the position in his MLB career.
Fast forward a few months and that is just what the Yankees will have Drew do – as well as backup at shortstop and potentially third base – after the team acquired Drew from the Boston Red Sox prior to the trade deadline. Boston will reportedly receive Kelly Johnson in return, one of the players that New York signed in lieu of Drew this past winter.
Drew sat at the start of the season, unable to find a deal after being given a qualifying offer and finding himself tied to draft pick compensation on the free agent market. Eventually he’d re-sign with the Red Sox on a deal for the remainder of the season, but he never was able to get things rolling. Drew hit a mere .176/.255/.328 in 145 plate appearances.
With Drew gone, the Red Sox will be able to shift Xander Bogaerts back to shortstop for the remainder of the season and make a true assessment regarding whether he can stick at the position long term. Boston is expected to recall Will Middlebrooks from Triple-A to take over at third base.
Johnson, meanwhile, is currently on the disabled list due to a strained groin. He was expected to rejoin the Yankees in the coming weeks, but will instead join the Red Sox in some fashion. It remains to be seen how Boston will use him. He’s seen time this season at first, second, and third base as well as each corner outfield position but Johnson has batted just .219/.304/.373 in 227 plate appearances. A free agent at season’s end, there is a segment of the Boston fan base expecting that Johnson will simply be released before ever gets into the lineup.
Part of the significance of the deal is the rarity of such trades between the two clubs. The last time that the Yankees and Red Sox completed a trade – in season or not – was in 1997. That August the Yankees sent Tony Armas and a player to be named later (who turned out to be Jim Mecir) for Mike Stanley and Randy Brown.