First of all, thanks to the gang for letting me join! I'm a native New Yorker who moved to Wisconsin and then Colorado for work (I'm a professor at U. Colorado Law School). As a Yankee fan since my first Stadium game in 1978 (when as a 4 year-old I understood almost nothing but loved the loudly chaotic "Bronx Zoo" atmosphere that grandpa was showing me at an arguably inappropriate age), I'm looking forward to chatting more with Yankee fans here. In a feat of remarkably poor timing, I'd drafted a detailed comparison of the top SS options, Hanley Ramirez and the now-unavailable J.J. Hardy. Now the solid speculation is Stephen Drew may be the last man standing in what started out as a strong free-agent SS field, but is looking like a super-anticlimactic season of the Bachelorette, one in which the best bachelor departs mid-season for another woman, and the rest all prove underwhelming, leaving the looking-for-love starlet holding her nose in presenting the rose to the old guy who stank up their dates like Drew's .150/.219/.271 batting line in NY.
Drew's horrible 2014 hitting is sometimes too easily excused by the missed-spring-training explanation. Many injured players miss spring training and a few months, yet return without suffering Drew's staggering over-200-point OPS drop. Maybe the Red Sox brought him up from the minors too quickly, but I doubt it; their front office isn't known as dumb, and if anything, the Sox coddle thirtysomething players' health more than most. Missing spring training could explain a bad first month, which is why I was a big fan of landing Drew in in late July – but his bat then got worse in his 46 Yankee games.
Yet Drew could still make sense for two reasons. First, alternatives: apologies to Lil Jon, but Drew should be turned down for what? The only arguably plus option is Hanley Ramirez, a temptingly apt replacement for mid-late 30s Jeter's good-bat/bad-glove profile. But he's now both error-prone (29 in 181 games at SS in 2013-14) and low-range (subpar range factors since 2012, with his lowest in 2014), and while he still hits, injuries mean you likely get 3/4 of a Ramirez season and 1/4 of a Brendan Ryan season. So even if Ramirez logs a good-to-great 2-4 oWAR in 120 games, you also get -1 dWAR, and then you're stuck playing replacement-level Ryan otherwise – so spending a lot on Ramirez yields an dead-average 1-3ish WAR from SS over the season.
The other free agents are even less appealing: Jed Lowrie, turning 31 in April, is now about average at bat and slightly subpar in the field – sort of the flip side of the 2013 Jayson Nix we've all tried to forget; compared to Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera offers a slightly worse bat and much worse glove (averaging -1 dWAR).
Yes, I read the Troy Tulowitzki rumors too; as a lifelong Yankee fan and adopted Rockies fan, I love Tulo yet and would love him more in pinstripes. But it's just not happening unless they offer something like Betances, Severino, Judge, and Greene – i.e., their whole future. I know all stars seem to wind up in the Bronx after reaching the wrong side of 30, but Tulo isn't in the cards.
I might prefer Lowrie to Drew, but there's the second reason, beyond the lack of exciting alternatives, to pick Drew: insider information. "When you know your own free agents better than other teams' free agents, you can better determine which players … are safe bets" to perform well, Matt Swartz wrote on BP in 2010, concluding from his study that "there is overwhelming evidence that re-signed players and newly signed players are not aging similarly," with free agents re-signed by their teams outperforming those who leave for other teams.
I don't mean to make too much of this, and Swartz wouldn’t either: there are counter-examples (A-Rod); and I wouldn't trust, say, the Rockies or Royals to base re-signings on intelligent appraisals of reliable data. But if the Yankees re-sign Drew, I'll temper my disappointment with a hunch, backed up by Swartz's data, that Drew's seemingly disastrous two months actually showed informed Yankee observers that he's not quite finished, and a better bet than a sure-fire mediocrity like Lowrie. Here's the contrast: teams always bluster to excuse the off-years of players still under their control, so "Texeira/Beltran can bounce back" is cheap talk. But re-signing a player after an off-year is a useful hint, because it's a disclosure of private information: that the team genuinely still has a positive assessment of Drew's current talent level, based on information the team gathered from first-hand exposure to him for months -- seeing every swing, every fielded ground ball, every ache and pain after a game, etc.
So I'll go as far as to say that if they re-sign Drew, I'd say it's more likely than not we'll see a .700ish OPS (say, high .600s to low .700s), with a good glove, making for a WAR in the low-mid 2s. That may sound underwhelming -- but, sadly, it would be be the best Yankee SS season since 2009. See, it's easy to be an optimist when the past few years have set the bar so low.