Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Spending spree: Sox sign Drew, Lugo for combined $106 mil

Former blue Dodgers J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo sign lucrative deals to wear Red Sox

It's days like this that remind me why I want my son to become a major league ballplayer.

Outfielder J.D. Drew, a former Dodger, Cardinal and Brave, has reportedly agreed to a 5 year contract with Boston worth $70 million dollars.

In what must have been a "two-fer Tuesday" special the club also came to terms with former Dodger, Devil Ray and Astros shortstop Julio Lugo on a 4 year, $36 million dollar pact.

Both deals have been circulating through the rumor mill for weeks now, and it took just one day into the winter meetings in Orlando to get the deals done. Both players must pass physicals before the contracts are finalized, but that is expected to be a mere formality.

So what do these moves mean for the club? Well for starters the Drew deal almost certainly means that Manny Ramirez will be dealt, if not before the end of the week then sometime before the start of the season. It is hard to believe that the team would have two outfielders making $14+ million each next season, especially with the amount of cash it is going to take to land Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. It also signifies the end of the line for RSN favorite Trot Nixon. The oft-injured free agent outfielder has been the odd man out this off season, and reports have the Pirates ready to offer him a pretty hefty contract.

The Lugo deal is no surprise whatsoever. The Sox have coveted the offensive-minded infielder for a couple of seasons now, and made a push for him before the last 2 trade deadlines. But the Rays dealt him to the Dodgers last July where he was immediately unhappy with having to play second base and also with not playing every day. Lugo's offensive numbers are steady- he's a career .277 hitter who averages about 12 home runs and 60 RBIs per season, can steal some bases and doesn't strike out a whole lot- but his defense is shaky at best. He made 19 total errors last season and his 14 errors in just 73 games (328 chances, .957%) at SS for Tampa Bay last year was one of the reasons they were willing to part with him. To put it in perspective the man Lugo will replace at short in Boston, Alex Gonzalez, made just 7 errors in 110 games (475 chances) for a .985 fielding percentage. Didn't Boston get rid of Nomah because they feared his lack of defense at the position would hinder their pursuit of a championship? I guess now that they've got a title it's okay to go back to an all-bat, no-glove shortstop. Evidently .270 hitters who make quite a few errors are worth $8 mil/year in this overinflated market right now. Lugo will be Boston's 5th shortstop since 2004.

Drew is an intriguing player, and by that I mean he could end up being a .300/25/100 guy who plays 140+ games and a stellar right field, or he could end up a broken down, apathetic head case who divides the locker room and draws the ire of the Nation. Really it could go either way. His career already has. The 31-year old has been criticised ever since he came out of FSU as a stud draft prospect. He infamously snubbed the Phillies when they selected him 2nd in the '97 draft, and when he went to the Cards with the 5th pick a year later he was booed, ridiculed and harassed for his selfish, greedy behavior. Recent reports from former teammates and personnel say his boorish attitude has not diminished; stories about him not playing hurt, turning minor injuries into major ones, and having a passive/indifferent attitude towards the game have plagued him for years, and his frail frame earned him the nickname "Nancy" (Drew) according to one Dodger player. He also walked away from $33 mil in guaranteed Dodger money to become a free agent. Not exactly qualities that will go over well in blue collar Beantown, where the previous right fielder (Trot) was respected for his hustle, willingness to play through pain and general hard-nosed attitude. Something tells me Drew won't be wearing a pine tar-stained lid anytime soon.

But Drew's abilities as a player have never been in question. As I said he was a major stud at Florida State and he has performed well at the major league level whenever he was healthy. His career averages are solid- .286 BA, 27 HRs, 86 RBIs, 89BBs, 116 Ks, .905 OPS, .512 SLG% - but they don't come close to ManRam's, the man he will actually be replacing when Theo finally unloads him. The injuries (wrist, back, shoulder, knees) have to be the main concern for Boston, as Drew has averaged only 118 games played since his first full season in 1999. He did make it into a career high 146 games last season, but played in a career low 72 the year before.

Still the addition of Drew & Lugo and whoever else they may bring in (they need a 2B unless they stick with Pedroia) does make for a potent lineup, and let's face it you are never going to replace Manny's production with equal value. Something tells me that playing in a hardcore baseball environment will spark Drew to give 100% every day and he will try to acclimate to his surroundings quickly. There are already plenty of leaders in the clubhouse (Papi, Schill, Tek) so all he has to do is show up for work every day, play hard, and produce. This team & city is a lot different than laid back L.A., forgiving St. Louis and indifferent Atlanta. I would hope that he is smart enough to know what he is getting into, what kind of player he is replacing, and what will happen to him if he pulls any Manknee-like shenanigans.

Better players than him have been ridden out of the Hub on a rail. And we know the Sox are more than willing to eat salary to unload a non-Boston type player (see: Renteria, Edgar.)

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