A Truly Regrettable Contract

by Sully on February 8, 2011

in Media,Red Sox

I can’t seem to nail down the transcript or audio file, but I understand that Gerry Callahan referred to J.D. Drew as Theo Epstein’s “most regrettable” move this morning on WEEI. It’s beyond preposterous, and so I thought I would highlight what I think was Epstein’s most regrettable move. Consider it a little follow-up to my post this morning.

Just like J.D. Drew after the 2006 season, Mike Lowell was an unrestricted free agent after the 2007 one. Lowell was injury prone, old and declining, but he had also just won a World Series MVP and was a fan favorite. The Red Sox decided to offer him a three-year, $37.5 million contract, which Lowell accepted.

In 2008, he played pretty well. He hit .274/.338/.461 and was still a terrific fielder. He had his injury problems, only playing in 113 games (Drew has averaged 131 per year in Boston), but it was good enough for 3.0 Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs. That amounts to $13.6 million in value, and the Red Sox paid him $12.5. All good, right?

Not exactly. Do you remember Mark Kotsay? Well because Lowell couldn’t stay on the field as the year wore on – and remember, we’re in year one of a three-year deal at this point – the Red Sox needed a corner infield contingency. Their best hope was an August post non-waiver deadline deal for Kotsay to play first base when Lowell had to sit. Kevin Youkilis could move to third base. Kotsay came into the season a .282/.337/.415 career hitter and had played 23 career games at 1st base. And that was with good reason. Why the hell would you ever play such a mediocre offensive player at 1st?

The Red Sox ended up winning the Wild Card, and Lowell didn’t last two playoff games. Kotsay was forced to play in 10 (TEN!) playoff games for the Red Sox, nine as their starting first baseman because Lowell was too fragile to play. The rest is history. Kotsay hit .233/.233/.333 as Boston’s starter at first in all seven games of their classic ALCS showdown with the Tampa Bay Rays. They lost by just one game, of course, the sort of difference easily made up by not playing a sub-replacement level player every day. Basically, because Lowell was so “soft” (to use the Drew parlance), the Red Sox didn’t qualify for the 2008 World Series.

In 2009, Lowell played in 119 games (what a horse!) and hit .290/.337/.474. Only by then he could no longer field move at all, so his fWAR total was just 1.1. That was worth $5 million. They paid Lowell $12.5 million. In the playoffs, when they were swept by the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS, Lowell hit .200/.273/.200 in those three games. He was a joke.

In 2010, still pulling down $12.5 million, Lowell played in 73 games. He was so useless that the Red Sox went out and spent another $10 million on Adrian Beltre, just to cover themselves at a position where they had already invested in Lowell. Still, with the rest of the team going down thanks to one fluke injury after another (not Drew though, he played), Boston needed their fourth most expensive player to step up when he was finally healthy enough to play. He answered that challenge by hitting .239/.307/.367 as a first baseman. Oh how we yearned for Mark Kotsay.

None of this stopped the Red Sox from holding Mike Lowell Day at the end of the season, and that’s to their credit, I suppose. He was a memorable part of a World Series winning team, and he was retiring. At the end of this season, the final one of J.D. Drew’s contract, I doubt there will be such a fond farewell for Drew. And that’s because ignorant loudmouths like Gerry Callahan tell their audience that Drew is soft and overpaid as part of their lowest common denominator shtick. Whatever. I just hope that readers of this piece appreciate what a truly regrettable contract looks like.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff February 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Ouch, That one hurt. I guess that’s what they mean when the say “the truth hurts”.

Well written. I don’t hate JD butI can’t say I’ll miss him when he’s gone. Maybe I should.

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Ian February 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Julio Lugo was less AAV (for an extra year) but I’d say he was worse. He made $36 mil on the contract the Sox gave him and produced 0.7 WAR for us in 2.5 years, then -0.4 WAR for St. Louis and Baltimore while we were still paying him. In 2007 he was 201st of 216 MLB players with >400 PA in wOBA. In 08 he was a little better, sporting a beastly .355 OBA, but then he got hurt and he was outplayed the remainder of the season by Jed Lowrie (who was a rookie with a broken wrist). In 09 he played 37 of the Sox’ first 82 games and then somehow St. Louis was duped into taking him (Oh, because DFA’d him and were responsible for his entire salary). Somehow in those 37 games he was 9.5 runs below average according to UZR. Yeah, that’s an entire win.

