Press confere4nce introducing the new Phillies closer, Jonathan Papelbon
Roster turnover is one of the inevitables of Major League Baseball, especially in these days of free agency and the luxury tax.
The most visible departures from the 2011 Red Sox roster are probably the retirements of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. Then of course there is Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a lucrative free agent deal with the Phillies.
Josh Reddick went to Oakland in the Andrew Bailey trade, Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland went to Houston in exchange for Mark Melancon, and Marco Scutaro left in the puzzling salary dump deal with the Rockies.
But what most of us may not know is that at least 16 other players no longer with the Red Sox organization who either appeared on Boston or some other team's major league roster during the 2011 season. That makes 23 players!
How quickly we forget!
Declared free agency in September 2011.
Released by Baltimore, March 4, 2012. Because of visa issues, Reyes has not arrived in camp, and the Orioles decided to wait no longer.
Most people (including me) forget that Reyes signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox last February, and broke camp in 2011 as a member of the 25-man roster, beating out other relievers such as Alfredo Aceves. He was the only left-handed pitcher in the Red Sox bullpen at the start of the season.
Nicknamed "The Big Sweat", Reyes is a solidly-built journeyman reliever with 15 years of major league experience. He pitched well for St Louis and Minnesota from 2006 to 2010, and The Red Sox had high hopes for a repeat performance.
According to his scouting report, Reyes throws "an excellent 88-92 mph cutter, a sweeping 76-81 mph curveball, and an 83-84 mph slider." The report also noted: "Below-average control."
Within two weeks "The Big Sweat" was gone, designated for assignment. Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote on MLBTRadeRumors, "Though Reyes isn't to blame for his team's 0-6 start, he hasn't helped."
In four appearances, Reyes walked two and gave up two hits, allowing three runs in 1.2 innings. He also hit two batters in a row in a loss to Cleveland. The "below-average control" analysis proved to be dead on.
After clearing waivers, Reyes was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket. He never arrived, and was placed on the restricted list a couple of weeks later, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Sean McAdam of CSNNE reported via Twitter that the left-hander "needed time at home in Mexico".
According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter) Reyes' 1.2 innings cost the Red Sox $900,000.
Details are sketchy on what he did the rest of the season.
But, the soon-to-be 35-year-old is left-handed and has a pulse. That means he will be given unlimited chances in MLB. Even with the latest news of his release before even getting to the Orioles camp, don't be surprised if he latches on to another team once he makes it to the US.
Declared free agency in September 2011. (Williams refused a minor league assignment.)
Signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Seibu Lions. Williams will try his stuff in Japan.
The 36-year old former White Sox pitcher signed a minor league free agent deal with the Red Sox in December 2010.
He was called up on July 16 when Bobby Jenks went on the DL. Williams himself had been on the disabled list twice in 2011 with a shoulder problem, but the Red Sox were short of arms due to the spate of injuries.
"He's been dominating left-hand hitters," manager Terry Francona told Joe McDonald of ESPN. Lefties were hitting only 3 for 22 off Williams at Pawtucket. At the time of his call-up, Williams had pitched 3.1 scoreless innings in his last three appearances with three saves and four strikeouts for the PawSox.
The problem with Williams is that his minor league success has never carried over to the majors. In five years he has hurled 82 mostly unspectacular major league innings, primarily with the Rockies and White Sox, and 2011 continued that trend. He appeared in seven games for the Red Sox in 2011, giving up ten hits and five walks in 8.1 innings.
He was designated for assignment on August 18, but still ended up with good Triple-A numbers: a 1.44 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 25 innings of work.
Declared free agency in September 2011.
Signed with Kansas City for 2012. Hottovy inked a minor league deal, and has an outside chance of making the Orioles roster as a lefty specialist.
By signing with the Royals, the 30-year-old Hottovy returns home to the Kansas City area, where he starred at Wichita State.
After toiling anonymously in the minors for eight years, he finally made it to the majors, making eight appearances with the Red Sox in 2011. At the time of his call-up, he was burning up the minors, holding batters to a .133 average (4-for-30), including an (0-12) against lefties. He had a 1.67 ERA with one save, 28 strikeouts and only five walks over 14 relief appearances (28 innings).
