J.D. Drew Worth The Money

When J.D. Drew signed his 5 year, $70 million contract with the Red Sox, they were destroyed by national media writers such as Bill Simmons who pushed the narrative that Drew was an unclutch loser who couldn’t perform under pressure and wasn’t any good even when he was healthy. Theo Epstein and company were pilloried for their staunch desire to acquire a high on base outfielder and overlooking all the obvious flaws that made him such a bad player. Drew was held up as the example of the kind of move that statheads make when they don’t get their nose out of a spreadsheet.

Drew has news for that group of writers – you can all apologize now.

Drew has been absolutely sensational so far in 2008, putting up a .315/.424/.576 line that is the best of any American League outfielder. Only Milton Bradley (DH, plays in Texas) and Alex Rodriguez are posting a higher OPS than Drew, and his 2.00 WPA/LI ranks 4th in the league.

He’s doing it through his usual blend of patience (15.8% BB%, #4 in AL) and power (.261 ISO, T-4th in AL), reversing a decline in his isolated slugging percentage over the last few years. His performance has kept the Boston offense rolling despite the struggles and then injury to David Ortiz, and right now, he’s pretty clearly the Red Sox best player.

In the year and a half he’s been with Boston, he’s been worth about 25 runs more than an average hitter. Depending on what you think of his defense, the conclusion is that Drew has been worth about 4 to 5 wins above a replacement level right fielder during his time in Boston. Wins are going for close to $5 million apiece in the free agent market, so if Drew was compensated fairly, we’d expect that he’d have earned between $20-$25 million for his work. Thanks to a $14 million average annual payout, we know that the Red Sox have paid him about $20 million since the contract kicked in – pretty much dead on what he’s been worth.

J.D. Drew is a very good baseball player. The Red Sox are a very good organization. The narrative about both of them was wrong.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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14 years ago

Having never followed Drew’s career, could somebody who has possibly explain to me how he managed to acquire the “unclutch” and “bum/loser” tags in the first place? Every clutch split at Baseball Reference (with the lone exception of a .273/.375/.439 Late & Close line) shows his high leverage numbers being perfectly in line with his borderline Hall of Fame career metrics, and FanGraphs bears this out with a career 0.41 Clutch rating.

Anyway, 5 wins above replacement looks right (BP says about five and a half), although most estimates I see value a marginal win closer to three million per. Either way–and especially given Boston’s budget–I’d say this has been a perfectly fair deal thus far.