Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, November 26, 2006

DREADING DREW

Rumors continue to swirl about the imminent signing of J.D. Drew by the Red Sox. In fact, SI.com is reporting that the two sides may finalize an agreement this week. In need of a right fielder to replace Trot Nixon, the Sox have been pursuing Drew since the start of the free agency period. The field has grown thinner in recent weeks with the signings of Alfonso Soriano, Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Pierre, Frank Catalanotto, and Carlos Lee.

Drew is an intriguing player, who has shown flashes of greatness - when healthy. Considered an above-average defensive outfielder, Drew has the flexibility to play both right and center field. But it's at the plate where he's shown his greatest strengths.

At first glance, some of Drew's numbers look impressive. His .415 on-base percentage over the last three seasons ranked sixth overall, and third among outfielders, trailing only Lance Berkman (.428) and Bobby Abreu (.419). Drew's .946 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) over the last three seasons ranks 11th among players with at least 1,200 plate appearances, just ahead of Alex Rodriguez (.945). And only four outfielders had a higher OPS: Manny Ramírez (1.014), Lance Berkman (1.000), Vladimir Guerrero (.961), and Jim Edmonds (.947).

And last season, Drew led the Dodgers with 100 RBIs, 89 walks, 34 doubles, and a .393 OBP, and tied Nomar Garciaparra for the team lead in home runs with 20.

But there is another side to that coin. Drew has hit 30 home runs just once. He has hit .300 only twice. And his 100 RBI for the Dodgers last year were a career high. His best season in the majors came in 2004, with the Atlanta Braves, when he hit .305 (.436 OBP) with 31 home runs and 93 RBIs, and finished sixth in the National League MVP voting. That's very similar to Trot Nixon's best season (2003), and no one's offering him $14 million a year. And one of the Sox' primary issues with Nixon has been his frequent injuries and lack of dependability. With Drew, the Sox may be getting more of the same - except without the heart, desire, and hustle.

Throughout his career, Drew has been perceived by many as a slacker who refuses to hustle. Fans and management alike, in such laid back cities as St. Louis and Atlanta, were turned off by his apparent lack of passion for the game. Just imagine how that would go over in Boston.

Over the course of his nine-year career, Drew has developed the reputation of being injury-prone. In fact, Dodger fans claimed J.D. stood for "Just Disabled." Drew's 146 games with the Dodgers in 2006 were a career high. Cursed with either bad luck or a lack of motivation, Drew has been on the disabled list seven times in eight years. In fact, in only four of his nine seasons has Drew played 130 or more games. That can only be described as fragile, and it hasn't earned admirers.

Even the polite and professional Tony La Russa, who managed Drew for five seasons in St. Louis, questioned the heart of his former right fielder in the book “Three Nights in August:” “(Some players) settle for some percent under their max. If you have a chance to be a two-million-dollar-a-year player, they might settle for 75 percent of that. In the case of J.D., if you have a chance to be a 12-to-15-million-dollar-a-year player, you settle for 75 percent of that.”

Apparently some of Drew's Dodger teammates didn't think too highly of him either. According to one big league coach, the delicate perception earned him the nickname "Nancy Drew" in the Dodger clubhouse. And one unidentified major leaguer claims that a Dodger teammate greeted the news of Drew's departure by phoning friends in jubilation.

In light of the current market, Drew, who turned 31 Monday, is reportedly seeking a deal of at least five years in length, with an annual value of least $14 million. That's $4 million a year more than the Sox offered to Johnny Damon last winter before he signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. Can anyone reasonably argue that Drew is a superior talent to Damon? Meanwhile, no Sox player has been given a contract of longer than four years by the current ownership. And for comparison's sake, David Ortiz, arguably the team's MVP, receives an average salary of $12.5 million. Drew is simply not more valuable than Ortiz, even if he plays defense. Yet, the Red Sox are preparing to invest superstar money in a player who is not a superstar, and never will be. Point of fact: J.D. Drew has never been an All Star. Not even once.

If Drew lives up to his past history, the Red Sox may regret making such a large investment in a player who doesn't play - either due to injury or a lack of intensity. And Red Sox fans won't tolerate that for a second. Given Drew's record of injury and absence, he appears to be worthy of a three-year contract - at best - in the $30 million range. But considering this hyper-inflated market, Drew is poised to become a grossly overpaid mistake.

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