He had his ups and downs at Boston, performing well in a couple of relief situations but ending with a 6.75 ERA with Boston. He then had pitched well for Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League.
Hottovy owns one of the most bizarre trivia distinctions in recent memory: he faced the same batter, David DeJesus, in each of his first three MLB relief appearances last June. Hottovy got DeJesus to ground out each time.
"I'm the DeJesus specialist," Hottovy told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
Hottovy was another member of Boston's unusually large Tommy John Surgery Club, having undergone the procedure in 2008. Ironically, he was called up from Pawtucket in June to replace fellow lefty Rich Hill, who blew out his elbow and also underwent Tommy John surgery.
Boston drafted Hottovy as a starter in the fourth round in 2004, and he made 90 starts in the minor league system before injuring his elbow. The Red Sox converted him to a reliever after his arm repair.
The scouting report on Hottovy describes him as a "crafty lefty" who feature two- and four-seam fastballs in the upper 80s, along with a decent mid-70s changeup and a mid-70s curveball. The report concludes, "Inconsistent command, but when he's on, he has pinpoint control. Retooled his delivery in the spring of 2011, and now works as a side-armer. Early results have been quite impressive."
Declined arbitration by Red Sox November 23, 2011.
Signed free agent contract with Pittsburgh Pirates December 7, 2011. According to numerous sources, the deal is for one year at $4.5 million.
Left-hander Erik Bedard has great stuff, including what many consider to be the best curveball in MLB. He has consistently produced a high strikeout rate per nine innings, but the 129.1 innings he pitched in 2011 in a combined 24 starts for Seattle and Boston was the most the 32-year-old has pitched since 2007.
2001: Shoulder stiffness/DL
2002: Torn elbow ligament/DL, surgery
2005: Sprained knee/DL
2007: Oblique strain/DL
2008: Hip inflammation/DL
2008: Shoulder discomfort/DL, surgery
2009: Shoulder inflammation/DL
2009: Torn labrum/DL, surgery
2011: Sprained knee/DL
Bedard, once the ace of the Orioles staff, was a sixth round pick in the 1999 draft. He set a franchise strikeout record (221) as recently as 2007, when he also led the league in hits allowed per nine innings with seven.
He was traded to Seattle after that season for five prospects, and then the injury woes began.
At the 2011 trade deadline, the Red Sox pulled out of a deal for Oakland's Rich Harden, citing concerns about his injury history. They opted to trade for Bedard instead. Duh.
On the positive side, Bedard started three games in September, marking the first time he had pitched that late in the season since 2007. With the Red Sox, he started eight games, winning one and losing two.
His ERA in Boston was 4.03 in only 38 innings.
Digging deeper, however, Bedard fared quite well compared to other Red Sox pitchers. Granted, it was In a limited number of innings, but Bedard had highest rate of strikeouts and gave up the fewest home runs per nine innings among Red Sox starters. He also struck out 23.1% of the batters he faced in 2011, which ranks right up there with the best starters in the big leagues.
All in all, the Red Sox should not be faulted for taking a chance on Bedard, who offered a very high upside. Pittsburgh obviously feels the same way.
Declined arbitration by Red Sox November 23, 2011.
Signed with Chicago (NL) for 2012. Miller, now 38, inked a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, and has a chance of making the Cubs roster as a lefty specialist. He would be paid $800,000 if he makes the major league club, according to ESPN.
Miller is one of the few people I was sorry to see the Red Sox let go. Most Red Sox fans hardly noticed the acquisition of the 38-year-old veteran who signed minor league deal in August after being released by Toronto.
At the time I thought he had a chance to be a pleasant surprise. For the Red Sox he pitched two innings, retiring all six batters he face. For his career, he has held lefties to a .226 batting average. From 2007 to 2010, that number was .188.
During that time Miller led the majors, allowing only 19% of inherited runners to score (24 of 125).
In 2011 Miller faltered with the Cardinals, and was traded to Toronto in the Edwin Jackson/Octavio Dotel deal.
