ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Drew era in Boston, bookended by World Series titles won by older brother J.D. in 2007 and by younger brother Stephen last month, is coming to a close.
A baseball source said Tuesday that shortstop Stephen Drew will not return to the Red Sox because there are a number of teams willing to make multiyear offers for his services beyond anything Boston would do. Agent Scott Boras said he has talked with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington about Drew and his other free-agent client with Boston ties, Jacoby Ellsbury, but contended there is a high volume of interest in both players.
On his way out of the general managers' meetings in Orlando on Thursday, Cherington said the Red Sox have not ruled out Drew's return to Boston and have not been told that the shortstop will definitely be moving on.
"We're still talking with him and we'd like to have him back," Cherington told the Boston Globe. "We'll see what happens."
Of Drew, Boras said, "Obviously, if you want to win, and you want a middle-of-the-diamond player -- and a lot of really, really good teams need upgrades in the middle of the diamond -- he's got a very active, very large market."
Drew, who made $9.5 million on a one-year deal last season, rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox that would have given him a one-year, $14.1 million deal, choosing to take his chances in a weak shortstop market. If Drew signs elsewhere, that team will forfeit a first-round draft pick (unless it owns one of the first 11 picks) and the Red Sox would get a compensatory pick in next year's first-year player draft.
Drew played excellent defense during the postseason but struggled mightily at the plate, going 6-for-54 (.111). In the regular season, he hit .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs.
The departure of Drew would leave the Red Sox in need of infield depth on the left side, Cherington acknowledged. On paper, the Red Sox would start the season with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base.
As for Ellsbury, Boras dismissed the seven-year, $142 million deal that Carl Crawford signed with Boston in 2010 as a comparative, calling it an "old contract."
"For any elite player, the number of premium players at that level who get to free agency now are rare," Boras said, responding to a question of how much interest there is in Ellsbury. "Teams recognize that. I think they view those players as difference-makers and getting players that are top-five offense, top-five defense at their positions, and they're young, are a real opportunity for a franchise."
The Red Sox remain one of those teams -- Boras said he spoke with Cherington -- but if the agent is truly intent on landing a bigger deal than Crawford got from Boston in 2010, it's hard to envision the Red Sox remaining in the bidding for long.
Boston's strategy, developed last year, was a willingness to take on a high average annual value in salary in exchange for fewer years. That might not work to keep Ellsbury, even if at this stage his suitors are not immediately apparent, with the usual major-market suspects -- the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox -- seemingly not in the mix. The San Francisco Giants also are out.
And what makes Crawford's deal an "old contract," given that it was signed just three years ago?
"Because the revenues have changed, the markets have changed," Boras said. "I think if markets had gone down, you'd probably be looking at something different, but the markets go up.
"There's certainly a base point of what teams do and things you look at. I don't know of any players in this market that are like him [Crawford], but there are players that are different from him and are of greater value."
Without filling in the blanks, Boras clearly believes Ellsbury fits in that category, and he contends there are plenty of teams interested in him.
"It's far more than normal for elite players these days because just the revenue structure of the game invites a lot more applicants," Boras said, "and the rareness of the talent and position of players has a lot to do with the volume of interest. I won't give you specific numbers, but it's more than normal."