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.


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