A 1991 Tigers first round draft pick, Miller is in the top 100 all-time in pitching appearances with 694. He’s been around, as have most LOOGYs. The Red Sox were his 9th team, not including two stints each with the Astros, Blue Jays and Rays. And a 2001 pit stop with the PawSox…
For you trivia fans out there, Miller holds the major league record for most consecutive appearances without a decision. In 2007 with the Astros he pitched in 76 games with a 0-0 record, shattering Scott Alfred’s mark of 48 in Tampa in 1998.
The streak continued until August 3, 2008 when Miller, then with Tampa, won a decision against the Detroit Tigers, ending his streak at a record 121 decisionless games.
One caveat: He really is a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY) and should only be used as such. He has not performed nearly as well against right-handed hitters, allowing a batting average of .293 along with a high number of walks and hits per innings pitched.
One thing the Cubs won’t have to worry about is his conditioning. He’s also a marathon runner.
Declared free agency, October 2010.
Signed with NY Yankees on December 28, 2011. He subsequently failed his physical and was released by the Yankees. He is now a free agent again, training in the Tampa area.
Okajima was one of three former Red Sox relievers signed by the Yankees this year, which in Red Sox minds qualifies him as a member of the Benedict Arnold Club.
Okajima failed the physical after Yankees doctors didn't like the results of an MRI done on his left shoulder, tweets David Waldstein. There is always the possibility that his deal could be reworked to protect the Yankees while the 36-year-old lefty tried to work things out in the minors, but indications are that he will return to Japan.
When Okajima first signed with the Yankees, I wondered whether or not Red Sox Nation should be concerned.
I guess that you can feel a small twinge of pain at contemplating one of the 2007 Red Sox heroes wearing pinstripes. It's a knee-jerk thing, kind of like how you feel when the girl YOU dumped starts dating someone else.
But let's be realistic here; Oki is not an icon like Luis Tiant, or even Johnny Damon. Those moves to the Yankees caused real heartaches among the faithful. Okajima's departure for the dark side should be far less upsetting.
How many people even remember the last two lefty relievers who went from the Red Sox to the Yankees? Jay Schreiber of the New York Times Baseball Blog points to side-arming Mike Myers, who pitched for the Red Sox in 2004 and 2005 before joining the Yankees in 2006 and 2007, and also Alan Embree, who joined the Yankees in 2005 after pitching for the Red Sox the previous year.
Hey, Embree and Myers were both part of Boston’s historic comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series (as well as the World Series sweep of St. Louis). Bosox fans did not sweat those defections, so they should not worry about Okajima.
Yes, he was an absolute stud for the Red Sox in 2007, quietly coming into his own in the shadow of his much-better-known countryman, Daisuke Matsuzaka. In 69 innings that year, Okajima posted an ERA of 2.22 and phenomenal 0.97 WHIP. In tight situations he was virtually unhittable; with runners in scoring position, he faced 30 batters and only three got hits off him. He walked no one and struck out nine in that situation. Late in close games overall, batters hit only .183 against him.
In 2008 he did almost as well, with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.
Although Okajima is not a starting pitcher, he also seemed to fall victim to what Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated calls the "Third Year Wall." Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine told Verducci, "The anecdotal assessment suggests starting pitchers [from Japan] have a two-year window of success followed by a rapid decline, followed thereafter by disappearance. Even a lot of the relievers have had success quickly, reaching a hot peak followed by a rapid decline."
Okajima fits that description to a "T." By 2010, those clutch stats had all but disappeared. With runners in scoring position batters hit .250 against him, and he walked as many as he struck out (five in 25 plate appearances). Late in close games, hitters tattooed him at .340 clip.
He spent most of 2011 at Triple-A, posting decent numbers; but even his 2.29 ERA never earned him a recall to Boston after May. According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, scouts attributed those good numbers at Pawtucket to his deceptive delivery, which fooled minor leaguers who had not faced him before. However, major league hitters had figured him out after a couple of years. "That left Okajima's 87-mph fastball much more hittable than it was in 2006 and 2007," concluded Abraham.
That outcome was not what Okajima had in mind when he signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal at the end of 2010 to remain with the Red Sox. As Brendon McGair of the Pawtucket Times wrote a month ago, Okajima was routinely passed over every time the parent club had an opening for a lefty reliever. "The most glaring example came when Boston signed 38-year-old Trever Miller in late August and later added him to the 40-man roster following Pawtucket’s season."
