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Should the A’s Pick Up Drew’s Option?

September 28, 2012

Stephen Drew has been a good player in the past. This year battling injury issues he has been less than stellar but since coming to Oakland in a trade in August has been decent for the A’s posting 0.3 WAR across 145 plate appearances in 33 games. If you spread that out over a 162 game schedule he has been about a 1.4 WAR player in his tenure with the A’s. This is a down year for Drew and every year since 2008 has seen Drew exceed 1.4 WAR culminating in his great 2010 campaign where he was worth 5.2 WAR for the Diamondbacks. The A’s have a $10M club option for Drew for 2013, that is a steep price to pay for a 1.4 WAR player which using 2012 figures should be valued at approximately $7M. But the 1.4 WAR is in many ways the floor for player like Drew.

There are of course other considerations than just the player at hand. There are other players who will be free-agents as well but no one really stands out as someone whom the A’s can view as an immediate or worthwhile upgrade. Jhonny Peralta who is probably the cream of the potential free agent crop has a $6M club option that Detroit seems almost assured of picking up. Marco Scutaro is getting up there in age and then the next best option for Oakland may very well be Ronny Cedeno. That also means that Drew might have more leverage and could actually potentially exceed the $10M he’d stand to get by exercising his side of the mutual option. He may also feel even if he doesn’t get $10M or more in 2013, he might get more in the long run by a multi-year deal. That means even if Oakland wanted to pick up their side of the option, it takes two to tango and Drew could very well find himself better off elsewhere.

Since coming to Oakland, Drew has hit .269/.331/.400 with four home runs a 9.0% BB% and 22.1% K%. His average is a bit on the low side considering he has a favorable .323 BABIP, and he has been right around league average with a .315 wOBA and 101 wRC+, and remember this is in an off year for him. The other consideration Oakland has to make is, is he better than what they’ve already got and that is Cliff Pennington who comes with much less of a steep price tag – Drew would be Oakland’s most well compensated player ahead of Yoenis Cespedes due $8.5M next season. Pennington becomes arbitration eligible for the first time next year and despite him also having a down year in 2012, he has been worth 1.4 WAR this year and has shown additional value and versatility filling in admirably at second base too down the stretch with the demotion of Jemile Weeks. In fact his UZR/150 has shown little worsening with the move to the opposite side of the infield as at short it is 10.4 and at second just 10.3 this year.

With all that said the question is, is Drew worth possibly $7-8M more a year than Pennington? The answer is probably not. That said, Drew also has shown the potential to be a five win player, but we can’t discount that in 2010 as well Pennington had his high water mark at 4.0 WAR, which is nothing to scoff at. I think the A’s should put the money down on Drew however. It is a big gamble but I am not yet sold on Weeks’ long term viability as a second baseman and Pennington clearly gives the A’s a great deal of versatility that they likely did not necessarily realize he provided earlier. After a horrendous start Pennington has been much sharper as of late hitting .284/.333/.403 in September with a .323 wOBA and 106 wRC+, and I have long felt he has shown strong worth ethic and dependability. Having too many strong middle infielders is not a problem that a contending team has, let’s bring back Drew and hope he picks up his side of the option (though I presume he will not).

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