Lowell was certainly a bad contract, but remember that the Phillies actually offered him more! We outbid ourselves for Lugo and he was by far the worst contract Theo has ever given.

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Sully February 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

With you, Ian. I just like the Lowell/Drew comp because of how they’re each perceived by fans.

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Matt February 8, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Well done, Sully.

I’d just point out that in the ’09 ALDS the Sox hit a collective .158/.223/.232. That’s an OPS of .455 which somehow makes Lowell’s .473 look better if anything can.

Just to drive home the point a bit more, guess who had the best OPS on the team in that ’09 ALDS? It was .856, about 200 points above Ellsbury’s inhuman .667 OPS. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, J. D. Drew! Can’t wait till that guy’s off the team.

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Brendan February 8, 2011 at 6:32 pm

There was an old Fire Joe Morgan dismantling some NESN blogger’s complaint that the 2007 Sox “lacked fire,” and Exhibit A in this guy’s argument was J.D. Drew. Mostly I remember it here because in FJM’s listing of “Passionate” players was Mike Lowell, listed as “borderline, but he’s a Cagey Veteran who sublimates his fire into Lunchpailism.”

I’d also kind of forgotten that Drew was screwed from the start, since he took over RF from Trot Nixon, the filthy-hatted scrappiest scrapper who ever scrapped.

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Matt February 9, 2011 at 12:50 am

Extensive tests later revealed Nixon was made of 87% Ecksteinium.

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Sully February 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

I made the mistake of listening to some of the Big Show stream on Drew from this afternoon. Ordway makes Callahan look enlightened on the topic.

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Jim February 9, 2011 at 8:15 am

Worse RS contracts under Theo than Drew.
Edgar Rentaria
Julio Lugo
Dice-K

TBD
John Lackey
Josh Beckett

Drew has been a good player for the Sox, but no doubt he is overpaid.

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Jonathan February 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Neat article. Good comp I never saw. My favorite to whip out is referencing Youk when people call Drew injury prone. Ultimate Dirt Dog Kevin Youkilis (Who don’t get me wrong, is probably my favorite position player on the Sox right now) has appeared in all of about three more games than Drew over the life of Drew’s contract.

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Peter February 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I’m not at all a fan of this misleading stat.
It does not take context into account at all. Keep in mind that Youkilis is 3 games ahead despite missing over a third of the season last year to a fluke injury (and fluke injuries have nothing to do with toughness).
Drew also has a reputation of playing at less than 100% when he has “nagging injuries”, whereas Youkilis goes 100% whenever he’s on the field, hurt or not.
Furthermore, when Youkilis does get banged up, it’s understandable, given how often he gets HBP (53 times over the past four years).
Over that same period, Drew has been HBP only 12 times…and yet still gets more nagging injuries than Youkilis.

And here’s the real kicker…”games played” is also a hollow stat for this discussion.
Over the past four years, Youkilis has appeared in 18 games in which he had 0 or 1 PA…but over the same time period, Drew has 34 such appearances!
So, despite played a far less rugged type of baseball, and despite avoiding any major “fluke” type injuries, Drew is 3 games played behind Youkilis and 19 “full” games played behind him.

I’m not bashing Drew with this, I actually disagree with his bashers, but I’m pretty tired of the comparison of the number of games Drew and Youkilis have played.

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hawkny February 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Lettuce not forget Mike Cameron’s $15.5/2yr. million deal…

And, probably Beckett’s $82.5M which will probably be looked upon as the biggest swindle in Red Sox history if he repeats his 2010 performance in 2011 :(

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Steven Erlich February 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I don’t think you have to worry about Beckett. And lets not forget, Cameron we knew would be injured from the day we signed him. That’s why he’s now our 4th outfielder.

