Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is J.D. Drew Worth All That Money?

That was the big question in the Sunday Boston Globe. Amalie Benjamin put forward the question about whether or not J.D. Drew was as good (or as bad) as fans of the Sox make him out to be.


In comparing him to other outfielders signed at the same time, Amalie says:


According to the value estimations on fangraphs.com, in the three years since those deals were signed, Soriano has earned $33.4 million (8.0 wins above replacement player), while being paid $41 million. Lee has earned $40 million (9.2 WAR), while being paid $43 million. Matthews has earned -$5.2 million (-1.1 WAR), while being paid $26.2 million. Pierre has earned $15.4 million (3.6 WAR), while being paid $25.5 million.


And Drew? Even with a rough 2007 in which he "earned" just $5.6 million (1.4 WAR), Drew has earned $45.4 million (10.3 WAR) in Boston, while being paid $42 million. So, in the warped world of baseball finances, the argument could be made that Drew is underpaid. Or, perhaps, that he is compensated equally to his value.


Now, my argument is not with what Amalie has said here. It's factually accurate; this is what fangraphs.com says. Just as it is also true that Drew has one of the best OBP and OPS number sets for outfielders over the past three years.


My argument about Drew has always been that he is not worth the money he has been paid because he is not on the field enough. I think that it is hard to justify a $14M per year deal when you struggle to even play 130 games a year. Regardless of whether or not people like Soriano or Juan Pierre got ridiculous deals relative to their output, that doesn't justify Drew's deal.


Let me put it this way; in three seasons of 100+ games player, Drew has earned $45.4M and is 10.3 WAR while getting $42M. Those are the fangraphs.com numbers. Here are three more seasons of 100+ games played:


2002: WAR - 2.9 | $$ - 7.5 | Salary - $2.7


2003: WAR - 4.9 | $$ - 13.8 | Salary - $4.0


2005: WAR - 3.5 | $$ - 12.0 | Salary - $7.5


Those are Trot Nixon's numbers (in 2004 he only played 40 games due to injury) over a three-year span where he played 144, 129 and 118 games, or an average of 130 games per season. Drew has averaged roughly 128 games per season, so we are dealing with an equal amount of games played more or less. As stated, over that span Drew has accounted for 10.3 WAR while earning $45.4M and making $42M, putting him $3.4M to the good.


Over a similar three-year span, Nixon accounted for 11.3 WAR and earned $33.3M while making $14.2M. This is the same Nixon that Drew's supporters rag on as being far inferior to Drew. And yet he was +1 WAR over Drew in a similar three-year span.


Drew is a good player and I am almost sure I have never said different. My contention has always been he is not worth the $14M per season that Boston pays him. And this column does nothing to change my opinion. J.D. Drew is one of the most talented players in the game, but he hasn't impacted Boston's win total any more than Trot Nixon did over a similar period of time.


J.D. Drew is a talented right fielder. He is a solid player. But he is not worth $14M per season. Period.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Truck Day!

In what is an uniquely Boston (and therefore New England) tradition*, today is Truck Day. That is the day that the Sox load up all their equipment from Fenway and head on down to Fort Myers to start Spring Training. Or as we like to call it, Life Returning To Normal.


How seriously do we take Truck Day? Very.


The truck arrived at Fenway Park this morning just after 6:30 a.m. and the packing began at around 7:00 a.m. with a crew of seven workers. The temperature was in the mid-20s, but it's bright and sunny, just like the place the truck is headed.


The truck will depart from Fenway around noon.


Yes, we get a schedule for the truck so we can watch it when it leaves. And you can peruse the photo gallery as well. Because nothing says "baseball" like 20 different pictures of a stationary moving truck.


But more importantly, now we know that pitchers and catchers report in less than a week. And that the first full-squad workout is in less than two weeks.


I missed you, baseball. Welcome back.


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* Fairfield County in CT is excluded from this tradition. That whole bunch of New York wannabees can go cram it with walnuts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Solving The Development Gap?

Tony Mazz brought up this possibility for the Sox a couple of days ago: a gap in the development of their minor-league talent. Specifically, between now and 2012. And it's a view shared by others, including the Sox's owner.


...maybe we’re all reading into things too much, most recently when Henry told the Herald’s Michael Silverman last weekend that this offseason presented the Sox with a challenge because their next wave of prospects is two years away. Henry is being completely honest with that assessment, which is a credit to him and to his organization. He’s not just feeding you what you want to hear. But a statement like that also ignores the fact that the Red Sox got themselves into this predicament and that there are multiple ways to build a team.

Now, I don't think that Henry was saying the Sox wouldn't be a title-caliber team until 2012. But Mazz is also right when he says there are other ways to build a team. However, I think this frank assessment of the team's system by Henry makes something I said in my last post more likely.


I hypothesized that 2010 would be Jonathan Papelbon's last year in a Boston uniform. In part that's because he has already stated he wants to hit the open market after 2011. But another piece of that is the fact that he is a rare commodity; an elite closer. And elite closers get a big return on the market.


Now, with an acknowledged gap in the farm system, the Sox would want to fill that so that 2011 didn't consist of Boston overpaying for free agents or rushing young prospects into the majors*. And what better way to do that than trading Papelbon?


This is all contingent on one thing: Daniel Bard making the next step and not regressing in his sophmore season. If he does that, then the Sox would have the opportunity to bring in some young, cheap talent to bridge the gap and build the team for the future. If not...then the Sox would have to spend to cover the gap, and that is the kind of thing that can hamstring a franchise for years. Who knows, maybe they'd roll the dice on Bard no matter what happens. But Papelbon represents the fastest, easiest way for the Sox to get young talent to cover 2011.


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* Like they did with Craig Hansen. Hansen had all the talent in the world but the Sox crippled him by rushing him right into the majors in a blind panic in 2006.