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Stephen Drew free agency: Red Sox players no longer believe they need to sign shortstop

While they clamored for Boston to sign Drew earlier in the off-season, they've moved on to a life without him.

Jamie Squire

It's mid-March, yet shortstop Stephen Drew is still a free agent. Not only has he spent the winter hearing reports of how teams are not interested in signing him -- at least not for the prices his agent, Scott Boras, is quoting -- but now his former teammates have changed their minds on Drew, according to the Boston Globe's Peter Abraham.

General manager Ben Cherington was always reserved when it came to Boston's chances of re-signing free agent shortstop Stephen Drew. The Red Sox submitted the qualifying offer to him, but the expectation was that Drew would decline it and sign elsewhere, netting Boston a compensatory first-round draft pick. His veteran teammates were (vocally) not in favor of this plan, as they wanted Drew back in uniform as the team's starting shortstop, with top prospect and postseason contributor Xander Bogaerts taking over at third base. This is no longer the case, though.

Red Sox players say Stephen Drew now regrets not taking the qualifying offer when he had the chance. But the veteran players have turned from the idea that the team needs Drew back. That was the case at the beginning of camp, but not since they've had a chance to see Will Middlebrooks re-commit himself.

A year ago, Will Middlebrooks was a little too cocky about his own abilities after a successful rookie campaign, and it ended up costing him in the first half of the season, which led to a demotion to Triple-A. He returned to hit well in the season's final two months, though, showed up to camp early (and sporting pounds of new muscle), and has apparently convinced the Drew supporters in Fort Myers that they're better off with WMB at the hot corner and Bogaerts at short because of it. In essence, Drew lost his most significant remaining supporters, as Boston's veteran players are now on the same page as their bosses, and it's likely erased what sliver of hope remained that he would return to the Sox.

The Mets are still searching for a shortstop, however, so a Drew signing remains a possibility there until New York finds someone else to replace Ruben Tejada, whether it be the Mariners Nick Franklin or a desperate continuation of the Wilmer Flores: Major-League Shortstop experiment. The Blue Jays might relent on Drew for their second base job, now that they missed out on both Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana on the free agent market, the latter of whom they offered $14 million on a one-year deal to. Both clubs have protected first-round picks, so even if they only get Drew for a year, the cost isn't as high as it is for others, and should Drew have a strong 2014, maybe a qualifying offer won't get in the way of his market next winter as it has in this one.

At this point, you can't imagine the Red Sox care who he goes to, so long as they get their compensation. Should Drew sign elsewhere, the Sox will have their original first-round pick, as well as two additional compensatory picks and the budget that goes with them.