Beckett is too big of a competitor to not get better. Look at what happened in 2006. He came back in 2007 and almost won a Cy Young (IMO cheated out of one by CC, but that’s me). Sure he’s a few years older, but people act like he’s 35… he’s 30. Plenty left in the tank. I think you will see a big year from Lackey as well.
2011 is a contract year for Papelbon. The whole reason he’s gone year to year is to get Mo’ Money (pardon the pun Yanks fans). He’s going to explode and have a monster 2011. Otherwise he’s just an idiot and should have taken his long-term deal when it was on the table a few years ago.

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freddie February 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I think you hit it right on the button. Papelbon has an ego bigger than his brain. He thought he was the next mariano… He should have taken the long term deal.

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Mike Oxlodge February 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Regrettable contracts? How about Lugo, Renteria, Dice-K, Lackey, Beckett (the 2nd time) & Smoltz (others?)? At least Drew had some good moments along the way (i.e. 2007 playoffs). I’m not sure why the media hates him so much….

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Steven Erlich February 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Good Afternoon all and a very well written article Sully.

Now on to JD Drew. Sully you are so on point and any analyst who can simply click fangraphs.com can see JD Drew has met or exceeded his contract value most seasons of this deal. As far as idiots in the media calling him soft? If he’s soft, then Ben Rothlesberger’s a pussy cat. Drew has played through back problems (and been ready opening day after off-season surgeries), he has played through knee problems all while playing the hardest right field in baseball.

Any Red Sox fan who insults JD Drew or says they are not sure they will miss him when he’s gone… I beg to differ. You will miss him drastically as will I. There are few players in the history off the game that have manned Fenway’s RF better then JD Drew. All while posting around a .400 OBP almost every season (until struggles last year). One of the best batter’s eye in the game… Yea… he’s soft.

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AdamB February 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Consider yourselves lucky. Drew didn’t do anything while he was with the Cardinals. He was the biggest bust of a prospect that I had ever seen.

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MattP February 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Lies! JD Drew is a saint! He and Eli Marrero got us Wainwright, which is more than he could ever do for the Red Sux.

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Justin Monti February 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

While I don’t like the picture painted of My boy Lowell I do agree with the premise of your article. I feel he was a great player for us that we unfortunately watched to the very end. My real issue appears to be the same as yours, with people like Callahan bringing down J.D. Drew and his value. As you stated he has averaged 131 games; not necessarily a horse but a solid number, and he has done this with above average fielding and if I’m not mistaken a top 10 OPS each year, except 2010. This man handles a tough right field, works counts and consistently gets on base. He’s not flashy, but in today’s market, he’s worth his price. While I’m excited to see what Kalish can do as his heir apparent next year, I will always look a Drew as the solid player he has been for the Sox.

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Stan February 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm

The ONLY thind Drew will be remembered for that was great was the HR against Cleveland in the playoffs THAT’S IT….other than that he will be remembered for taking days off for whatever reason he could use like Manny the only difference Drew is a quiet person so the media didnt blow it up, and padding his defense stats by letting balls bounce in front of him CONTINUOSLY instead of going for the big out….was NOT worth the money and as for our bad shortstops we have had i believe we are cursed at that position for trading away Nomar….Drew was a waste of a lot of $$ we could have resigned Trot for less $ and less yrs and at least we knew what we had in him

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Steve_in_MA February 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Stan, I’ve got to disagree. Over the life of his contract Drew has consistently performed as a top 5 MLB right fielder, averaging 19 homers and 131 games per season. His RBI numbers have been a bit low, but that is only because he’s been forced to hit down in the lower part of the order, behind a number of big sticks. He has easily earned $13MM or more per season in terms of value/WAR. I would sign him at 5 for $70MM all over again if the same player/situation was in front of us.

Lowell, however, is a poor example for the “bad” contract. Lowell gave us 2 decent years out of three and stuck around to work for his money. Renteria and Lugo were truly bad contracts. History will prove that the Scutaro contract ($12MM) is not so good, given the fact of how cheaply we could have re-signed Alex for two years ($5.5MM), and how Alex has outperformed Scutz, in several significant ways.

But the fact remains that Callahan is selling radio. To get attention via that medium, you have to be incendiary. It doesn’t matter whether or not Gerry really believes the crap he’s saying about Drew. He’d say it anyway, for ratings. He’s a whore, not a journalist. And you don’t go to a whorehouse to read a newspaper. If you do so, you won’t get the facts, you’ll just get ….

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