Last night brought a couple of much-anticipated Red Sox moves: the signings of J.D. Drew (5 years, $70 million) and Julio Lugo (4 years, $36 million). From a pure economic standpoint, these signings are either crazy expensive (you’re not going to hear the end of “but they could have signed Johnny for $52 million” for a good while) or pretty damn cheap (is J.D. worth $4 million more a year than Gary Matthews? Hell yeah).
J.D. will come to Boston with a lot of expectations…a lot of low expectations, that is. There were petitions urging the Sox front office not to sign the guy. He’s been repeatedly labeled a lily-livered pansy, a guy who’s soft, who can’t play hurt, who lacks fire.
Here are some thoughts — and observations — on that.
* We’d all do well to check out exactly how good a player Drew is. He has the 25th highest slugging percentage of all active players, and the 15th highest among active players under 35. He’s posted a career line of .286, .393, .512. His OPS is .905, compared to .924 for David Ortiz (and an otherworldly 1.011 for Manny). And he’s a better fielder (and baserunner) than either of the Sox’s Big Two.
* I have a hard time believing that a player gets to be a major leaguer while being truly “soft,” just as I think it’s usually a load of crap when we all debate about whether this or that player can or can’t handle being booed. By the time you reach the majors, you’ve pushed through enough so that you damn well better be able handle some catcalls. And it’s incredibly difficult to make the physical commitment to being a professional athlete while being a big-time wuss. Drew makes me nervous, but not because I think he’s a crybaby; he makes me nervous because I worry he might have one of those bodies that’s just not that durable. If that’s the case, we just committed to five years of Drew renting space on the trainer’s table.
So why the rep? It could be because, unlike, say, Trot Nixon, Drew comes off as a more passive player — there’s not the helmut slamming or frequent cursing. (Drew and Trot have averaged pretty much the exact same number of games played per year in their careers. Go figure.) Drew’s also never particularly endeared himself to fans, so when Manny sits out for last month of the season despite a clean MRI and medical clearance from the team, it’s because he knows his body better than anyone, yada yada yada. But we’re all too ready to label Drew, who’s not only never played in Boston but has never played in the American League, as a bust from the get-go. Maybe he will be. But let’s give him a chance.
Tony Massarotti has a little item showing what the Red Sox’s lineup would look like if the season started tomorrow. I’ll throw in career BAs, OBPs, and SLGs:
Julio Lugo, .277, .340, .402
Coco Crisp, .282, .329, .416
David Ortiz, .283, .374, .550
Manny Ramirez, .314, .411, .600
J.D. Drew, .286, .393, .512
Mike Lowell, .273, .339, .463
Jason Varitek, .269, .348, .450
Kevin Youkilis, .275, .379, .423
Dustin Pedroia, NA
Papi, Manny, and J.D. wouldn’t exactly be a modern-day Murderer’s Row — Ruth and Gehrig both had slugging percentages of over .750! in 1927 — but they’d be pretty damn good.
Meanwhile, the assumption is that any effort to trade Manny is losing steam. I can only assume that means there’ll be a news conference announcing his new destination within the next couple of hours…