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.