McGair adds that Okajima supposedly hung around Boston after the minior league season ended, just in case the Red Sox chose to activate him. Even with the big pitching collapse in September, that call never came. Okajima then chose free agency in early October.
In the December 13 Boston Herald, Gerry Callahan described Tim Tebow's passing delivery this way: "He throws with all the style and rhythm of Hideki Okajima."
I don't think he meant the comparison as a compliment.
Declared free agency October 3, 2011.
Signed contract with Atlanta, November 21, 2011. Minor league deal includes a non-roster invitation to spring training.
Dropping the versatile Sutton (he can play all four infield positions and both corner outfield positions) was another surprise to me.
He has had good, consistent numbers in the minor leagues (.295 with a .382 on-base percentage and .476 slugging percentage in almost 200 plate appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket last season). When he was called up to Boston he hit .315 with a .362 on-base percentage, seven doubles and a .444 slugging percentage in 60 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, he became a victim of the numbers game at the trade deadline, and the had to send him back to Pawtucket to make room for the newly acquired Erik Bedard. The next game he broke a finger, which resulted in surgery and cost him a month. During that time, Nate Spears was called up to to fill the utility spot, and Sutton was removed from the 40-man roster.
Sutton originally was drafted and signed by the Houston Astros. According to Brian McPherson of the Providence Journal, he came up with Ben Zobrist, and has played for the Cleveland and Cincinnati organizations as well.
To be honest, Sutton probably has a better chance to stick in the major leagues with a National League team than he would have in Boston. The iffiness of Chipper Jones at third for the Braves creates a potential need for a guy like Sutton.
“Last year I played five positions, and it was kind of the same situation because [third baseman Kevin] Youkilis was banged up,” Sutton, told Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Declared free agency October 3, 2011.
Signed contract with Texas, February 6, 2012. Minor league deal includes a non-roster invitation to spring training.
The Red Sox obtained the 29-year-old Jackson from the Oakland As last September 1, in exchange for minor-league reliever Jason Rice. Jackson underwhelmed Red Sox Nation with his performance, hitting only .158 in 22 at-bats over 12 games.
To be fair, that small sample is not representative of his career; he has a .271 average over seven major league seasons, most of which were spent with Arizona. (He was a 2003 first round selection for the Diamondbacks.)
Jackson has played close to 65% of his 607 MLB games at first base, but he has also seen significant playing time at the corner outfield positions. He has also been an occasional DH and third baseman—with that versatility probably being a reason the Red Sox traded for him last year.
For you trivia buffs, his dad, John Jackson, is the actor who portrayed Admiral Albert Jethro (A.J.) Chegwidden in the television series JAG and Captain West in the film A Few Good Men.
Bryan Dolgin of ESPN Dallas points out that Jackson's playing time has been limited the past three seasons as he struggled with a number of health issues. His afflictions have included valley fever, a right hamstring injury and a sports hernia. Dolgin is optimistic, however, about Jackson's chances: "In considering the non-roster invites to spring training, there is right-handed first baseman/outfielder Conor Jackson, who could possibly help the 2012 Rangers off the bench."
Warning to the Rangers: Jackson is only 12-for-65 (.185) in his career as a pinch-hitter.
Red Sox declined team option; offered arbitration on Nov 23, 2011. Wheeler declined arbitration, a move that almost certainly cost him guaranteed money.
Signed contract with Cleveland, January 26, 2012: Minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to spring training.
Wheeler will earn $900K if he makes the Major League roster, tweets Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. His incentives include additional bumps based on his number of appearances. Indians relievers led the American League with 482 appearances last year, so he has a shot.
Wheeler posted a 4.38 ERA in 49.1 innings for the Red Sox in 2011, missing time due to calf and forearm injuries. While he struggled in April and May, he posted a very good 2.72 ERA in 34 appearances from June through August. Like most of the rest of the pitching staff, he tanked in September in limited action, allowing five runs in four innings.
Wheeler has been pitching in the big leagues since 1999. He has made 577 appearances, all but nine in relief. He also accumulated 43 saves along the way, with the Mets, Astros and Rays.
