The Red Sox have signed Stephen Drew, and even though he's only going to be playing in Boston for the last four months of the regular season, the shortstop is still getting paid to the tune of $10 million.
It's a large sum, to be sure, to the point where some might be wondering why the Red Sox shelled out so much to a player who didn't seem to have any other suitors. But the reality of the situation is that, for everyone except ownership, that $10 million means next to nothing.
For a few years now, the Red Sox have effectively set themselves a soft salary cap up around the collective bargaining tax threshold of $189 million. Currently, Boston's payroll is at about $156 million, with benefits bringing that number up about $10 million. That means that there's plenty of room between Boston's current payroll and the amount ownership has shown they are willing to spend in the past. Presumably, with the Red Sox actually having won a World Series last year, John Henry have not become less willing to invest.
Even with Drew aboard, then, the Red Sox still have the financial flexibility to make whatever trades they find necessary and reasonable at the deadline. $13 million is enough to bring in all but Alex Rodriguez level contracts when prorated for half of a season. Unless you were expecting the Red Sox to go absolutely insane at the deadline, adding multiple All-Star players, this deal hasn't restricted their ability to make additions during the season, or in the future, since Drew is only signed through the end of the year.
So why not make this deal two months ago? Three? Simple: opportunity cost. The Red Sox had hoped that someone would bite on Drew, and that they'd be left with a draft pick. They'd also hoped that, a year removed from his wrist injury, Will Middlebrooks would be tearing it up at the plate like he did in 2012. Neither of these has come to pass which, admittedly, makes it a wasted couple of months on Ben Cherington's part if Drew had been willing to sign for one year back in March. There's no guarantee that's the case, however, and even if there is, it was still a gamble worth taking when viewed without hindsight.
The only other consideration is what this means for the roster. Will Middlebrooks' time as an everyday starter seems likely to be over given the arrival of Drew and Xander Bogaerts' solid-if-unspectacular start to his first full season. Even then, though, Middlebrooks can still be given plenty of at bats against lefties--he's got a career line of .285/.338/.500 against them--with Jonathan Herrera joining Ryan Roberts in the minors. The question then becomes whether to shift Xander Bogaerts around defensively depending on who he's playing with or just to stick him at short and Drew at third. Either way, though, the Red Sox will have upgraded both offensively and defensively.
To make a long story short, signing Stephen Drew costs the Red Sox almost nothing. When we're talking free agent signings in the offseason, there's a give-and-take. Any given signing takes away resources that could have gone elsewhere. In May, however, the equation is much different. The market is bereft of alternatives, leaving only trade considerations. Given that the Red Sox still have enough money to play in that arena, then, the only thing this deal hurts is John Henry's bottom line, which no fans should really care about.
The Red Sox needed a boost, and Stephen Drew could very well give them just that at no real cost.