John Farrell still hopeful Stephen Drew will return to Red Sox

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The Red Sox acquired utility infielder Jonathan Herrera from the Rockies yesterday in exchange for left-hander Franklin Morales and minor league right-hander Chris Martin, but manager John Farrell confirmed during an appearance on WEEI’s Hot Stove show this evening that the move doesn’t mean that the team has ruled out the return of Stephen Drew. In fact, he indicated that there’s mutual interest in getting something done.

“Herrera, this is a guy that’s played all over the infield. We like him from the left side a little bit better — he’s had better performance as a left-handed hitter. He is a switch-hitter, but better from the left side. We feel like with all the other right-handed infielders, it’s a good complement to those who are already here. At the same time, if things fall a certain way with Stephen Drew, it doesn’t prohibit us from adding Drew as well.”

Indeed, Farrell suggested that mutual interest exists in having the shortstop return to the team with whom he signed a one-year, $9.5 million for the 2013 season.

“Both sides would like to see this come together,” Farrell said of talks with Drew. “But at the same time, as we all know, he’s looking to see what best opportunities would be out there for him.”

Drew’s market has been slow to develop this winter, in part because he is attached to draft pick compensation. The Mets have been mentioned as one possibility, but general manager Sandy Alderson has said that if the team does upgrade at shortstop this winter, it will likely be via trade and not the free agent market.

As of now, the Red Sox are expected to go with top prospect Xander Bogaerts as their starting shortstop in 2014. If Drew returns, Bogaerts would likely get every opportunity to be the starting third baseman. Will Middlebrooks, who hit just .227 with a .696 OPS last season, could be pushed to the minors in such a scenario.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.