FORT MYERS, Fla. — There’s an open locker in the Red Sox clubhouse at JetBlue Park that belonged to Stephen Drew last season. All it needs is a nameplate and a set of uniforms. Drew’s No. 7 also hasn’t been issued.
Will that locker be filled? That’s the question hanging over the Red Sox with the first full-squad workout coming up on Thursday.
Drew remains a free agent, having rejected a one-year, $14.1 million offer from the Red Sox. That qualifying offer attached draft pick compensation to Drew and has so-far served to limit his appeal on the open market.
The Red Sox value Drew but only on their terms, meaning a short-term deal. Teams like the Mets, Yankees and Pirates could use him but have so far resisted the entreaties of agent Scott Boras.
Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday there has been ongoing dialogue between Boras and general manager Ben Cherington but nothing new to report. Farrell then suggested the Red Sox would have to move on at some point soon out of respect to Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks.
“The one thing that we don’t want is a lingering ‘what if’ if Stephen is still out there,” Farrell said. “In all fairness to our guys, our clubhouse [and] guys that would be affected if he were to be brought in. Certainly I can’t speak for Ben in this situation, but I think the more that we know what our team is going to look like, or at least those guys in our clubhouse, it probably settles some of that wondering if another player is going to join us.”
If Drew lands elsewhere, Bogaerts would likely start at shortstop for the Red Sox with Middlebrooks at third base. If Drew returns, Bogaerts could shift to third base with Middlebrooks coming off the bench or returning to Triple A Pawtucket.
Farrell said Bogaerts has been told to focus on playing shortstop.
“If that needs to be adjusted, we’ll adjust it at that time. We’re moving forward with the players that are here,” he said.
Middlebrooks is doing all he can to earn his chance. He reported to Florida early and with added-on muscle. He also has been working diligently on his defense and in the gym.
“In talking with Will at length, whether it was throughout the course of the year or having sit-down conversations with him in the offseason, he learned a lot last year,” Farrell said. “He was challenged in a few ways. I think through those experiences, he’s understanding of what his needs and what his strengths are more readily. That’s part of the maturation process of a player.
“The one thing he hasn’t lost is his raw abilities and his talent. We feel like what he was two years ago was maybe more representative than what he was a year ago. We feel like there’s a very good major league player in there.”