PHOENIX — All but certain to lose the best shortstop in franchise history, Stephen Drew, to free agency over the winter, the Diamondbacks did what they could to replenish the position by trading Drew to Oakland for Class A shortstop Sean Jamieson after Monday’s game.
Drew will be reunited with former D-backs manager Bob Melvin in Oakland and will be even more involved in a pennant race than he was in Arizona. The A’s are a half-game out of the second AL wild-card position. The two aren’t strangers to a pennant race, as Drew was a key component when Melvin led the D-backs to the 2007 NL West title.
The two clubs had talked about a deal around the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but Arizona shortstop Willie Bloomquist was bothered by a sore back at the time and general manager Kevin Towers said he did not believe it was prudent to trade Drew then.
But Oakland claimed Drew on waivers two days ago, and the sides worked out the trade Monday night. Drew said he was “a little shocked” when he was told about the deal.
“First and foremost, I want to say thanks to the fans who supported me,” Drew said. “Also to the organization. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s part of the business. I guess it’s going to be good on both sides.”
Drew was hitting .193 with eight doubles, two homers and 12 RBI in 40 games this season. The start of his 2012 campaign was delayed until June 27 after missing more than 11 months with a fractured right ankle and severe ligament damage suffered on a play at the plate on July 20, 2011.
“The way this season has played out has been kind of crazy,” Drew said. “Coming back and trying to get into a groove. I was hitting the ball fine, just not finding any holes.
“Looking forward to (playing for) an ex-coach I had, Bo Mel (Melvin). That will be refreshing and a new start. It’s a good feeling to go over there and still be competing.”
Drew is the D-backs’ franchise leader with 52 triples and is in the top five in doubles, hits, runs, games and total bases. His 773 games are fourth most in franchise history.
“He’s a great teammate. Good guy,” Towers said. “There is no doubt in my mind he will make the A’s a better ballclub. We were able to do it last year, go to the playoffs when Stephen was down. So hopefully that is the case this year.
“With the uncertainty of knowing whether we would be able to bring Stephen back at the end of the season … it was more than likely going to be a situation where he would have tested free agency, so we would have only had his services for the next six weeks.”
Bloomquist — who is due back from the disabled list Friday — along with rookie Jake Elmore and veteran John McDonald will play shortstop the rest of the season, Towers said. Drew’s departure will enable the organization to get a better look at Elmore, who Triple-A Reno manager Brett Butler has compared to David Eckstein and Marco Scutaro.
The D-backs will fill the roster opening in the immediate future by adding a pitcher for Wednesday’s doubleheader, Towers suggested, although no decision had been made. The D-backs are seven games into a stretch in which they play 23 games in 23 days.
Jamieson, 23, was hitting .234 with 25 doubles, 10 homers, 49 RBI and 25 stolen bases at Class A Burlington. He will report to Class A South Bend in the same Midwest League.
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Towers saw Jamieson while looking at the South Bend team earlier this year. Jamieson, a native of Kitchener, Ontario, who played at Canisius, was a 17th-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Jamieson has “speed, power for the position. Probably a ways away, but someone we think is a legitimate infield prospect, which is something we lacked in our system,” Towers said.
The D-backs will save about $2 million on the rest of Drew’s 2012 salary, and the A’s will be responsible for the $1.3 million buyout on Drew’s mutual option for 2013. Drew would earn $10 million if both sides accepted the option, but agent Scott Boras is known for taking his players to free agency when the chance arises. The sides had not talked about restructuring the contract to enable Drew to return, Towers said.
“Usually, if there is a desire to stay in a place, they would make that known,” Towers said. “We didn’t have any sort of dialogue. My gut was that he was probably going to look and see what type of interest was out there with other clubs. Looking at the shortstop market, I imagine he (Drew) is going to be in a pretty strong position this winter.”
Drew is one of seven active players with at least three seasons of 10 doubles, 10 triples and 10 homers. He was the third shortstop in major league history with at least 40 doubles (44), 10 triples (11) and 20 homers (21) when he hit those heights in 2008, joining Robin Yount and Nomar Garciaparra.
A No. 1 draft pick in 2005, Drew was called up from Triple-A Tucson in the middle of the 2006 season when starter Craig Counsell suffered a fractured rib after being hit by a pitch in Colorado. Drew stayed with the D-backs the rest of the way.
“A tremendous career he had here,” said Towers, whose ownership in San Diego would not let him consider Drew with the first pick in the 2005 draft.
“These are always difficult moves to make, but it gives a young guy like Elmore a chance to get more ABs,” Towers said.