|J.D. DREW / MLB.COM|
The story here is that J.D. Drew has opted out of the final three years of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s leaving $33 million on the table because he was unhappy in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti says they will simply move on rather than try to retain him.
Drew joins a meager crop of center fielders (Jim Edmonds, Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Pierre are the stars of the crop) on the market, which is one reason why he opted out. He should be able to do better than three years and $33 million, especially with Scott Boras as his agent, and Drew’s natural ability to play as a right-fielder and center-fielder. I could see a four-year deal with a $45 million payout (if not more than that, say $50 million) coming, with an option for a 5th year.
Some background on Drew: he broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 after burning bridges in Philadelphia by refusing to sign with them. He hit .417/.463/.972. Drew showed a propensity for getting hurt, never amassing more than 424 at-bats with them in the following five years. His quadriceps, ankle, and knee were all sore spots with the Cardinals.
With the Atlanta Braves (traded along with Eli Marrero from the Cardinals to Braves for Jason Marquis, Ray King and Adam Wainwright), he amassed 518 at-bats in 2004, hitting .305/.436/.570. He signed a lucrative contract with the Dodgers, but broke his hand on a hit-by-pitch (shades of Nomar Garciaparra) and was limited to a .286/.412/.520 line in 72 games. In 2006, he played in 146 games, amassing 494 ABs and hit .283/.393/.498 with 20 HR and 100 RBI. Drew’s high for HRs is 31, and he could se that in the American League. His career numbers rank at .286/.393/.512.
His 162 game average, per Baseball-Reference.com, is a line of .286/.393/.512 in 553 AB, with 27 HR, 86 RBI, 12 SB, 4 CS, 89 BB, and 102 R. Drew could fit in as a dangerous hitter in the second slot of the lineup. However, given he is left-handed, he would more than likely bat fifth to allow for better lefty-righty balance (Ortiz and Ramirez) and to give Ramirez some protection. Plus, he’s only stolen a grand total of three bases the last two years, due to his leg problems.
The Red Sox need to sign J.D. Drew to be their right-fielder. This is exactly the player the Red Sox need to solve all offensive questions about their lineup.
Drew has played 689 career games in right field (215 in center, 33 in left) and has a career .983 fielding percentage in right, and a total of 35 assists and 24 errors to go along with a 1.99 range factor. Last year, he checked in with a .983 fielding percentage (6th best in the majors), 2.31 Range Factor (third best), and .891 Zone Rating (fifth best). These numbers best Wily Mo Pena and Trot Nixon. The Red Sox had horrible outfield defense in 2006, and Drew would represent a big step forward.
Drew is 30 years old, and is due to turn 31 on November 20th, so he’s still in his prime, and lest people forget, many people are still tremendous offensive forces into their late 30s.
The one negative, and certainly a concerning negative, is that Drew is injury-prone. There are three things that are assuaging my fears over this, however.
One: Drew has been healthy in the last three years except for the broken hand on the hit-by-pitch, which is hard to hold against him.
Two: Trot Nixon has been quite injury-prone the last two years. We’re used to this, and we had a safety net last year for such an occurence as this, which brings me to my third point.
Three: Wily Mo Pena as our fourth outfielder, protecting against injury to Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp, and J.D. Drew (as well as David Ortiz).
Folks, it’s clear-cut. J.D. Drew needs to be a Red Sox next year. He will have no shortage of suitors, and no shortage of money thrown at him thanks to the free agent list, the gobs of money suitors have, and his agent being Scott Boras. Be thankful for one thing: the Yankees will not be in line for his services. That helps a lot. The Mets could also make an aggressive play for Drew, since Cliff Floyd is departing New York, but the Yankees’ pockets are far deeper than the Mets.
Before this occurence, I did not have anyone in particular I was hungering for. I did not have any position in particular I was hungering for. I have it now.
J.D. Drew. Right field. Pick up the phone, Theo.