Red Sox, Drew finalize deal
Long-awaited signing completes five-year contract
BOSTON -- It can now be said officially that J.D. Drew is the new right fielder for the Boston Red Sox. That had unofficially been the case since Dec. 5, when agent Scott Boras announced to a pack of reporters that his client had struck a five-year, $70 million deal with Boston.
Fifty-two days later, Drew put a signature on that agreement. The Red Sox held a conference call on Friday to announce Drew as their new No. 5 hitter.
What was the hold up? After conducting a physical on Drew in the second week of December, the Red Sox had some concerns about the outfielder's right shoulder, which was operated on in September 2005.
"I was fully aware of what was going on, talking to Scott and [general manager Theo Epstein]; there were some minor issues contractually and they would be worked out," Drew said Friday.
This contract was never a matter of if, but just when.
"From the day we agreed on this contract a couple of months ago, both sides knew this was going to get done," said Epstein.
For the past several weeks, Epstein and Boras tried to find common ground on contract language that would give the team protection in the event Drew suffered a significant injury to his right shoulder. A resolution was finally reached on Thursday.
"As J.D. said, it was a minor issue, but something that we wanted to get right," said Epstein. "And when lawyers get involved, sometimes things take longer than they might otherwise. I think there was good faith on both sides, and J.D. was kept in the loop and knew that this was going to get done. It was just a matter of time. We're happy that everything is finally settled and we can move forward."
The Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox would be able to opt out of Drew's contract after three years if he has major right shoulder woes in the third year of the deal. If Drew has a significant injury to the right shoulder in the fourth year of the deal, the Red Sox could void the fifth year.
"We never get into the details of the contract," said Epstein. "That's not for public record. I'll just reiterate what I said. We have an agreement that's fair to both sides, and [we are] looking forward to a long run with J.D. in Boston."
Boras certainly sounded satisfied with the resolution.
"When you talk about the status of a contract, the non-guaranteed provisions are not customarily applicable in normal Major League contracts," Boras said. "In this contract, the guaranteed provision is in place with the exception of very myopic elements of this. This is something that is certainly treated for all intents and purposes as a $70 million contract. This is something that is a very minor and very specific issue. Other than that, the contract is guaranteed."
How does Drew feel about his right shoulder?
"Extremely confident," he said. "It was great. The thing that was really beneficial was to see where it was at the end of last season and to see the swing kind of come back around as far as the strength and the power numbers go. I think those were tell-tale signs for me."
Drew replaces longtime fan favorite Trot Nixon in right field.
He hopes to give the Red Sox a perfect complement to the two mashers who will hit in front of him -- David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
"Those two guys are pretty phenomenal hitters," Drew said. "I think it's fun for anybody in the league to get a chance to watch them. I'll be glad to get a chance to hit behind them. They are great hitters in the league and I'm going to try to pick their brain a little."
Drew, 31, is coming off a solid season. He helped the Dodgers to the postseason in 2006 by hitting .283 with 34 doubles, six triples, 20 homers and 100 RBIs. For his career, Drew is a .286 hitter with 162 homers and 509 RBIs.
A patient hitter -- which fits in perfectly with Boston's offensive philosophy -- Drew has a smooth opposite-field stroke from the left side. That should help him at Fenway, with the Green Monster just 310 feet from home plate.
"I know I lost a lot of hits in L.A. driving the ball to left field, especially the way the ball doesn't carry real well there at night," Drew said. "Hopefully those turn into doubles and things like that, and hopefully adds more to my average and gives me extra RBIs and extra OBP for the guys who are hitting behind me."
Drew has been to historic Fenway Park just once. That was in 2003 when the Cardinals took two out of three from the Red Sox. Still, an indelible mark was made on Drew.
"I think it's awesome," said Drew. "I think the atmosphere there is awesome. I've played in some pretty passionate baseball towns -- especially St. Louis. From everything that I hear and everything that you see, you know the Boston Red Sox are a premier team in the league, a place that guys desire to play in. I was very excited when they were pursuing me in the whole free-agent run, and I felt like it was just going to be a great fit."
At last, the pursuit is over and Drew can get fitted for the jerseys he will start wearing when the Red Sox report to Spring Training in less than a month.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.