The first question that came to mind when the Red Sox signed free agent Stephen Drew earlier on Tuesday was where he would play. We didn't have to wait long to find out, as the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson is reporting that Drew will be the shortstop, which will, barring some major (read: misguided) surprise, that Xander Bogaerts is once again Boston's third baseman.
This was the alignment the Red Sox used last postseason, when then-third baseman Will Middlebrooks lost his starting job to Bogaerts after the latter's September call-up. Now with Middlebrooks on the disabled list and once again looking lost at the plate, it will be Drew at short once more -- possibly as soon as Wednesday according to Nick Cafardo -- with Bogaerts at the hot corner.
Through 43 games, the Red Sox have produced a .194/.302/.273 line at third base. The on-base percentage is nice relative to the rest, sure, but it's not nearly enough, as it's only good for an OPS+ of 66 compared to your average third base production. The Red Sox are also struggling offensively behind the plate, in center, and in right, but third base was the easiest to fix since it involved signing a player no one else was going to even touch for another few weeks, not until the draft was over.
This signing is disappointing in a way for Bogaerts' defensive development at short, but it's worth remembering a few things. For one, Bogaerts can move back to the position next year if Garin Cecchini has earned a shot at third base in the majors with his performance at Triple-A. He can also stick at third long-term if the Sox have decided they would prefer to have, say, Deven Marrero and his plus glove at shortstop once his bat is ready enough, with Cecchini toiling away in a different corner. Regardless of where Bogaerts is playing in the long run, he's going to block one of Boston's quality prospects: he should, too, as he's Xander Bogaerts, far-and-away Boston's best young player. Every other decision with the kids should be made around him.
The other major thing is that the Sox are a better team with Drew than without him. Drew batted .253/.333/.443 last year in 124 games with the Red Sox, missing time due to a concussion and a thigh strain. That was good for a 111 OPS+, and was even better relative to the average shortstop, coming in at a 127 split-adjusted OPS+. While Drew might not end up being an upgrade over Bogaerts in 2014, depending on how Bogaerts' power shakes out in his rookie campaign, the combination of the two on the diamond is a huge step up over what they have been receiving, and possibly would continue receiving, with only one of the two on the roster.