I admit that when I first heard of Theo's obsession with JD Drew, I was a bit put-off. Why not stick with the known commodity of Trot Nixon for a lot less cash? What difference does it make if your right-fielder is on the DL making $7.5 million or $14 million?
I'm still not crazy about committing 5 years to a guy who should wear a Blue Cross on one sleeve and a Blue Shield on the other. However, I'm now convinced that the Drew deal makes sense in one context and one context only: Keeping Manny. For all the talk about protecting Papi in the line-up, there's been little discussion of the #5 spot in the 2006 batting order. It was the worst (measured by OPS) in all of baseball. Trot Nixon managed to play in 100 of the 162 games and had an abysmal OPS of .767—17 points below the AL average.
I love Trot. He has been a Red Sox-lifer. Born and bred in the system, he has come to epitomize what a Sox player should be. Who will ever forget his dramatic confrontation with Roger Clemens that resulted in a clutch Yankee Stadium home run? But the guy is 32, and, regrettably, on the downside of a fine career. While Drew just turned 31, his '06 OPS was nearly 100 points higher than the NL average. For his career it's over .900, for Trot, it's .844. Drew is a perfect #5 hitter behind BOTH Papi & Manny—he is NOT a replacement for Manny at clean-up. And, Drew is probably better than Trot defensively.
As far as the money goes, that's more a function of the A-ROD II era marketplace—everybody is getting over-paid. So, I'll just have to get used to a new #7 patrolling RF in Fenway. I think it's a gamble worth taking. IF MANNY STAYS.