Tampa selected the now 34-year-old Rhode Island native in the 34th round of the 1996 draft. He has a 3.88 ERA over his 12 major league seasons.
Released by Boston August 7, 2011: Actually, he exercised his opt-out clause, and signed with the Rockies the following day.
Declared free agency October 30, 2011.
Signed by Seattle Mariners January 24, 2012: Minor league deal with invitation to spring training.
Seattle will be the ninth franchise for Millwood, who has apparently still not learned the market value of a 37-year-old pitcher not named Jamie Moyer.
After pitching decently for the Rockies to end the 2011 season, he reportedly declined a $1MM contract offer from the Rockies prior to the Winter Meetings in hopes of securing a $3MM guarantee and a major league deal.
“I think I proved, given the chance, that I can still pitch,” Millwood told Larry Larue of the News-Tribune.
Colorado didn't blink, and Millwood was left to scramble for a minor league deal with the Mariners.
Millwood played his first professional season in 1993, Larue notes, and he is competing for a Seattle rotation spot with Taijuan Walker, who was less than a year old at that time.
In March of 2011, Millwood also reportedly turned down a seven-figure minor league deal from the Yankees, expecting that he could still command a major league contract in the $4 million range.
When no such offer appeared, he went back and signed a minor league deal with the Yankees, but at a lower price than was originally offered. When he did not make the big league roster, he opted out on May 1st.
Millwood signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox a couple of weeks later, hoping that the spate of pitching injuries Boston had suffered would lead back to the majors more quickly. According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, Millwood would earn a pro-rated portion of $500,000 plus incentives for major league time.
This contract also gave him a June opt-out date, but as one Boston arm after another went down, Millwood chose to stay with the organization. However, as the beginning of August rolled around, and he watched one young Pawtucket arm after another get called up to Fenway, he finally did ask for his release, and the red Sox accommodated him.
In 13 Triple-A starts, Millwood posted a 4.28 ERA, but with a decent 8.1 K/9 rate. GM Theo Epstein said, "At the time, we had guys ahead of him. His stuff, in our judgment and the judgment of our Triple-A staff, it wasn’t going to play at the major league level here for the Red Sox above the other options that we had."
The Rockies thought otherwise and signed the veteran, who posted a 3.98 ERA in nine starts for Colorado.
Declared free agency, November 2, 2011
Signed by Washington Nationals December 9, 2011: Minor league deal with invitation to spring training.
Carroll wasn't with Red Sox organization for very long. He was released by the Brewers at the deadline, and the Red Sox signed him to a minor league deal and assigned him to Pawtucket on August 5.
He spent most of 2011 with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League where he batted .281 with 15 home runs and nine steals in 93 games. However, in 24 games at Pawtucket he didn't show very much, hitting only .229 with one homer.
The 28-year-old outfielder has shown a good arm and decent defensive skills, along with the versatility to play all three outfield positions. Although he has hit well at the minor league level, especially against lefties, he has not done so well when given a chance at the major league level.
Carroll has appeared in 175 MLB games in parts of five seasons, with Florida (2007-2010) and Milwaukee (2011), but he hit only only .203 with five home runs. He had a grand total of three at-bats with Milwaukee last season.
According to his scouting report, he "makes below-average contact with below average power and average plate discipline."
Designated for assignment June 30, 2011
Traded to Florida Marlins July 5, 2011, along with cash in exchange for a player to be named or cash.
Released by Florida September 13, 2011, for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He alleged verbally abused a flight attendant on one of the team’s charter flights.
Signed a minor league deal with Washington Nationals on January x, 2012. The contract included an invitation to spring training. Cameron's deal included a $1 million bonus if he made the Opening Day roster, with another $750,000 in incentives.
By last June the Red Sox had given up on Cameron, who had hit only .149 in 94 at-bats up to that point.
The Marlins stepped in, taking on only $300,000 of Cameron’s remaining $3.6 million salary.
“I think you’re looking for production, and we still think this guy can help us,” Marlins president Larry Beinfest told the Miami Herald.
