It wasn’t too long ago that none of this seemed possible. Back when the key free agent signings were guys named Offerman and Lewis. Back when it was unheard to change the starting Shortstop four years in a row. Back when you had to be the right handed Sandy Koufax to get paid big bucks in Boston.
Back when finishing second was plenty.
Not these Red Sox. Last night, the team continued its aggressive, money is no object off-season by agreeing to terms with Right Fielder J.D. Drew and Shortstop Julio Lugo - two of the top position players available this winter. Combined, the duo will be paid $106 million over the course of their respective contracts. Add that to the money they still have to invest in Daisuke Matsuzaka and you’re talking about roughly what it cost to build PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
The Sox may have sacrificed a little bit of character (for Drew) and defense (for Lugo) to add some pop to the lineup, but I think it’s a fair tradeoff. Character will come with wins and Lugo should hit enough to make up for the 25 errors he’s going to make.
People are making Drew out to be a malcontent that refuses to play in any pain, but that might be a stretch. He gets a bad rap because Scott Boras had him re-enter the draft when he couldn’t agree to terms with Philadelphia (you’ll remember they threw batteries at him when he made it to the bigs). He has been injured a lot, but many of them can be chalked up to bad luck. He’s broke two bones when being hit by pitches, he hurt his knee in a collision with a first baseman, and he once went to the DL after falling in the dugout.
It’s strange though. Baseball Reference says the player most comparable to him is the guy he’s replacing, Trot Nixon. But when I think of the two, Drew seems like such an obvious improvement. It will be interesting to see how he handles hitting fourth if the Sox trade Manny. Nobody’s filling those shoes.
In Lugo, the team now has its best hitting Shortstop since Nomar (though the two aren’t comparable) and a player that will make a ton of great plays, but might screw up a few of the routine ones. If the rest of the defense can play even close to the way it did last year, then he’ll be an overall upgrade over Alex Gonzalez.
It’s actually quite possible that none of the three marquee players (assuming Matsuzaka signs) pan out in Boston -all of them have potential flaws- but the fact that the team is going out and landing everyone they targeted says that a third place finish will not be tolerated.
And finishing second isn’t enough either.
Red Sox Open Checkbook… Sign Free Agents Drew and Lugo – SOX1FAN