ESPN.com (via AP) is reporting that J.D. Drew has opted out of the last three years of his contract and forfeiting some $30 million in guaranteed money from the Dodgers. This move is likely the brainchild of superagent Scott Boras who, sensing the dearth of quality outfielders available, figure Drew could command a four-or-five year deal on the open market.
Drew played only 72 games in 2005, his first with the Dodgers, triggering a tidal wave of "I told you so"s from everyone who said he was a huge injury risk. He bounced back to play 146 games in 2006, sporting a very impressive .393 on-base percentage and a solid-if-unspectacular .498 slugging percentage.
If I wasn't sure that the Mets were going to start Shawn Green in left field I would certainly advocate a pursuit of Drew, though given his injury history it might be unwise to give him the five guaranteed years he'll likely be seeking. I'm a fan of Drew's because he understands the strike zone. A hitter who can draw a prodigious amount of walks is able to help his team offensively even when the hits aren't falling in. When he's healthy, Drew is one of those guys.
Chris Dial of Baseball Think Factory ranked him as the third-best left fielder in the National League this year, saving six runs per 150 games with his glove.
In 2006, Alfonso Soriano hit .277/.351/.560, posing career highs in OBP and SLG. He is reportedly looking for a seven year contract at $15 million per season or so. Drew hit .283/.393/.498, numbers that were pretty much in line with his career averages of .286/.393/.512. Drew will be looking for four-or-five years at something considerably less than $15 million. The two players are separated by two months, with Drew having been born just a shade earlier.
Two players with vastly different offensive skillsets. Soriano is a free-swinging, high-strikeout power hitter. Drew is a high on-base, medium strikeout line drive hitter. Soriano has more speed, though he gets thrown out stealing often enough to offset the times he is succesful.
Conventionally speaking, Drew's announcement makes him the third-best outfielder on the market, behind only Soriano and Carlos Lee. In reality, he might be the most useful -- and he will be the cheapest -- of the three.