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Buster Olney on M&M: Stephen Drew ‘in a really bad spot now’

02.14.14 at 1:47 pm ET
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ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss MLB news as teams begin to gather for spring training. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Derek Jeter announced this week that 2014 will be his final season. Olney speculated that Jeter might have made his decision public due to lingering injury issues.

“I really thought that we started to see signs of this last spring,” Olney said. “Because when he did his first press conference he made for the first time mentions of age and time in a way that he never had before. Because as you guys know, one of the great things about Derek — and maybe one of those reasons you would say he’s been one of the best players [of the last 20 years] — is because he’s been so reliable. ‘€¦ Last spring he didn’t look right. That was at the beginning of spring training. And then he had the setback with his ankle, and he never looked right; he made only 73 plate appearances.

“I do wonder if in his early workouts and preparation for this year if he’s feeling similar things, that he doesn’t look right. I think that everyone, if you’re a Yankees fan, or if you’re with the Yankees organization you’d love to see him finish up his career the way [Mariano] Rivera did last year. But I think there’s a good chance that’s not going to be the case.”

Added Olney: “I do think, and you guys have seen the numbers on some of the tickets, there’s a lot of pressure on the Yankees, there will be, to play him a certain number of games this year. It will be interesting to see how Derek handles that.”

Stephen Drew remains a free agent, and Olney said the Yankees appear to be an unlikely destination.

“No. Based on everything as of today, no,” Olney said. “They can always change their bottom line. But basically what they’ve been saying is, ‘We’re done. We are finished spending money during the course of the offseason.’ Unless that changes, unless Hal Steinbrenner says, ‘OK, you can add more payroll,’ they’re not going to be the team that signs him.”

Added Olney: “Drew might make sense to the Pirates. but they’re just philosophically not going to give up a draft pick. And the problem is as the winter goes on, teams just decide, ‘You know what, we’re not going to spend money.’ ‘€¦ If you’re Drew, your best play might be to sit back and wait and see if some shortstop gets hurt someplace on a good team. Besides that, these guys [who turned down qualifying offers] are in a really bad spot now. Some people have said, ‘Well, the system doesn’t work.’ I think we’re at a point where, two years into it, no. Bad decisions were made, in my opinion, on some of these players in terms of not accepting the qualifying offer.”

Despite the Yankees’ huge splash in free agency, Olney had them pegged for third place in the American League East.

“For me, a pretty distinct third,” Olney said. “I think they’re going to be in the playoff race during the course of the year. There’s so many questions about the infield. CC Sabathia showed up today — and you guys have sent the pictures of his weight loss — he says he feels like his body’s been able to adapt to his weight loss, which has been 40 pounds over the last two offseasons, and he feels like he’s in a better shape.

“I think a real wild card for them is going to be Michael Pineda, who was an All-Star in 2011, who’s a guy who came up as a rookie throwing 98 miles an hour. Being around the Yankee camp the last two days, there’s a lot of quiet excitement about what he’s doing with his velocity and coming back. They have to have all those things work out well, because in particular there’s so many questions about the composition of the infield. How much can Kelly Johnson play at third? Will Brian Roberts stay healthy? Will Mark Teixeira ever be the same type of player? And of course Jeter.

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On where he sees the Red Sox: “I think right now you look at the Rays and the Red Sox as being a pretty good match. I think the Rays have taken a step forward given that they didn’t trade David Price. And the Red Sox have taken a step back because they lost a really dynamic offensive player in [Jacoby] Ellsbury. I was looking at it this morning, they scored 57 more runs than any other team in baseball last year. But now you have the guy, I think he was third among all leadoff hitters in on-base percentage, he’s gone. I believe they’re going to wind up going with Daniel Nava hitting leadoff against right-handed pitching, and probably Shane Victorino against left-handed pitching. But let’s face it, it’s a step back. And they didn’t make a lot of additions.

“I totally agree with their big-picture philosophy and not overspending and trying to add. But I do think they came back to the Rays, who I think have a chance to be a really good team.”

On a key to the Red Sox’ success: “For me, the big question in terms of one player for the Red Sox is, what is Clay Buchholz going to be? I don’t think anybody knows that. In the second half of last year I think we all wondered when is going to come back, what’s he going to be when he comes back? It seemed like he was on fumes at the end of last year with the physical. That’s a huge wild card for them, because he was so important in the first half.”

On Mike Trout’s future with the Angels: “I do think that they’ll work something out, because they don’t want to be like the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth. They don’t want to put themselves in a position where they wait another year or two and all of a sudden Trout’s closer to free agency and decides, ‘I want to test the market.’ ‘€¦ He is so far and away regarded as the best player in baseball, it’s scary. He got on base 564 times the last two years. That’s why some people that I’ve spoken with with teams, and one agent in particular, they say that if his agent, Craig Landis, demanded a 12-year deal for $400 million — we’ve never seen even a $300 million player — that would be well in line considering his age and what he’s accomplished so far in his career.”

On what Trout would make on a one-year deal if he were a free agent: “The question I put to [baseball executives] a different way was, if Mike Trout was a free agent now and got a one-year deal someplace, what would he get? And the estimates I got from GMs was [$]35 [million] to $50 million on a one-year contract. You guys know that stat, wins above replacement. In general, the feeling is you get $5 million for every one WAR. Well, he’s a 10-WAR player — $50 million.”

Read More: buster olney, C.C. Sabathia, Clay Buchholz, Derek Jeter
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