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.