Cameron played 17 seasons in a rather nomadic career, winning three Gold Gloves and playing in the 2001 All-Star Game.
Fellow B/R writer Joe Halverson wrote on the Seattle team page, "Few baseball players have a legacy as diversified as Cameron. Some will remember him as one of the finest defensive outfielders of his generation, who also had enough pop to hit four home runs in a single game".
For his career, Cameron is one of the few current players who have at least 250 home runs and 250 stolen bases. He also went to the playoffs four times with three different teams.
Declared free agency, November 2, 2011.
Signed by Seattle to a minor league contract, November 11, 2011.
On September 9, 2010, the Red Sox claimed Matt Fox off of waivers from the Twins, according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (via Twitter). Strangely enough, that occurred a few days after Fox made his major league debut. According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB TradeRumors,
"Fox, who turns 28 this December, pitched well in his MLB debut Friday, limiting the Rangers to four hits and a walk in 5.2 innings of work. He pitched 123 innings as a swingman in Triple A with a 3.95 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. Fox has a 3.71 ERA in his six-year minor league career with 7.8 K/9, so he's a nice depth addition for Boston."
Fox recorded five outs in a Red Sox uniform after the claim, giving up four hits, two runs and a walk in 1.2 innings.
Last January, he was designated him for assignment before the Red Sox released him. Four weeks later, they re-signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He never made it out of Triple-A in 2011, although went 10-4 for Pawtucket with a 3.96 ERA in 28 appearances, 21 of them starts. He posted a 1.203 WHIP, and registered almost a strikeout an inning.
Granted Free Agency November 2, 2011.
Signed as a Free Agent with the Los Angeles Angels, February 3, 2012
Smith, originally a 2005 draft pick of the Diamondbacks, started 32 games for Oakland in the 2008 season, posting a 7-16 record over 190.1 innings with an ERA of 4.16—not that bad for a 16-loss pitcher on a bad team. During that year, he led the majors (and tied an MLB record) with 15 pickoffs.
He has also been involved in a couple of high-profile trades involving outfielder Carlos Gonzales. Smith went to Oakland in the Dan Haren deal in 2007, then he and Gonzales went to the Rockies a year later (along with Huston Street) in Matt Holliday trade.
According to Jack Etkin of insidetherockies.com, Smith began the 2010 season as the Rockies number two starter while filling in for injured Jeff Francis. He started eight games, allowing more than 11 hits per nine innings and 1.8 home runs per nine, on his way to a pretty bad ERA of 6.23. The Rockies sent him back to Triple-A.
He continued to struggle at Colorado Springs, and the following April the Rockies released him.
Due to mid-season injuries the Yankees signed him a minor league contract as lefty insurance on June 13, 2011. He was assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he went 3-3 in ten starts with an ERA of 4.84.
The Yankees released him in August to make room for Scott Procter, and the Red Sox picked him up on August 19. At Pawtucket he went 2-1 in four starts to finish out the season, with a 3.75 ERA.
Granted Free Agency November 2, 2011.
No coverage of 2011 Red Sox players who are not with the team in 2012 would be complete without mention of the oft-maligned J.D. Drew, who finished out the five-year, $70 million deal he signed with the Red Sox in 2007.
Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe once praised Drew as "a five-tools player with an uncanny batting eye, a swing smoother than butter, and long, measured strides that eat up great chunks of real estate, whether running the bases or tracking down fly balls."
With the exception of a stunning and totally unexpected grand slam he hit during the 2007 ALCS against Cleveland, his impact on Red Sox Nation was minimal. One of my personal favorite baseball stories of recent years, was an article entitled "The 14 Million Dollar Swing", penned by Jack Curry of the New York Times. "That was the most expensive grand slam of all time," he wrote.
Drew was the first player in college baseball history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. He set a Florida State record by batting .455 in 1997 while managing to become one of only three players in college baseball history to have 100 hits, 100 runs and 100 RBIs. During his college career, Drew broke 17 school and conference records.
He was so good in college that that he was drafted within the top five twice. He got off on the wrong foot with MLB by not signing with the Phillies after they drafted him second overall in 1997, playing for a year in an independent league. In 2008 the Cardinals made him the fifth overall pick, and he made it to the big leagues just two months after he was signed.
