Stephen Drew to Debut for Red Sox, Jose Iglesias Demoted – Right Call?

Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew

Boston Red Sox fans have been hearing for years how prospect Jose Iglesias was the shortstop of the future. The defensive prodigy is often compared to Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and not without good reason. He is a magician with the glove, making difficult plays look routine.

Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew
Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew 7 at bat against the Minnesota Twins during a spring training game at Hammond Stadium Steve Mitchell USA TODAY Sports

The issue with Iglesias and his viability as a Major League starter is whether he can even hit his weight. During his 3 seasons in the minors, he managed a .264/.313/.314 slash line and in his 35 Major League games in Boston in 2011 and 2012 he hit just .135/.210/.203. Red Sox management felt the 23-year-old still needed more time to develop offensively in the minor leagues.

Hence this offseason’s signing of Stephen Drew. Even though the organization is not viewing 2013 as a season during which they will likely contend for a championship, they still brought in proven veterans in order to field a competitive team.

When Drew went down with a concussion during spring training, though, the team’s hand was forced. Iglesias became the starter for the first week of the season and was very impressive. While still flawless in the field, he also provided some unexpected offense from the bottom of the order. In 6 games, he hit .450, added 2 doubles, and had an OPS of 1.026.

His stay was always going to be just a temporary one, though. When a free agent is brought in at $9.5MM for the season, he is not going to be a backup player. And Drew has passed all of his concussion tests and has completed his rehab assignment at AA Portland. So the Red Sox have activated Drew and optioned Iglesias to AAA Pawtucket.

Drew will get the start in Boston tonight, but it will likely be with lukewarm support from the Boston faithful. Of all of the additions the Red Sox made this offseason, Drew’s may have been met with the most skepticism, especially with his hefty price tag. While he may be an above-average shortstop offensively, he doesn’t compare to the elites at other positions. His defense isn’t going to kill the team, either, but he is not in the same realm as Iglesias.

What makes it harder for Drew to be fully welcomed to Boston is the fact that his simply is a Drew. His brother J.D. was an outfielder for the Red Sox for 5 years and hardly endeared himself to Boston fans. His numbers were a bit misleading, though still overly unimpressive. His .264 average and 80 home runs during his Red Sox run were not worth the $14MM he was making each year, but he did add a very respectable .370 OBP, had some big postseason home runs, and played a solid right field at Fenway. Mix in his low-key demeanor and his propensity for finding his way onto the disabled list, though, and the general consensus among Red Sox fans is that his time in New England was unfulfilling.

So when another Drew makes his way to Boston with the feeling among fans that he is being paid much more than he is worth, it will make it even more difficult to get fans to warm up to him. Add to the fact that there is excitement building in Massachusetts surrounding the emergence of Iglesias, it doesn’t help when his return is the reason for his reassignment.

There are two schools of thought with Drew. Firstly, over the course of the long season, he will undoubtedly provide more offense than his younger counterpart and he could help keep the team more competitive during the year while giving Iglesias more learning time at a lower level. At the same time, though, if there are no real World Series aspirations this year, allowing Iglesias to have a full year in the Major Leagues might help him better adapt to the best competition.

It is entirely plausible that Iglesias would end the full season with an average less than half of what it is now, but if this Red Sox team continues to score runs as it currently is, his offensive shortcomings will have much less of an impact. And his defense is so good he will save many more runs which will help make up for it.

Depending on how the next couple of months go for the Red Sox, Drew, and Iglesias, Boston could consider trading Drew to a contender in need of a shortstop and begin the Iglesias era. After all, even Ozzie Smith took 8 full Major League seasons to hit above .260 and that didn’t preclude his Cardinals from winning the 1982 World Series. They found success with a defensive wizard. Why can’t the Red Sox?

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Tony Consiglio
Tony Consiglio is a lifelong baseball fan and has worked for television and radio stations throughout New England. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');