Sports Outside the Beltway

Red Sox, J.D. Drew Agree, At Last

After many delays and much revision, the Boston Red Sox and J.D. Drew have finally agreed to the five year contract. The Red Sox have an out clause in case Drew’s shoulder does not allow him to play consistently in either year three or year four of the deal. Gordon Edes at the Boston Globe

[S]ources with direct knowledge of the negotiations said all parties have signed off on an agreement that allows the Sox to achieve their goal of making Drew their right fielder and No. 5 hitter, while giving the team the right to void either of the last two years of the deal, or both, should Drew’s right shoulder render him unable to play.

Drew is not expected to be in Boston for today’s announcement.

Under the terms of the contract, if Drew goes on the disabled list in his third year for issues related to the shoulder for a proscribed length of time, the Sox have the option to void the final two years. If he winds up on the disabled list in his fourth year, the Sox have the option of voiding the final year.

The Red Sox have long coveted the offensive machine that is J.D. Drew. Unfortunately, Drew has been snakebitten by repeated injuries, some as the results of pitched balls, but just as often, minor twinges have hampered him. He has, however, played at least 145 games in two of the last three seasons. His MVP-like campaign in 2004 for the Braves was the best of his career, as he posted .305/.436/569 with 31 homeruns. The Red Sox are hoping for that kind of performance hitting behind Manny Ramirez.

Looking at the Red Sox lineup, we see a hitting machine.

SS Julio Lugo
1B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
RF J.D. Drew
3B Mike Lowell
C Jason Varitek
CF Coco Crisp
2B Dustin Pedroia

Fourth outfielder Wily Mo Pena will be underutilized coming off the bench, but barring a trade, there is no starting role for him. I did a brief and largely unscientific study of Pena early last season, before injuries landed him on the disabled list. Pena played significantly better in a regular, defined starting role. Pena hit considerably worse when he started irregularly, compared to when he played several days in a row. The sample size was limited, so the data support no conclusions. But it bears watching, can Wily Mo Pena produce playing three or four times a week? Eric Hinske will also be available for corner outfield duty as well as corner infield duty and Alex Cora comes back to back up the middle infielders. Doug Mirabelli will be caddying for Tim Wakefield, unless prospect George Kottaras earns the backup job in spring training. The Red Sox bench is competent.

What dazzles is the awfully pricey starting rotation

Curt Schilling
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Josh Beckett
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon

Julian Tavarez and Kyle Snyder can act as swingmen in case any starter needs to miss a start or two. And Jon Lester, who battled non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in the offseason, will be getting back up to speed likely in Pawtucket, the Red Sox AAA affiliate. In addition to Tavarez and Snyder, the Red Sox have Joel Pinheiro, Mike Timlin, Brendan Donnelly, JC Romero and Hideki Okajima in the pen. That’s a complete pitching heavy roster. The Red Sox might try to sneak Kyle Snyder through waivers and stash him at Pawtucket in favor of carrying an additional hitter like Kerry Robinson or Alex Ochoa, who were signed to minor league contracts. The uncertainty at closer looms, but on paper that’s a solid team. In the wings is the possible return of Roger Clemens, who will decide between the Red Sox, Yankees and the Astros where he will play part of the 2007 season.

Will it be enough to overtake the Yankees? Only the games will tell. Outside the Beltway Sports will look at the Yankees next.

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Ha, I was gonna post about this but you beat me to it. Well played, sir. I will get you next time. This time I’ll just post an abbreviated version in the comments section. Note that your analysis was way better anyway.

For those of you in Red Sox Nation still holding out hope that the JD Drew contract negotiations would fall through, a) what are you, high? and b) abandon hope. Word on the street (by “the street” I mean “a series of tubes”) is that they’ve finally settled on exactly what we figured they’d settle on: the same five-year/$70 million contract that they had in the first place, with Magglio Ordonez-esque language added in to give the Sox an out should the oft-injured slugger’s shoulder give out in 2010 or later.

(Yes, that does apparently mean that if his shoulder gives out, say, tomorrow, it’s Wily Mo time.)

JD Drew is a better baseball player right now than Wily Mo Pena is, so if we’re looking strictly at the Red Sox’s chances in 2007, this is a good thing. The Sox finally have a #5 hitter who can offer some protection to those other two guys, the big guy and the stoned guy. Long-term, there have been some concerns over throwing $70 million at a dude who’s injured about as often as Trot was, and over his “makeup” and “hustle,” which is pretty much a euphemism for “He seems like a jerk.”

When the JD Drew signing was first announced, ESPN Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons suggested that all baseball officials should ask the fans of a player’s former team how they feel about the guy before signing him. The idea is that Dodgers fans all hate Drew for his lack of hustle, and that should make Boston think twice about wanting him for the Sox. The problem with this method, of course, is A-Rod. Ask 100 Yankees fans how they feel about A-Rod and 80 of them will say they hate the bum. (The other 20 will steal your wallet.) But even in last year’s slump, A-Rod was an asset to the team. As a Boston fan, I was certainly praying they’d be stupid enough to let him go. Like Drew, A-Rod is a thoroughly unlikable shmoe. I hope the comparison holds somewhat true when it comes to Drew’s value to the team.

Drew’s signing makes Wily Mo officially expendable; while he’ll make a great fourth outfielder, he needs regular at-bats to develop, and his trade value may be higher than his play value at this point. Look for the Sox to try to work some kind of deal with their two major spare parts, Pena and Matt Clement.

Posted by Al | January 26, 2007 | 11:14 am | Permalink

JD Drew, man I’m sorry.

Posted by Mister Biggs | January 26, 2007 | 02:13 pm | Permalink

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