For whatever reason, the 1997 Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year appears to have been born without the intensity gene that characterizes the careers of dirt dogs such as Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Drew's predecessor in right field, Trot Nixon.
Partly because he does things so effortlessly, and partly because of the size of his contract, Drew has become the butt of criticism from fans and the media about his apparent lack of effort and toughness. He has earned the reputation of being "soft', in that he will not play unless he feels 100%.
Yes, his career has been plagued by injuries, but fairly or not, Drew has been perceived as a player who will not play through minor discomfort. Mike Adams believes that "Most of Drew's injuries were various aches and pains that a lot of players probably would have played through."
In his book Three Nights in August, author Buzz Bissinger mentions former manager Tony La Russa's frustration with Drew's lack of passion when he played for the Cardinals. La Russa tells Bissinger that it seems Drew has decided to "settle for 75%" of his talent.
Adams concludes, "[This] softness has managed to alienate him from most other teams and as a result, he and his fairly impressive .873 career OPS are probably headed for retirement."
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Drew is most likely to end his career as one of the more unpopular players in the game.
As of this writing, Drew is "very likely" to retire, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (on Twitter). It's been a quiet offseason for the Scott Boras client, although a March 4 report by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe indicates that Drew might consider becoming a bench player for a team in the southeast, close to his home.
The fantasy experts at Rotoworld chimed in with, "He'd make a fine bench option for the Braves or another team if he's indeed willing to accept a minor role."
According to Luke Adams on MLB Trade Rumors, one National league GM said,
I know he had a wasted year, but he can still hit, he can still defend, and for a National League team, he'd be a heck of a bat off the bench. If he wants that role. He could easily be a starter somewhere. He's not that old, and sometimes that fresh start energizes a player.
The 36-year-old Drew appeared in only 81 games for Boston in 2011, hitting .222 with only four home runs and a woeful slugging percentage of .302. To put that latter number in perspective, that's lower than young shortstop Jose Iglesias' minor league slugging percentage (.316).
If Drew does retire, his career stat line will read .278/.384/.489 with 242 home runs over 14 seasons.
Declared free agency October 30, 2011.
Signed with Quintana Roo Tigers of the Mexican League, January 2012.
"Top flight speed. Below average bat. Slap hitter. Minimal plate discipline. No power. Good range, decent glove. Weak arm." So reads Joey Gathright's scouting report.
I had to include this link to a video of him jumping over a Mitsubishi Galant and a BMW, apparently in the parking lot of his spring-training hotel in 2002.
The Red Sox purchased his contract from the independent league Yuma Scorpions and assigned him to Triple-A Pawtucket on August 31. Gathright was 3-for-8 with a walk and a steal in four games for the PawSox before the playoffs.
Speedster Gathright appeared in seven games for the Red Sox in September and walked in his one plate appearance.
Perhaps they had in mind a Dave Roberts-like steal situation in the playoffs that never came to be…
To give you an idea of how far the Yuma Scorpions are off baseball’s beaten track, the manager was Jose Canseco. Gathright, hit .347 for Yuma after signing with them on June 10, walking 40 times and stealing 20 bases in 61 games—while serving as their backup catcher!
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote an amusing story about how a quick workout was arranged, with Gathright’s 54-year-old agent, Larry Reynolds, throwing batting practice. According to Rosenthal, “The Red Sox guaranteed Gathright nothing but a chance to play at Triple A, yet signed him in time to make him eligible for their postseason roster. Canseco actually broke the news of the signing on Twitter.”
Gathright played in 17 games and one playoff game for the Sox at the end of 2009, going 5-for-16 with one stolen base.
The 30-year-old pinch runner extraordinaire has 80 major league steals in 109 attempts. He was drafted by Tampa in the 32nd round of the 2001 draft, and spent parts of six seasons with Tampa, Kansas City and the Cubs in addition to the Red Sox., Gathright is a career .263 hitter with a .630 OPS.
The bizarre story continues, however. Not only did Gathright sign to play for Quintana Roo, champs of the Mexican League, but he is now playing alongside his former Yuma manager, 47-year-old Jose Canseco.
I can't wait to see how that works out.